Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/17/14
The Cincinnati Reds organization features some high-ceiling talent at the top of the Top 15 list but the depth in the organization is lacking. There are some impact arms at the top but the up-the-middle offensive players are somewhat lacking, other than Billy Hamilton.   #1 Billy Hamilton (SS) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 678 173 23 3 93 125 165 .300 .398 .408 .371 Hamilton is probably one of the most hyped prospects in recent memory because of his plus-plus speed and 100+ stolen base totals that he’s racked up in each of the past two minor league seasons. Some patience is required with the prospect, though, as he’s not a finished product. One thing that excites the Reds, though, is that he could develop into an impact lead-off hitter. A contact stated, “It’s hard to find guys with the mentality and desire to be a good lead-off hitter… It’s not always a glamorous spot.” Hamilton, 22, was shifted from shortstop, his natural position, to center field late in 2012 so the coming season will be key in his defensive development. He has all the skills necessary to develop into a plus fielder — above-average range, good arm and developing reads. The contact I spoke with said the defensive move had nothing to do with the organization’s feeling that Hamilton could not handle shortstop. “It’s more about what he can do, rather than what he can’t, with this move… He’s going to be one of the best [in center field].” Hamilton split 2012 between high-A and double-A before finishing the year off in the Arizona Fall League. The contact I spoke with said Hamilton got off to a low start in double-A when he moved up and that might have been one of the best things for his development. It might be shocking to hear, but the talent evaluator said the struggles were “good to see,” adding that it often doesn’t help prospects when their first tastes of adversity come at the big league level. “It can really crush a guy,” he added. Hamilton should open 2013 in triple-A and his defensive development will dictate when he’s ready to contribute at the big league level.   #2 Robert Stephenson (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 19 15 15 65.0 54 6 9.97 3.18 3.18 3.43 Stephenson, who will turn 20 in February, has appeared in just 15 games to this point his pro career despite being drafted in 2011. The right-hander has been handled cautiously and it’s easy to understand why, given the promising arm that he has. Stephenson works in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball and can touch the upper 90s. He also has a plus curveball, good changeup and a splitter that he threw very well in high school but it was taken away from him — perhaps temporarily — when he turned pro. I’m told the organization wanted him to work on developing his changeup. A contact I spoke with told me that Stephenson “throws very easily and has good stuff. His delivery is good, he’s a good athlete, and he’s a very intelligent kid.” With that said, he added that the California native needs to use his secondary weapons more often now that he’s facing professional hitters, as opposed to prep opponents. “With an arm that good you can pretty much throw [the fastball] past any high school hitter.” Stephenson, who has an impressive pitching frame, should return to low-A ball and could see high-A ball by the second half of the season.   #3 Tony Cingrani (P) Age G GS IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR 22 3 0 5.0 16.20 3.60 63.6 % 1.80 3.29 0.1 Cingrani, 23, has a plus fastball for a southpaw that ranges from 89-94 mph. He also flashes an above-average-to-plus changeup. Unfortunately his breaking ball is below average. A talent evaluator I spoke with, though, is not concerned with the prospect sticking in the starting rotation. “He’s been working on his secondary pitches… and things were coming on quite quickly at the end of the year… He’s figured out what he needs to do to pitch in the big leagues.” Signed as a college senior out of Rice University, Cingrani has been a huge steal. He reached the majors in his first full season in pro ball. Thanks to the rotation depth at the big league level, Cingrani will likely open 2013 in triple-A but he should receive a promotion before Daniel Corcino, who arguably has the higher ceiling. The southpaw has an outside shot at breaking camp in the big league bullpen as a versatile arm capable of acting as a spot starter.   #4 Daniel Corcino (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 26 26 143.1 111 9 7.91 4.08 3.01 3.74 Corcino is a sturdy but under-sized right-hander that invokes comparisons to current Reds starter Johnny Cueto, as well as former Angels hurler Ramon Ortiz. The 22-year-old prospect spent 2012 in double-A and pitched well. His repertoire includes a 90-94 mph fastball with good movement, as well as two very promising secondary pitches: a slider and changeup. A contact I spoke with said that Corcino — at this point — is further ahead in the development of his secondary stuff than Tony Cingrani. Corcino throws across his body and has some effort to his delivery. The Dominican Republic native has averaged more than 140 innings over the past two seasons and I was told by a talent evaluator that Corcino could pitch in a big league bullpen now. There has been some talk that his permanent role could be in a big league bullpen but the contact stated that the Reds will continue to develop him as a starter. “He has shown that he can pitch as a starter and there is no reason to look at him as anything else,” he said. Corcino should open 2013 in triple-A and is probably currently a step behind Cingrani on the organizational ladder.   #5 Nick Travieso (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 18 8 8 21.0 20 3 6.00 2.14 4.71 4.72 A contact I spoke with referred to Travieso as a potential top-of-the-order arm that you can dream on. “We saw him as high as 98 mph… He’s a big guy, a strong guy. And we think he’ll be a durable guy.” Taken 14th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, the right-hander also has a promising slider and a changeup that needs a fair bit of work. Even though he has weapons, Travieso has some things to work on. “He has to learn how to change speeds… and keep his front side closed better… He needs to learn to slow himself down more,” the talent evaluator said, adding that command is also key. “No matter how hard a kid throws a baseball… eventually the hitters get them.” Travieso, 19, will likely open 2013 in extended spring training before moving up to short-season ball — or possibly low-A ball with a strong showing.   #6 Dan Langfield (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 15 5 37.0 27 1 13.14 4.14 2.68 2.42 Langfield may end up being a steal as a third round pick from the 2012 draft. He had a dominating pro debut and has the stuff to back up the hype. The right-hander pitched 37 innings and struck out 54 batters. A contact I spoke to referred to the 22-year-old hurler as a “big, strong, aggressive guy” that needs to tone down the max-effort approach if he’s going to remain a starter. “He has to learn to pitch differently,” the contact said. Langfield’s fastball works in the 90-94 mph range and can touch 96-97 mph. Unfortunately it can get too straight at times. He also has two breaking balls: a curveball and a slider. The University of Memphis alum should open 2013 for one of two A-ball teams. He needs to improve upon both his command and control but with some adjustments he could move quickly.   #7 J.J. Hoover (P) Age G GS IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR 24 28 0 30.2 9.10 3.82 23.7 % 2.05 3.19 0.4 Hoover was acquired last April from the Atlanta Braves for third baseman Juan Francisco, who was out of options and did not make the opening day 25-man roster. The pitcher then split the year between triple-A and the majors. Hoover split 2011 between the starting rotation and the bullpen but was moved into the latter role full-time by the Reds. He took to it like a duck to water and gave up just 32 hits all year (in just under 70 innings). Hoover has very good control and solid command but he’s an extreme-fly-ball pitcher. When I asked if the Reds would consider moving him back to the starting rotation, given his dominance in 2012, I was told that the door hasn’t been totally shut on the idea but “He’s been too good in the role that we have him in… He’s in a real important role.” I was also told that he could possibly see time in the ninth inning if the opportunity were to present itself. “The ninth inning is a different animal because of the mentality and makeup needed,” the talent evaluator said. “[Hoover] seems to be a guy that wouldn’t get phased by the ninth inning.”   #8 Kyle Lotzkar (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 22 23 22 112.2 99 14 9.83 5.03 4.55 4.60 A supplemental first round draft pick from back in 2007, Lotzkar’s development has been slowed by injuries, including Tommy John surgery that entirely wiped out his 2009 season. The lost time has hurt him immensely because, as a Canadian coming from a cold weather area, he had less amateur experience than those coming from areas such as California, Florida and Arizona that can play ball all year around. The 2012 season represented the first time that he has broken the 100-inning barrier in pro ball. Lotzkar has solid stuff with a fastball that can hit the 92-94 mph range. He also has an above-average curveball but his changeup is still below average and could eventually force him to the bullpen. The right-hander is getting close to the majors but a fully healthy season in 2013 will be key in his development. As a contact said. “You can’t get anywhere if you don’t string together some health… These kids need some consistency to develop… It’s a hard enough game to learn, and when you pile that on it’s tough.”   #9 Jesse Winker (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 18 275 77 16 5 40 50 1 .338 .443 .500 .429 The 49th overall pick of the 2012 amateur draft out of a Florida high school, Winker exploded ...
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