With the regular season concluding, we've decided to take a look at each team's future -- not by using a crystal ball or other psychic abilities, but by evaluating their farm systems. Below you'll find our ranking of the top five prospects in the organization -- sorted by perceived future potential -- as well as five other players who fit various categories. Those categories are:
2020 contributor: A player who is likely to play a role for the big-league team next season.
Analyst's pick: A player who is a strong statistical performer and/or whose underlying measures are better than the scouting reports suggest.
Riser: A player on the way up.
Faller: A player on the way down.
One to watch: An interesting player to keep in mind (for whatever reason).
These rankings were compiled after talking with various industry sources about the systems (and players) in question. It should be acknowledged that this process is more art than science, and that there are limits to ordinal rankings. Still, it's an intuitive system, and our hope is that the write-ups will answer any questions by providing additional context and analysis of each player -- such as their pluses and minuses; the risk factors involved; and their estimated arrival date.
One last word on eligibility: We're following MLB's rookie guidelines by disqualifying any player with more than 130 big-league at-bats or 50 innings pitched.
The Cincinnati Reds have thinned their farm system through trades -- Taylor Trammell, Josiah Gray, and Jeter Downs, among others -- and Nick Senzel's graduation over the past year-plus. Still, there are some names worth knowing who are on their way up. Let's take a look.
1. Nick Lodolo, LHP
Nick Lodolo rewarded the Reds for making him the first pitcher selected in June's draft (No. 7 overall) by throwing 18 innings of walk-free baseball in his introduction to the pro ranks.
OK, so the Reds hope Lodolo's actual gift to them turns out to be more substantive than that -- and there's a solid chance it will be, and soon. Lodolo is built like David Price and has the chance to move quickly through the system thanks to his control and a solid three-pitch mix that includes a swing-and-miss slider.
Should Lodolo live up to his mid-rotation upside, he would become just the third pitcher from Texas Christian University to compile more than five career Wins Above Replacement, joining Jake Arrieta and Andrew Cashner. (Lodolo might have to settle for fourth if Diamondbacks lefty Alex Young continues to deliver on his own promise.)
2. Jonathan India, 3B/2B
The Reds' top pick in the 2018 draft, Jonathan India reached Double-A in his first full professional season. He hit .270/.414/.378 there in 34 games, suggesting a promotion to Triple-A might come sometime early during the 2020 season.
It's unclear what India's final form will look like offensively. He has above-average raw power, but he's seldom been a big-time home-run hitter. He has shown a keen talent for drawing walks in the minors, and it's possible he settles in as a Chase Headley type -- that is, good, not great across the board. (This isn't an insult, to be clear, given Headley played in parts of 12 big-league seasons and accumulated nearly 30 Wins Above Replacement.)
The Reds have mostly tasked India with playing third, but did give him a few looks at second base during the regular season and in the Arizona Fall League -- perhaps out of pragmatism since Eugenio Suarez's presence on the big-league roster would seem to necessitate he take to another spot on the infield. Once that's settled, he could reach the majors in 2020.
3. Hunter Greene, RHP
Hunter Greene underwent Tommy John surgery in April, wiping out his 2019 and -- likely -- a chunk of his 2020 season.
Greene is an ultra-athletic strikethrower who achieves big-time velocity on his straightish fastball. Once he resumes pitching, he'll need to work on his secondaries and his command. That's to be expected -- Greene is just 20 years old with fewer than 100 pro innings. Plus he was a quality shortstop during his prep days, taking attention away from his moundwork.
Greene has a high ceiling; it's just a matter of him getting back to 100 percent, then getting the repetitions he needs for improvement.
4. Tyler Stephenson, C
The Reds drafted Tyler Stephenson with the 11th pick in 2015, and while that feels like forever ago, he's finally nearing his big-league debut.
Stephenson spent the year in Double-A, where he hit .285/.372/.410 with six home runs in 89 games. Perhaps more importantly, he was able to avoid the injured list for a second season in a row, a good development for someone with past durability woes. It's to be seen if Stephenson can ever tap into his above-average raw strength on a steady basis. For now, his main offensive skill is drawing walks -- he's been over 10 percent in each of the last three seasons.
Defensively, Stephenson has a big arm but there are (and will continue to be) concerns that his 6-foot-4 frame boxes out the umpire and costs his pitchers the low strike. To wit, other teams' internal metrics say he remains a below-average framer.
There aren't many compelling catching prospects around the league, so Stephenson is one worth keeping an eye on -- even if the package falls short of the star threshold.
5. Tony Santillan, RHP
Tony Santillan had a disappointing season from a few perspectives, beginning with health. He made multiple trips to the injured list due to arm ailments, and didn't pitch after July ended.
When Santillan was on the mound, he walked nearly five batters per nine innings against the same Double-A competition he had walked just 2.31 per nine against the previous year. Ruh roh. Santillan posted a career-low groundball-to-flyball rate, suggesting, perhaps, he intended to pitch up in the zone more often. It's hard to know how much of that is intent versus how much of it is simply not knowing where the ball was going.
At Santillan's best, he features a big fastball and a quality breaking ball. He'll turn 23 in April and this season could go a long way in determining if he's moved to the bullpen.
2020 contributor: Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP
Vladimir Gutierrez spent the season in Triple-A, where he was awfully homer-prone. Yes, the altered baseball caused mayhem across the land, but he had the third-highest homer rate on his team among the 11 pitchers with 40-plus frames. That's concerning. Gutierrez is on the shorter side and he struggled with lefties this season (though he dominated them in 2018), both of which could lead to him landing in the bullpen. If that happens, his fastball-breaking ball combination could make him an asset. Either way, expect him to debut in 2020.
Analyst's pick: Jimmy Herget, RHP
Sidearmer Jimmy Herget has already debuted in the majors, and should get a longer look in 2020. He has two average or better offerings, in a low-90s sinker and a slider that served as his primary pitch during his big-league cameo. Herget held righties to a .205 average in Triple-A this season, suggesting he should continue to spam them with his slider heading forward.
Riser: Jose Israel Garcia, SS
Originally signed for $5 million after defecting from Cuba, Jose Israel Garcia has the makings of a good defensive shortstop -- complete with a strong arm and all the fixings. That buys him a wide berth at the plate, though he may not need it. He walked more in High-A than he had the previous season, and his 6-foot-2 frame suggests he could add some pop as he matures. There's a fair chance he's going to be in the Reds' top five in a year's time.
Faller: Jose Siri, OF
Jose Siri has all the physical necessities to be a star-quality player -- he can run, he can throw, and he has good strength. He just doesn't have the under-the-hood aspects to make it work. Siri split this season between Double- and Triple-A and fanned about a third of the time due to his lacking approach and pitch recognition issues. He won't turn 25 until next July, meaning there's a legal obligation to note he could still theoretically, hypothetically, potentially Put It Together.
One to watch: Packy Naughton, LHP
There are a couple of rules to live by: the golden one, obviously; the idea of not looking a gift horse in the mouth; and, most importantly of all, never ever passing on the opportunity to raise awareness about a pitcher named Packy Naughton. Truthfully, Naughton doesn't project as a great prospect. He's a strike-throwing lefty with average stuff who would be doing well to latch on as a No. 5 starter for a couple seasons. Nonetheless, he has a great name and he's already achieved success in Double-A, putting him on track to debut as soon as 2020.