Weekday evening games at Great American Ball Park (GABP) were quite blissful last season. There were no crowds, no lines, and plenty of peace and quiet. The price for this experience was the fire sale executed by the organization prior to the 2022 season. A team that had realistic wild card aspirations was gutted to cut payroll and rebuild for the future.
Fan favorites like Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suárez, Nick Castellanos, Tyler Mahle, and Luis Castillo all left the organization within about six months. The team got off to one of the worst 30-game starts in franchise history, and autopilot seemed to kick in from there.
So what’s there to get excited about for Reds fans? Well, they now have some premier talent at the top end of their farm system. They have a gluttony of infield prospects, and their major league rotation features a group of extremely exciting young arms. There’s plenty of upside here, even if it’s not completely clear everyone will end up playing.
Fans shouldn’t have to wait too long to see the fruits of their patience, as their number one prospect is assumed to debut at some point this summer. With so much talent following closely behind, it won’t be long before the lines at GABP for Skyline cheese coneys stretch down the concourse.
Cincinnati Reds Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects
1. Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 471 AB/.304 AVG/.359 OBP/.586 SLG/28 HR/47 SB/87 R/86 RBI
Elly De La Cruz signed with the Reds as an international free agent in the summer of 2018. He had a pretty decent debut season at rookie ball in 2019, but then he lost the 2020 season to the Covid-19 pandemic. He made it to Single-A in 2021 and put up a pretty pedestrian stat line over 210 plate appearances. Even after a few lackluster years to begin his professional career, there was still a fair amount of buzz about him last offseason due to his impressive physical size, strength, and speed.
He took off to begin 2022, registering a 161 wRC+ in 306 High-A plate appearances as a 20-year-old, while hitting 20 home runs and stealing 28 bases. He solidified himself as must-see entertainment with a ridiculous power/speed combination of talent. This profile doesn’t come without its warts, however, as he hasn’t posted a strikeout rate below 30% at any level above rookie ball. He also doesn’t draw very many walks and struggles mightily against left-handed pitching.
I like to compare him to Oneil Cruz. They have similar skill sets, they’re built the same, and they play the same position. But Cruz had never carried a strikeout rate north of 30% at any level where he had at least 65 plate appearances. And the biggest debate around Oneil Cruz right now is if he’ll be able to achieve sustained success with his very poor strikeout rates. De La Cruz will absolutely need to make some kind of adjustment to his approach to become a safer prospect, but his ceiling is pretty astronomical regardless. Getting some time with the major league hitting coaches this spring and summer will surely give him a good opportunity to polish his game.
2. Noelvi Marte, SS
2022 Stats (A+): 448 AB/.279 AVG/.371 OBP/.458 SLG/19 HR/23 SB/74 R/68 RBI
Noelvi Marte was acquired from the Mariners as the centerpiece of the Luis Castillo trade in late July. He has about as solid and consistent a profile as you could probably find in a prospect. He doesn’t have a strikeout problem, he draws plenty of walks, he keeps his batted balls ball off the ground, and he’s already shown above-average game power with plenty of room to grow.
Even after a slow start to his 2022 season, he was still a tick above 30% better than league average in High-A according to his wRC+. He pulls the ball more than 50% of the time, which could really help his power numbers and run production in the big leagues. We’ll likely have to wait until 2024 to see him at the highest level, but when he does arrive he’ll have a great shot to solidify himself as the Reds shortstop of the future.
3. Cam Collier, 3B
2022 Stats (CPX): 27 AB/.370 AVG/.514 OBP/.630 SLG/2 HR/0 SB/7 R/4 RBI
Cam Collier was drafted in the middle of the first round in this summer’s major league draft and he’s been widely considered one of the event’s best steals. He had a quick cup of coffee at the complex league before the season ended and he showed his readiness for the next level in a small sample. He profiles as a player with an All-Star-caliber bat and the defensive prowess to remain at the hot corner indefinitely. He may not end up being a burner on the bases, but there aren’t many teenagers who have a safer future as a well-regarded prospect. Come FYPD season, dynasty managers should be comfortable taking him as high as fifth overall.
4. Spencer Steer, 1B/2B/3B
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 427 AB/.274 AVG/.364 OBP/.515 SLG/23 HR/4 SB/80 R/75 RBI
MLB: 95 AB/.211 AVG/.306 OBP/.326 SLG/2 HR/0 SB/12 R/8 RBI
Spencer Steer gets a slight bump in these rankings due to his proximity. Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer has reported that the Reds plan to give Steer an extended look at third base to begin the 2023 season. Acquired in the 2022 fire sale, Steer was promoted pretty quickly after he posted a 126 wRC+ in 104 PAs for Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate.
In his limited major league sample size, the former third-round draft pick held well-below-average marks in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard-hit rate. But what he may lack in thump, he makes up for in his contact ability. He registered a really solid 85% zone-contact rate and a stellar 8.6% swinging strike rate. He also hit fly balls often and carried really high fly ball rates throughout the minor leagues. This is significant for his power output because we know that sometimes you just need to get the ball in the air in Cincinnati and let Great American Small Park do the rest.
5. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B/3B
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 484 AB/.304 AVG/.368 OBP/.587 SLG/32 HR/8 SB/76 R/114 RBI
Christian Encarnacion-Strand was acquired by the Reds in the deal that sent Tyler Mahle to the Twins at the trade deadline. The former fourth-round pick posted wRC+ numbers north of 160 in both High-A and Double-A for the Twins this season and then cooled off a little bit after the trade. It’s nothing to be concerned about amid this life transition, as he still showed he’s a very skilled hitter in the Cincinnati org. He has a moderate strikeout issue, but he had managed to improve his strikeout rate after each promotion within the Twins org. He’s a line-drive machine who will likely continue to carry impressive slugging percentages and wOBA marks throughout the minors. His value seems to be on a solid upward trajectory, so grab him while you still can if you’re interested.
6. Edwin Arroyo, SS
2022 Stats (CPX/A): 467 AB/.293 AVG/.366 OBP/.480 SLG/14 HR/27 SB/93 R/84 RBI
Edwin Arroyo is another player who was sent to Cincinnati in the Luis Castillo deal. He’s still very young but he was able to log everyday at-bats throughout the 2022 season and showed some legit promise before being traded. He’s a very efficient base stealer and he offers just enough game pop to make him an exciting potential contributor across the board in dynasty leagues. His plate approach might end up slightly below average, but he still has plenty of time to make some adjustments and create a solid batting average foundation.
7. Andrew Abbott, SP
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 118 IP/3.81 ERA/1.25 WHIP/159 SO
Andrew Abbott is the first starting pitcher on this list and one of the few prospects who wasn’t acquired via trade. He was drafted in the second round of the 2021 draft by the Reds and quickly rose through the levels to pitch 91 innings in Double-A this past season. While the 4.75 ERA in those Double-A innings doesn’t sound great, he experienced some really poor luck with both his left-on-base percentage (LOB%) and his batting average on balls in play (BABIP). He carried a 3.67 xFIP due to his really impressive skills at generating strikeouts and his tendency to limit fly balls. That number could drop even further if he’s able to get the walk rate below 10% like we’ve seen in the past.
8. Carlos Jorge, 2B
2022 Stats (CPX): 119 AB/.261 AVG/.405 OBP/.529 SLG/7 HR/27 SB/32 R/21 RBI
Carlos Jorge signed with the Reds as an international free agent right as the signing period began in January 2021. In his limited professional action, he’s shown his willingness to work deep into counts, but it’s unclear where his strikeout rate will stabilize moving forward. It shouldn’t be a significant issue, but there was a jump in K% from 2021 to 2022 that should be monitored. At the very least, he still took his walks in abundance. He probably can’t be counted on for a ton of power, even though his early HR/FB ratio is impressive. He profiles more as a speedy contact hitter who sprays the ball to all fields.
9. Brandon Williamson, SP
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 122.2 IP/4.11 ERA/1.56 WHIP/123 SO
In Brandon Williamson, we seem to have yet another former Seattle Mariners prospect who has struggled in making the transition to the Reds organization. 2022 saw drastic decreases in his strikeout rates and increases in his walk rates. The once-sparkling K-BB percentages are now looking very dull, and he wasn’t particularly unlucky in 2022. His LOB% and his BABIP were right in line with league-average numbers and his HR/FB% was even significantly lower than the league average. If you have a sensitive stomach, don’t go looking at his xFIPs from 2022.
So what happened? You can assume it might be a change in his pitch shapes or his sequencing, but without that data publicly available for the minor leagues, it’s impossible to know for sure. He probably shouldn’t be given up on quite yet, because he was truly lights out just one season prior to his breakdown. But if he can’t start to right the ship early in 2022, he’ll likely lose just about all of his value in dynasty leagues.
10. Matt McLain, 2B/SS
2022 Stats (AA): 371 AB/.232 AVG/.363 OBP/.453 SLG/17 HR/27 SB/67 R/58 RBI
Matt McLain was a first-round pick for the Reds in 2021 out of UCLA. He’s had a few solid stops at High-A and Double-A, but nothing has been truly eye-popping. He’s an efficient base stealer with above-average game power, but his high strikeout and fly ball rates really limited his batting average in 2022. His wRC+ of 116 was pretty good in 2022, but the best aspect of his profile right now is his walk rate north of 15%. It could also be a weakness to his profile because if you’re taking a ton of pitches and working deep into counts, you’re more likely to see the pitcher’s best stuff and struggle to find pitches to hit. He still has some growing pains to work through, but the potential is still there to be a top-200 dynasty asset.
11. Connor Phillips, SP
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 109.2 IP/3.78 ERA/1.40 WHIP/150 SO
Connor Phillips was the player to be named later in the deal that sent franchise favorites Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to Seattle. He’s on this list due to his strikeout potential, but he is definitely a high-risk player to roster as it currently stands. His strikeout rates looked fantastic before taking a small dip after making the jump to AA. That dip isn’t too concerning when you factor in that he was pretty young for the level after the promotion.
The risk comes in the form of walks and opposing launch angle. He was yet to post a walk rate of less than 10%, and he carries a lofty fly ball rate. The fly ball rate alone wouldn’t be all that bad if it weren’t for the equally high line drive rate and the fact that he’s going to pitch in GABP if he makes it to the majors.
12. Nicholas Northcut, 1B/3B
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 397 AB/.219 AVG/.276 OBP/.491 SLG/30 HR/1 SB/55 R/75 RBI
Nicholas Northcut was another player to be named later, this time to complete the trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2022. Northcut was drafted in the 11th round of the 2018 amateur draft and wasn’t able to put up any noteworthy batting lines until he took a pretty significant step forward in 2021.
In that season, he posted a 129 wRC+, .252 ISO, and a 0.51 BB/K in 402 Single-A plate appearances. These impressive numbers and a solid triple slash earned him a promotion to High-A to start the 2022 season. Even though he hit a ton of home runs and was eventually promoted again to Double-A, he saw his strikeout rate balloon all the way above 30% and his batting average and wRC+ numbers saw significant drops to go along with it. He’s a good speculative add for power, but the upside is unclear from the former late-round draft pick.
13. Chase Petty, SP
2022 Stats (A/A+): 98.1 IP/3.48 ERA/1.17 WHIP/96 SO
Chase Petty was acquired by the Reds in March in the trade that sent Sonny Gray to the Twins. He was drafted 26th overall by the Twins in 2021 and has shown some impeccable command in both organizations. Even though scouts seem to like his stuff, his strikeout numbers haven’t peaked much higher than league average. But if he wants to give up a few strikeouts in order to maintain the low walk rate, I’m all for it. Petty has the potential to be a solid contributor at the back end of the rotation in a few years’ time.
14. Levi Stoudt, SP
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 111 IP/4.70 ERA/1.29 WHIP/103 SO
Levi Stoudt was a part of the return that the Reds received from the Mariners for Luis Castillo. He made one lights-out start in Double-A after the trade and then he was promptly promoted to Triple-A. The quick promotion and Stoudt’s age make it a possibility that he could see some major league playing time this upcoming season. It would more likely be in a long relief role than in a starting one, but that would still give us a chance to see his stuff up close and get more data to help evaluate him.
His Triple-A xFIP looks ghastly because he somehow managed not to give up a single home run in his six games started, despite pitching to a high fly ball rate. The jury is still out on what he can provide, but his proximity and balanced profile make him someone to keep an eye on.
15. Allan Cerda, OF
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 408 AB/.208 AVG/.360 OBP/.444 SLG/24 HR/7 SB/74 R/56 RBI
Allan Cerda was signed as an international free agent by the Reds in 2017. He has really promising raw power and he’s just now starting to tap into it during game situations. He absolutely has a bit of a strikeout issue, but he managed to put up a wRC+ of at least 130 in every level up to Double-A. While his Double-A debut wasn’t anything special, he managed to drop his strikeout rate from 36.5% to 30% and maintain his really high walk rate compared to his time at High-A in 2022. He’s another prospect with an extreme fly ball approach, and while it doesn’t bode well for his batting average, it does play into his potential home park. The realistic upside expectation is that if he makes it to the majors, he could end up with a stat line very similar to Aristides Aquino, so I wouldn’t bank on him too much.
By Matt Fletcher (@little.gnt on Instagram)