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Cincinnati Reds 2012 Top 10 Prospects List

We’re glad you could check back with us again as we continue our look at each club’s top 10 prospects for 2012.  Along the way we’ve had some great collaborations with other sites, as well as our own in-house, home cooking.  This series will come to an end on Friday when we bring you our 3oth and final team.  We still have the Pirates, Rays, Twins, and Yankees to present to you.  Right now, we turn our attention to the Cincinnati Reds.

Cincinatti RedsThe Cincinnati Reds’ Top 10 prospects list was schedule to run yesterday, but we immediately pulled it Friday night.  Why?  A third of the Reds top 10 was dealt to the San Diego Padres for SP Mat Latos.  We discussed that in our Padres and Reds Dealin’ article. The Reds, sensing the blood in the water have wasted no time in positioning themselves for a shot at the NL Central title in 2012 with the acquisition of Latos and the off-season woes of the 2 divisional foes who finished ahead of them in 2011.  The first team being the St. Louis Cardinals, who as you know were stunned with the departure of 1B Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels. The second team being the Milwaukee Brewers, who are all but certain to lose free agent 1B Prince Fielder, as well as the potential 50 game suspension of 2012 NL MVP OF Ryan Braun.  Braun is appealing the results of his failed test for banned substances.  With all that in mind, the Reds did what they felt they must do to win.  In the process, it depleted them and left them with really only one upper level prospect.

Let’s take a look at the 2012 top 10 Reds prospects:

1. Devin Mesoraco C 06/19/88 H:6’1” W:220 – Devin Mesoraco is one of those players where it seems that one day everything just clicked for him all at once. Having been drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 draft and 15th overall, Mesoraco initially disappointed with less than expected performance. Once everything came together for him, and his prospect status rocketed up the charts. Despite playing at 3 levels of competition due to aggressive promotions in 2010, Mesoraco raked a slash line of .302/.377/.587. He continued his offensive success in 2011 with similar numbers of .289/.371/.484. The batting average was nicely complimented by good power numbers including 15hr’s and 71rbi’s in 436 at-bats. In addition to good contact rates and good power numbers, came good strike zone awareness. His bb/k ratio of 52/83 is a good sign that he brings a disciplined approach to the plate. His defense is not stellar, but quite acceptable for the major league level. This makes him a middle-of-the-order bat in a premium defensive position. Our evaluation of his skill set can be found here in our Prospect Instinct|Devin Mesoraco article.

Our Instinct: He was called up in September and did get 50 major league at-bats with little success, but the previous data suggests that he has the raw skill-set to adapt to the big show. He likely starts 2012 with the Reds and doesn’t look back. Though there could be a little adjustment time as he adapts to the new level of competition, Mesoraco looks to be a high-end catcher and quite possibly an all-star catcher in the major leagues.

2.Billy Hamilton 2b/SS 09/09/90 H:6’1” W:160 – You can’t evaluate Reds middle infielder Billy Hamilton without acknowledging that he has elite speed. It truly defines his game.  Drafted in the 2nd round and 57th overall of the 2009 draft, Billy Hamilton has all of the raw skills to become a lead-off hitter in the major leagues. And it all starts with his “road runner” speed. In 2011 after 610 plate appearances, Hamilton had swiped 103 bases. Doing a quick bit of math he reached base 205 times and had 103 stolen bases. This extrapolates to a stolen base over half the time he reaches base. As a lead-off hitter that kind of ability is game changing. There is, however, some negatives to Hamilton’s game. To start he has very little power, and he isn’t likely to improve in that area with age. Additionally he has contact problems with 133 strikeouts in 550 at-bats. This keeps his OBP relatively low coming in at .340. This should also be taken in the context that he played in single A ball, where many of the pitchers haven’t fully developed their off-speed pitches. As the level of competition gets higher, the pitchers get more opportunistic and learn where the holes are in a batters’ swing.  Check our Prospect Instinct|Billy Hamilton article.

Our Instinct: Look for him to start high-A ball in 2012, and watch the strikeout and walk rates closely. Hamilton simply has to develop a better contact rate and improve plate discipline. If and when he does, not even Wiley Coyote can catch him as he races up the prospect charts.

3.Robert Stephenson SP 02/24/93 H:6’2” W:190 - One would think that being picked in the 1st round of the 2011 draft would be a huge compliment to Robert Stephenson. However, coming in as the 27th overall pick may be a poor indication of how good he really is. There is an argument that in most years he would have been a top ten pick in the draft. We liked him as the 14th overall best talent in our 2011 draft preview. It is easy to see why, with an arsenal that includes a mid-90’s Fastball and good curveball. Stephenson has a good, projectable frame and is around the strike zone most of the time.

Our Instinct: He needs to work on his third offering (which is a changeup) and overall command of his pitches within the strike zone. That could be said about almost every 18-year old pitcher coming out of high school. Something that is consistently said about Stephenson, is that he has great make-up and a good knowledge of pitching. These qualities combined with an already good pitching arsenal, give him a lot of projection. It would not be outrageous to see him in the front half of a major league starting rotation in a few years. For now, we expect Cincinnati to be patient with him and start him in low A ball.

4.Daniel Corcino SP 08/26/90 H:5’11” W:165 –  One of those pitchers that tends to be viewed by his body rather than his body of work, Daniel Corcino is starting to demand prospect attention. He certainly does not have the prototypical innings-eating, workhorse body at 5’11” and 165 pounds. But his “stuff” definitely fits the mold of a major league power pitcher. His fastball hits the mid-90’s and is nicely complimented by a slider and change. He was good for a 3.42 era and 11-7 record in single A ball during the 2011 season. More importantly he only issued 34 free passes in 139.1 innings-pitched. Batters had to earn their way on base, and that is exactly what you want from a starting pitcher. As the icing on the cake, Corcino fanned 156 batters in that same 139.1 innings pitched. There is nothing wrong with any of those numbers, and it is safe to say that he needs to be challenged at the next level.

Our Instinct: To circle around to where we began, the biggest negative for Corcino is his diminutive size. Throwing in the mid-90’s as a starting pitcher requires a body that can take a lot of physical demand. His physique puts him at risk of injury. The 139 innings he pitched in 2011 is a great start, but he needs to back that up in 2012 with an even high number of innings pitched. He needs to increase his arm strength and durability as he increases his level of competition. Look for him to start in High A ball, and we expect more of the kind of numbers seen in 2011. If he holds up, he has major league starter “stuff”.

5. Neftali Soto 1B 02/28/89 H:6’2” W:180 –  After being drafted in 2007, Neftali Soto kicked around in the low minors. He spent the first 4 years of his professional career moving just 3 levels. In 2010 his numbers made a nice increase in production, but 2011 was even better. As he has matured it has allowed him to improve his power production significantly, and that can be seen in his 31 hr’s and 80 rbi’s across 2 levels of competition in 396 at-bats for the 2011 season. His batting average of .278 is decent, but he needs to augment that with more than 26 walks in 432 plate appearances. He has an attacking style at the plate, which causes him to lunge at the ball. This can cause him to be a little bit off-balance at the plate causing some holes in his swing. We would like to see improvement on the 98 strike-outs in 396 at-bats. A quieter and more well-balanced swing may help this. Lastly, Soto has had a hard time finding a defensive home. He has tried a number of positions and is currently playing 1b. That, of course, is a problem when there is the guy named Votto playing there already.

Our Instinct: Sotos’ lack of athleticism may make it hard for him to find a position that will get him to the show. Ultimately it is his bat that will decide if/when he makes it to the big leagues. The increasing power trend is very good and must continue for Soto to make it as a big leaguer. He likely starts in triple-A ball, but could be seen in a Reds uniform in 2012 before the year is out. Neftali Soto has the potential to be a good major league bat, but there are some holes in his swing and lack of defensive position are detriments to reaching his full potential.

6. Zack Cozart SS 08/12/85 H:6’0” W:195 – After 5 years in the minors Zack Cozart finally got a shot in the majors in 2011. Unfortunately, he was injured after only 11 games into his major league campaign. Having made just 38 major league at-bats, he still qualifies as a prospect. Since he was in the minors for 5 years, he was a fairly slow riser through the system. Cozart has been able to increase his contact rates throughout his time in the minors and this culminated in a .310 batting average in 350 at-bats. His power rates are not all that remarkable with 7 hr’s and 32 rbi’s. He does have the ability to swipe a base every now and again with 30 stolen bases in 2010 season. Unfortunately he doesn’t draw a lot of walks drawing only 23 in 350 plate appearances for 2011. Improvement in this area would greatly enhance his ceiling. However, he is 26 years old and has played 5 years of professional ball. Big changes in his approach seem unlikely. His defense is quite good and should keep him in the major leagues.

Our Instinct:  We have to see how he will rebound after the Tommy John surgery that was performed in August 2011. If healthy, we expect him to start the season with the big club. He likely gets the opportunity to be the everyday SS for the Reds. His bat will determine if he becomes an average major league shortstop or if he is to become a bench player.

7. Ronald Torreyes 09/02/92 2B H:5’9” W:140 – Signed out of Venezuela in 2010, Ronald Torreyes has done everything that the Reds could have hoped for since beginning his professional career. He was very young compared to his competition, but still has excellent numbers to show for it. Playing in single-A ball, he hit an outstanding .356 average in 278 at-bats. Very few hits were for extra bases so his swing has little power. However, he augmented his high contact rates with 12 steals and 53 runs scored. His glove work is quite good and looks to be above average for the major league level. Though his .356 batting-average is eye-popping, it is not accompanied by very many walks. With a paltry 14 free passes in 306 plate appearances, he relies on contact to get on base. He must improve his strike zone management or he becomes a one-dimensional player at the plate. This could be exacerbated as he faces more talented pitchers in higher levels of competition. Another detriment to Torreyes’ long-term future is his diminutive size. At 5’9” and 140 pounds, there aren’t many hugely successful major leaguers that share that same physique. That being said he is only 19 years old and one would expect more changes in his body type as he matures. Nevertheless, the contact rate just can’t be ignored.

Our Instinct: Anyone that can hit for a .356 batting average, demands to be monitored. One would expect Torreyes to start in High A ball, and time is needed to see how he develops his body and his game. Very intriguing set of skills.

8. Didi Gregorius SS 02/18/90 H:6’1” W:175 - As MLB deepens it world-wide appeal we are seeing more and more European prospects. One such prospect is Mariekson Julius (Didi) Gregorius. However, Didi Gregorius is starting to garner attention for more than just his place of birth. His glove work at shortstop is holding up quite nicely and there is every reason to believe that he can stick at the position. Gregorius’ offensive game has some room for potential. He finished 2011 with .289 batting average, 48 runs scored and 45 rbi’s in 336 at-bats across 2 levels of competition. The difference between his .289 batting average and the .324 OBP, is of particular notice. With only 19 free passes in 363 plate appearances, it is safe to assume that Gregorius could improve his eye at the plate. His k-rate is decent with only 50 k’s in his 336 at-bats. So there is room to believe that he can improve that walk rate and, by extension, overall strike zone management. His season was affected by injury. So he did not get a full seasons’ worth playing time and this could have affected his numbers and development path.

Our Instinct:  With his already fine fielding skills and some improvement in his batting eye, Gregorius could make for an interesting prospect. We expect him to start in double-A ball and see the possibility of Gregorius as a major league shortstop with some development made in his offensive approach.

9. Tony Cingrani SP 07/05/89 H:6’4” W:200 - Drafted in the 3rd round and 114th overall of the 2011 amateur draft, Tony Cingrani is a very unusual story. He was a terrible failure in college as a starting pitcher. In a fine reclamation effort by Cingrani’s coaches at Rice University, they converted him to a closer. And he did very well in that role. However, the Cincinnati Reds had other ideas altogether. Now, Cingrani is being used as a starting pitcher in professional ball. We only have 1 year of data, but it is quite impressive. Cingrani spent 2011 pitching in rookie class ball. He has a remarkable line of a 1.75era and .79 whip. Perhaps even more remarkable was the k/bb ratio of 80/6 in 51.1 innings pitched. To say that he dominated his competition is an understatement. However, there are a couple of things that need to be taken in context. He pitched rookie class ball at the age of 22 and was older than much of the competition. Likely the Reds started him in rookie level ball to get him used to the starting role after having been a closer in college. The other notable point about Cingranis’ professional development is that he needs to increase his arm strength. In 13 games started he only accumulated 51.1 innings pitched. That works out to about 4 innings pitches per start.

Our Instinct: Cingrani has a good clean delivery and obviously he was not challenged by his competition in 2011. Already 22 years old there likely isn’t a lot more physical maturing for Cingrani, and it is simply a matter of learning how to use his stuff. Likely we will see Cingrani in single-A ball, but there is reason to think that he could move quickly up the organizational ladder and into legit prospect status.

10. Juan Perez 2B/SS 11/01/91 H:6’0” W:180 - Drafted in the 26th round and 805th overall pick of the 2011 draft, there wasn’t much to draw the attention of the prospect status of Juan Perez. We first caught notice of him in George Utter’s 2011 Draft Review – Second Basemen article. His glove work has allowed him to play 3 separate positions in the infield already. After his 2011 season we see a nice overall body of work. For starters, we see an overall slash line of .316/.393/.488 while playing for 2 separate teams in 2011. He had 4 hr’s and 32 rbi’s in 215 at-bats for the season, so the bat has some power production potential. This was nicely complimented by 15 stolen bags and 42 runs scored. Perhaps best of all, we see nice strike zone management. He carried a very favorable bb/k ratio of 25/38. This will greatly aid in his ability to get on base, and this is something very noteworthy for a speedy middle infielder type. Already 180 pounds and having just turned 20 years old, we may see Perez lose a bit of speed as continues to mature physically. But that could lead to an increase in power production as well.

Our Instinct: Cincinnati is likely going to start Perez at single-A ball, and it will be curious to see if they continue to leave him at the shortstop position. It would enhance his prospect status even more, if Perez’s glove is good enough to stick there. We are intrigued by the plate discipline complimented with the speed/power combination that his bat and athleticism have to offer. His future development bears monitoring.

Baseball Instinct’s Top 21 “Free-view”

Throughout our top 10 presentations we have offered a sneak peek at a player or 2 in each organization that will appear again in our top 21 article.  Here’s a look at a couple of Reds who just missed the top 10:

Yorman Rodriguez OF 08/15/92 H:6’2” W:184  – It is hard to get a feel for outfield prospect Yorman Rodriguez. Signed at the age of 16 out of Venezuela, Rodriguez is still very young and very raw. Because he is so young he has been playing against much older competition and that fact is partially responsible for the lack of clarity in terms of prospect status. His signing was considered a fairly high-profile at the time because he had a lot of athleticism and a high ceiling. After 2 years of professional ball both of those things are still true. He has some ability to hit for power as shown in his .456 slugging percentage in 2010 and driving in 40 rbi’s in 280 at-bats in 2011. He is starting to show some speed after swiping 20 stolen bases in 2011 in 310 plate appearances. His slash line in 2010 was quite good with a respectable .339/.361/.456, but we saw significant drop-off in 2011 coming in at .254/.318/.393. The main culprit is Rodriguez’s strike zone management. It simply is not where it needs to be. His strikeout rate was 27.2% in 2011, while his base-on-ball rate is 8.1%. Translation is he strikes out too much and doesn’t draw enough walks.

Our Instinct: Likely Yorman Rodriguez will start in single A ball in 2012. Repeating the league should be very helpful in determining future performance for him. The key indicator going into next year, is his eye at the plate. If Rodriguez can develop better strike zone management, every part of his offensive game will improve. If/when that happens Yorman Rodriguez can garner legit prospect status.

Todd Frazier 3B/LF 02/12/86 H:6’3” W:220 - Drafted in the 1st round and 34th overall in the 2007 draft, Todd Frazier has had an interesting developmental path. His star has fallen a bit since that 2007 draft when expectations were a bit higher. He even appeared as #43 on our 2010 top 100. After 5 years of professional ball we have a pretty decent portrait of Frazier’s skill set. First he has a nice array of defensive skills. He has already played 2b, 3b, SS and left field in barely 3 months of major league time. His greatest value to the Reds comes in his ability to play well defensively at so many positions. As for his offense, it could be productive without having star potential. Prior to being called up to the majors, Frazier had hit for a .258 batting average in 2010 and .260 in 2011. He does have some power production in his bat with 15 hr’s and 46 rbis in 315 at-bats in triple-A ball in 2011. He also complimented that with 17 stolen bases giving his offensive abilities a well-rounded look. His 2011 major league debut showed a .232 batting average with 6 hr’s in 112 major league at-bats. The main problem with his offensive game is that he has carried a strikeout rate of over 22% over the last 2 years. This comes at the expense of his contact rates and makes what would otherwise be a productive player into a below average offensive contributor.

Our Instinct: If he can improve upon his k-rate and contact rate, he could be a very solid and productive player. His glove will keep him on a major league roster, but he is not likely more than a “super-utility guy” that can provide some occasional pop with the bat.

Check back soon as we profile more Top 10 Lists for each MLB team and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at a recent article in this series: Los Angeles Angels Top 10 List and be a step ahead of the game. Also, check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at mailbag@baseballinstinct.com.

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