2021 Cincinnati Reds Top 5 Prospectsby Johnnie Black March 19, 2021 1 comment
The Cincinnati Reds have something to build on. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 last season. While they couldn’t score a run in 22 innings against the Atlanta Braves, they only allowed six. This season Cincinnati will be without the services of the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, but they still have a solid one-two in Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. They also have a couple of arms headlining their top 5 prospect list. Let’s take a look at who else the Reds have on the farm.
Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Team Top Prospects.
#1 – Nick Lodolo – LHP
Lodolo was the first pitcher taken (7th overall) in the 2019 draft. He made big strides in his final year at TCU after a mediocre first two seasons. In his junior year, Lodolo pitched to a 2.36 ERA and had an impressive 131/25 K/BB rate in 103 innings for the Horned Frogs. After being drafted he continued showing off his command and ability to miss bats as he struck out 30 and walked none in 18.1 innings in his first taste of pro ball.
Lodolo has three above-average pitches and he commands all of them well. His fastball sits around 91-94 and can hit 96 when he needs to reach back. His slider is a solid 10-12 mph slower than his heater and has excellent bite boring in on righties. Lodolo’s changeup has improved and he tunnels it well with his fastball. The change also has some nice fade to it. The lefty is 6’6 and is a lean 205 lbs. He repeats his delivery well and his arm slot is low making lefties uncomfortable in the box. Lodolo will start the season likely in Double-A to further improve his tunneling and command while stretching his arm out to maintain velocity through his starts. Because of his pitchability and body type, Lodolo should be a staple in the rotation by next year and could become the ace of the staff shortly afterward.
#2 – Hunter Greene – RHP
It’s no secret that Greene can throw hard. In his spring debut a couple of weeks ago, he hit 103 on the gun, and 16 of his 18 fastballs were triple digits. Taken with the second overall pick out of Notre Dame HS in 2017, Greene got hit hard in his first three starts in rookie ball. In 2018, he seemed to settle in a little more but his development would be derailed by Tommy John Surgery in April 2019.
Greene has the heat, but his other offerings are what get him in trouble. His slider and changeup are solid and flash plus but are still works in progress. He needs to be able to locate them and sequence them off of his fastball. Greene has been working with veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart this spring on game-planning and how to attack hitters. The big righty from California has also been working on a cutter that sits in the low-90s. The stuff isn’t the question for Greene as he has some of the best in the league. If he can harness his arsenal and command his secondary pitches as well as he does his heater, Greene will be an ace. If not, he may be the right-handed version of Aroldis Chapman.
#3 – Tyler Stephenson – C
Stephenson was the 11th overall pick in 2015 out of High School in Georgia. Through his first few seasons in pro ball, Stephenson held his own at the plate while making improvements to his defensive game. In 2019 at Double-A Chattanooga, he showed his bat will play slashing .285/.372/.410 walking 10.2 percent of the time while only striking out 16.5 percent. He shortened his swing to maintain solid contact and at 6’4 and 225 lbs, Stephenson won’t have to sell out for power.
Defensively, Stephenson has improved his footwork and framing and should be at least average in those departments. His arm is strong and while he has shortened up his throwing motion, he hasn’t lost anything off of his throws to second. Stephenson’s in-game power will come as he acclimates himself to big league pitching after his eight-game cup of coffee in 2020. He will be the backup this season and could take over full-time duties by 2022.
#4 – Jose Garcia – SS
Garcia was called up to the majors last season as a 22-year-old having never played a game above A-Ball. He understandably looked overmatched, especially against big-league offspeed stuff. In 2019, Garcia showed off his tools with the Daytona Tortugas. He had 37 doubles, 8 HRs, and 15 steals in 104 games while batting .280. There is promise in his ability to figure it out at the plate. More seasoning in the minors this season should help Garcia work on recognizing spin and laying off the offspeed junk.
With the glove, the Cuban shortstop is good. While he may not have elite range, his hands are soft, and he has a cannon for an arm to throw out guys that many shortstops couldn’t. Garcia has above-average speed and excellent baseball IQ in the field and on the bases. In 2019 while he was swiping 15 bags, he was only caught twice. With more work on his bat, Garcia should be the starting shortstop again in Cincinnati possibly by the end of 2021.
#5 – Austin Hendrick – OF
The Reds seem to like their High Schoolers. Hendrick was taken 12th overall in 2020 out of West Allegheny (PA). Make no mistake, this kid destroys baseballs. His bat speed is excellent and he gets into hitting position quickly. When he turns on a pitch, the sound is thunderous. Hendrick is still raw at this point, he won’t be 20 years old until June. If he continues his progression and reduces some swing-and-miss in his game, Hendrick’s bat will get him called up possibly by next season.
Where he plays when he gets the call is another question. He has solid speed and has the arm to possibly stick in centerfield. Long-term he probably lands at a corner outfield spot though due to his limited range. Hendrick’s bat will keep him in the lineup every day no matter where he is on defense. He is good enough in the outfield to be an above-average defender in right or left.
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