Over the past three years, the Cincinnati Reds have brought up three of their former first-round picks in Nick Senzel, Tyler Stephenson, and the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year Jonathan India. Now, the Reds have reloaded their system. Four of the five players on this list were drafted in the first round and could be the next wave of talent Cincinnati brings to Great American Ballpark in the near future.
Make sure to check out all of our other Top Prospect Articles.
1. Hunter Greene, Right-Handed Pitcher
The flamethrowing right-hander was only 17 years old when he was selected second overall in 2017. He made a few starts that year and was looking at a full season at Single-A Dayton in 2018 when he suffered an elbow injury after 18 starts that required Tommy John Surgery. Greene missed all of 2019 and only pitched at the Reds’ alternate site last year gaining valuable experience. This season he was back to lighting up the radar gun and graduated to Triple-A Louisville after seven starts at Double-A Chattanooga. Between those two stops, Greene had a 3.30 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 106.1 innings proving he is fully recovered from his surgery.
His fastball is elite as he throws it consistently 98-102 mph. He has learned to spot it well also using it all over the strike zone keeping hitters from zeroing in on a certain area. Greene pairs the heater with a plus slider that has good late movement down in the zone. His cutter and changeup are both works in progress but already show signs of being at least average offerings. Greene’s stuff is certainly there. If he refines his command a bit and improves to where a third pitch is above average, he could be an ace for years to come.
2. Nick Lodolo, Left-Handed Pitcher
The seventh overall pick in 2019 out of TCU was dominating at Chattanooga before a promotion to Louisville. Lodolo had a 1.84 ERA with a ridiculous 68/9 K/BB rate in just 44 innings while surrendering one home run. Unfortunately, the southpaw suffered a shoulder injury after just three starts and was shut down for the rest of the season. However, Lodolo has been throwing recently and looks like he will be ready for spring training, whenever that is.
The lefty has a very good three-pitch mix starting with a fastball that he throws 91-94 with some sink to it. While his slider isn’t nearly as hard, coming in the low-80s, it has late bite and can neutralize right-handed hitters. Lodolo’s changeup has some fade to it and he has worked hard to tunnel it with his fastball. What Lodolo may lack in pure “stuff” he easily makes up for with his control. He throws all of his pitches for strikes and has a great idea of what he wants to do when he takes the mound. The former Horned Frog may be the best left-handed pitcher in the minors right now.
3. Matt McLain, Shortstop
McLain is one of the rare top-25 picks out of High School who chose to attend college rather than take the first-round money. He ultimately helped his stock as he was drafted 17th overall last year. He added some weight during his days at UCLA and some power should come. In his 29 games at Dayton, McLain showed off his wheels and his plate discipline with 10 stolen bases and an OBP of .387.
The former Bruin has gotten better defensively and has the skills to stay at shortstop with good range and a solid arm. His ability to make hard contact and drive the ball to all fields is his calling card. While the power may be limited, his skills scream leadoff hitter at the higher levels. The plate discipline and pitch recognition is there and he can be a stolen base threat at the top of the Reds lineup.
4. Jay Allen, Outfielder
Thanks to the Los Angeles Dodgers signing Trevor Bauer last year, the Reds got the 30th pick and used it on Allen. Just 18 years old, the Florida kid put the Arizona Complex League on notice immediately. Allen logged 19 games for the Reds rookie affiliate and he slashed .328/.440/.557 with three home runs and 14 stolen bases. He also played flawless centerfield and chipped in three assists.
Allen is an all-around athlete that doesn’t have a true weakness. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, the thought is that he will add more power as he matures at the expense of some speed. Because of his long levers, scouts were initially worried about some swing and miss with Allen. However, he has quieted his setup and worked on becoming more selective. This has allowed Allen to stop chasing and also to use his natural power to drive outside pitches the other way. Defensively, he may stick in centerfield if he doesn’t lose too much speed. Even if he does move to a corner outfield spot, his bat will play there.
5. Graham Ashcraft, Right-Handed Pitcher
After an underwhelming college career due to control issues and hip surgery, the Reds took Ashcraft in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. Fast forward to this season and the right-hander has made some major improvements to move into the Reds’ top 5. Split between Advanced-A and Double-A, Ashcraft was 11-4 with a 3.00 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 111 innings. He has improved his control and walked only 37 while keeping the ball in the yard allowing just four home runs.
Another power arm in Cincinnati’s system, the Alabama native sits 93-97 with his fastball and can hit triple digits. He pairs that with a slider he throws in the mid-80s. Both of his offerings have excellent spin rates and good movement. Some believed Ashcraft would be destined for a relief role. However, this season he has shown the ability to maintain velocity in his starts. The only other issue is if he can improve his changeup to a point where it is at least average. If he can do that, the Reds would have a solid third or fourth starter to go with Lodolo and Greene.
What Does the Future Hold?
The Reds were very top-heavy before the draft in 2021. They remedied that situation by selecting quality players. After McLain and Allen, Cincinnati’s next two picks were Matheu Nelson, the catcher from Florida State, and Andrew Abbott, the left-handed pitcher from Virginia. The Reds also have power-hitting outfielder Austin Hendrick who was their first-round pick in 2020. Hendrick sits sixth on this list and has as much pop as anyone in the minors, but he needs to fix the swing-and-miss in his game as he struck out at an alarming rate (37.6 percent) in A-ball.
Follow Johnnie Black on Twitter @jball0202
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images