The Cincinnati Reds made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2013. Although they were shut out in two games against the Atlanta Braves, they had something to build on. Through 125 games so far this year, the Reds are tied with the San Diego Padres for the second Wild Card spot at 68-57. They fortified their bullpen at the trade deadline acquiring Mychal Givens, Justin Wilson, and Luis Cessa.
While they were buyers at the deadline, they didn’t sacrifice much of their farm system. Cincinnati had an excellent draft as well earlier in July. In fact, their first four picks from this year’s draft are in the organization’s top 12 prospects according to MLB.com. We will cover the top 5 here and two of those players slot right in immediately.
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Nick Lodolo LHP
The seventh overall pick in 2019 out of TCU was dominating at Double-A Chattanooga before his recent promotion. Lodolo had a 1.84 ERA with a ridiculous 68/9 K/BB rate in just 44 innings while surrendering one home run. The southpaw has an excellent three-pitch mix and can command all of his pitches. His fastball sits 91-94 and has some sink to it. He can get it up to 96 when he needs it as well.
Lodolo has refined his slider which he now throws in the low-80s with excellent bite. The changeup has become a plus pitch. The arm action now mirrors his fastball better and he still has great command of the pitch. The 6-foot-6 California native sits atop the rankings here but also among left-handers in all minor league baseball.
Hunter Greene RHP
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 in Single-A Dayton in 2018 when he suffered an elbow injury 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 is back to lighting up the radar gun and has graduated to Triple-A Louisville.
Overall this season between Chattanooga and Louisville, Greene has a 3.16 ERA with a 124/32 K/BB rate in 88.1 innings. He has improved his slider command which gives him a legit out pitch aside from his triple-digit fastball. The changeup is still a work in progress and he has incorporated a cutter. The 6-foot-5 starter has the stuff right now to be a successful starter in the majors. Greene could become a true ace if he can get his changeup to above average.
Matt McLain SS
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 this year. He added some weight during his days at UCLA and has shown more power. In his first taste of pro ball this season, McLain has a 1.105 OPS in eight games. His short, compact swing produces hard contact and while he doesn’t have much loft to it, he can still put the ball over the fence.
The Reds have the right-handed hitter playing shortstop where they think he will stick. He does have experience in the outfield as he was a regular centerfielder for the Bruins in 2019, but McLain is solid on the dirt with excellent range and hands. This kid is a well-rounded player and should move up the ladder quickly and might be in Cincinnati by the end of next year.
Jay Allen OF
The Reds used the compensation pick they received from the Los Angeles Dodgers signing Trevor Bauer to draft Allen 30th overall. The 18-year-old can hit. There was really never any doubt about that and he has six hits in his first five games at the pro level. Speed was initially a question as Allen posted average run times in High School. That question seems to have been answered as the centerfielder has five steals already. As he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame, some believe he will slow down and be better suited for right field especially with his strong arm. Either way, the bat will certainly have Allen on the fast track.
Graham Ashcraft RHP
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 has a 2.74 ERA and a 107/33 K/BB rate in 92 innings and has allowed just two homers.
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 this year. 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 last year. 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 is striking out at a 37 percent clip in A-ball.
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