With the recent Major League Baseball prospect rankings being released for all of the country to dissect, we will rank for you just the Top-5 within the Reds organization. Now, these Top-5 are not necessarily in terms of who the best prospect may be overall, but who is going to help the club out the most this upcoming season.
5. Neftali Soto
A bit of a surprise pick to be so highly touted, but regardless of his struggles in pinch-hitting duty last season, Soto is a worthy candidate. In what is almost a foregone conclusion, someone on the Reds roster when they break from Spring Training will be broken down by an injury at some point. Soto, can step in and be a reliable bat off the bench with a large amount of pop, especially in Great American Ball Park. His window of impact may seem to be small, but he may have the opportunity to produce in key situations late in the game.
Acquired in the trade that sent Ryan Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays, Holmberg adds depth to a position that was desperately lacking it. After retreads such as Armando Galarraga and Mark Prior managed to not pan out, the youth movement at Louisville is going to be key. Should any of the current starting five (Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Leake and Cingrani) go down early in the season, it will be Holmberg getting the ball. Known for his control, and not so much his ability to throw hard, Holmberg will be a tricky proposition for batters as he deals from the left side. As ready as Holmberg may be for Major League action, fans can hope they don’t see him in a Reds jersey this season.
He can be found on Twitter @HenryRod39, but unless one has a complete understanding of the Spanish language, he may not be worth the follow. What Rodriguez can do, is hit. The conundrum that has always come into play for the still young Venezuelan is where to play him. He may have been the lucky one to step in and fill the full-time spot had the Yankees signed off on acquiring Brandon Phillips, as he is a second baseman by trade, but has been used at a multitude of other positions.
Ultimately, he may not make the Major League roster out of Spring Training due to the fact that he has options, and the other veteran players that have been brought in for the utility role can opt out of their deals. Rodriguez could not only be valuable as a bat off the bench with his ability to switch hit, but in the instance that anything happens to Zack Cozart, one would have to believe it would be Rodriguez to step in for an extended period of time.
As one of the top pitching prospects in the game, Stephenson’s arrival this season is likely; barring any setbacks along the way. He is expected to begin the season at Double-A Pensacola and will prepare as a starter, which is the role the Reds hope he can play for them, come the beginning of the 2015 season.
The likeliest scenario for seeing Stephenson up in the bigs in 2014, is as a reliever. In an interview with Dan Szymborski of ESPN and Fangraphs.com last month, he predicted that Stephenson would have the type of impact that Michael Wacha had for the St. Louis Cardinals last year. If Stephenson can live up to those lofty expectations, he may be a key component at the back end of the bullpen as the Reds look to win the National League pennant this season.
To believe that the season will start and end with Billy Hamilton, is a rational thought as the speedy centerfield will get to prove his worth at the Major League level. Attempting to recreate Shin-Soo Choo’s production would be nearly impossible, so by inserting Hamilton full-time, they can attempt to generate production through other means.
When Drew Stubbs came up as a member of the Reds organization, people gawked at his speed and how fast he got down the line. Where he could have capitalized tremendously was in the bunting department where it was virtually impossible to nab the speedster once he did get the ball down. Stubbs fell in love with the park factor at home and wanted to hit home runs, not steal bases.
Thankfully, Reds fans seem to have hit the perfect storm in Hamilton. It has been well documented that he has, and will continue to work on his bunting as a weapon that will potentially open up the infield for more hits.
If Hamilton lights the league on fire, there is an extremely high chance the Reds will be playing games in Cincinnati in October; if he flops and fails to reach base enough, the dog days of summer are going to be quite the drag in the Queen City.
Again, these are not regarded as the Top-5 prospects in the Reds system, as there are others such as Nick Travieso and Phil Ervin that will undoubtedly be making a bigger splash, just not during this upcoming season.
While the keys to success do run through the veteran leadership, having young phenoms contribute, is always vital to winning a championship.