UPDATE 12/11: Despite a trade which sent Didi Gregorius to Arizona, we have decided to keep him for consideration as the award is chosen based on a prospect’s performance in 2012, not where they’ll play in 2013. While the statement that he would “soon challenge Cozart for time” is now moot, the board feels his accomplishments are still worthy of the list.
With a host of postseason awards already collecting dust in trophy cases across the baseball realm, we figured it’s time for a bit of new blood. That’s why I’m proud to announce that voting for the first-ever BlogRedMachine.com Prospect of the Year has commenced, effective immediately.
In searching for the candidates, I came across Jonathan Mayo’s list of top Reds prospects from last year. He only had ten per team at the time, but it’s still effective in judging how talent has changed since then. There’s also a similar list published in February on the Louisville Bats’ blog, The Bats Signal, which highlights Baseball America’s top Cincinnati prospects entering the 2012 season. In both cases, some players came and went (most to the big-league team) while others shot up the charts.
Among other highlights in 2012, Billy Hamilton also starred in the All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City. Will the inaugural BRM Prospect of the Year Award also join the list? (Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports)
Let’s start with Mayo, circa 2011:
- Devin Mesoraco
- Billy Hamilton
- Yorman Rodriguez
- Zack Cozart
- Todd Frazier
- Juan Francisco
- Donnie Joseph
- Didi Gregorius
- Daniel Corcino
- J.C. Sulbaran
In 2012, the list had changed drastically, seeing four players graduate to the big leagues (three to Cincinnati) and two others — Joseph and Sulbaran — move to the Kansas City charts as part of the Jonathan Broxton acquisition. It’s hard to say where 11-20 would fall on Mayo’s mind at the time, but one can connect the dots of the Class of 2012 to take a guess. Here’s where the Reds stood a year later:
- Billy Hamilton (+1)
- Robert Stephenson (NR)
- Tony Cingrani (NR)
- Daniel Corcino (+5)
- Didi Gregorius (+3)
- Nicholas Travieso (NR)
- Ryan LaMarre (NR)
- Kyle Lotzkar (NR)
- Neftali Soto (NR)
- Ryan Wright (NR)
What does that tell us? Among other things, it shows that the minor-league situation is a fickle one. Nearly three-fourths of the top ten consisted of players gracing the list for the first time, and many of the top prospects from one year prior found a relatively full-time gig in the majors. But there’s no need to rush them through the system. We should be able to take a second to catch our breath and enjoy the young talent on the farm while we still have it.
So without further delay, we present to you the four finalists for the inaugural Prospect of the Year award:
Billy Hamilton, SS
(Bakersfield/Pensacola: .311 AVG/2 HR/45 RBI/155 SB)
Any fan worth his salt knows the name Billy Hamilton, and rightly so. With a jaw-dropping 103 swipes in 2011, all eyes were on Hamilton in 2012. He quickly took the mantle of top organizational prospect and didn’t disappoint in Bakersfield, hitting .323 with twenty-eight extra-base hits and just over one hundred stolen bases. With his promotion to Pensacola in July, Hamilton continued his march into history before breaking Vince Coleman’s single-season stolen base record on August 21. His mark of fifty-one thefts in the Southern League was enough to give him an unprecedented claim to two league titles in the same season. Slowing down in the Fall League, Hamilton earned the distinction of AFL Rising Star and inspired speculation as the Reds’ x factor looking ahead to 2013.
Tony Cingrani, LHP
(Bakersfield/Pensacola: 10-4, 1.73 ERA; 172 K, 52 BB)
Did anyone see Cingrani’s rapid rise coming? Well, quite a few people were impressed after a solid stint in Billings last season. With 80 strikeouts in only 51.1 innings, the product of Rice University took a running start into his professional career, selected as Minor League Baseball’s Short-Season Starting Pitcher of the Year. Baseball America ranked him as the fifteenth-best prospect following the 2011 season, but not until a wild run in Bakersfield did Cingrani begin to shine. With a 5-1 clip and a paltry 1.11 earned run average, his midseason promotion to Pensacola barely slowed him down. Fanning batters in both leagues with stunning efficiency, California and Southern League hitters were held to an anorexic .191 batting average. A fifteen-strikeout gem on June 27 showed why his 11.49 K/9 is no fluke, and the sly southpaw saw some time in Cincinnati after a September call-up.
The long-term investment in Gregorius may be paying off at last, as the 22-year-old recorded solid stats in his first major-league stint. (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)
Didi Gregorius, SS
(Pensacola/Louisville: .265 AVG/7 HR/54 RBI)
Though his departure from Pensacola was overshadowed by Hamilton’s arrival, Gregorius rose as a favorite among Blue Wahoos fan in 2012. Everyday readers of Blog Red Machine may remember my defense of Didi amid trade speculation in mid-November. Some of it bears repeating, though, as the investment Cincinnati made five years ago began to pay off in the higher levels. Though this wasn’t his first season on the 40-man roster, it was the first in uniform for the 22-year-old. With further development in Triple-A, Gregorius may soon challenge Cozart for time early next year.
Steve Selsky, OF
(Dayton/Bakersfield: .317 AVG/18 HR/74 RBI)
When players advance to higher levels of play, it’s not uncommon for their numbers to dip. They rarely see as dramatic improvement as Selsky, however, who made a seamless transition to Bakersfield after a nearly sixty-game stretch in Dayton. In sixty-nine games for the Blaze, the California-born outfielder became a doubles machine, racking up twenty-one en route to a team-high .348 average. His eighteen dingers, fifteen of which came in High-A play, were enough for third-highest in the Reds organization. Selsky also ranked in the top five for batting average (.317), hits (157), and runs batted in (74).
We selected these prospects on three criteria: game-changing ability, outstanding performances against opposing teams and leagues alike, and the impact that they had on their respective squads. Voting will run until December 31, when we’ll announce the winner. Stay tuned and spread the word!