Cincinnati Reds: Who will make their Major League debut in 2019?

MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Nick Senzel #13 of the Cincinnati Reds and the U.S. Team hits an RBI double in the first inning against the World Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park on July 9, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Nick Senzel #13 of the Cincinnati Reds and the U.S. Team hits an RBI double in the first inning against the World Team during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park on July 9, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds have a lot of minor league talent. These three top prospects are set to contribute at the Major League level in 2019.

The Cincinnati Reds are in the enviable position of having a number of their Top 25 Minor League prospects who are close to being able to contribute at the Major League level. In recent years the organization has drafted and developed well and it now appears that a number of these players are within a season or two to contributing in “The Show”.

In recent weeks, the Cincinnati Reds have enhanced their already talented position player roster with the trade involving Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. As a result, there will be very few position players expected to debut in 2019 not named Nick Senzel. With that said, let’s take a look at a few of the prospects who could find themselves in the big leagues next season.

The Cincinnati Reds minor league system is ranked No. 8 in all of baseball. It’s no surprise that Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, Taylor Trammell, Jonathan India, and Tony Santillan ranked as the Top 5 prospects in the Reds pipeline. Other familiar and talked about players, such as Tyler Stephenson, Shed Long, and TJ Friedl find their names on the list as well.

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It is well assumed that top prospect Nick Senzel will make his Cincinnati Reds debut in 2019. Whether it is at second base, centerfield, shortstop, third base, or as a super utility player, Senzel could break camp in Goodyear, Arizona bound for The Queen City. However, conventional wisdom suggests that he will have a brief stint in Louisville to avoid Super-Two status.

Reds GM Nick Krall has stated that he prefers Senzel to be where he can have as many plate appearances as possible. Other Major League teams with young talent such as the Chicago Cubs have fully illustrated how a creative lineup can put its best players on the field at the same time. Senzel will be a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 2019.

Beyond Senzel, it becomes a little murky and subjective. Traditionally when the roster expands to 40 in September, we see a number of pitchers get their first cup of coffee at the MLB level. It is a long season, and with injuries taking its toll, I could see both Tony Santillan and Vladimir Gutierrez, beginning their respective 2019 campaigns at Triple-A Louisville and gaining a spot start or two in the big leagues next year.

Depending upon where the Cincinnati Reds are in the standings and the health of the starting rotation, both Santillan and Gutierrez could see themselves a part of the regular rotation for the final month of the season. If that is the case, then most likely the Reds are not in the playoff hunt and all eyes will be on the 2020 season.

Santillan has been well discussed. He possesses a very lively fastball in the mid-90’s range, with an array of other pitches in his repertoire including a slider and change up. It is a very small sample size, but I saw him pitch last June at High A Daytona. My immediate thoughts were, “Wow, what a fastball, but he lacks control.” However, based on how his 2018 season progressed, it does seem that he was able to improve this area of his game.

Between his time at  Advanced-A Daytona and Double-A Pensacola, Santillan had 29 starts with a 10-7 record and an ERA slightly above 3.0. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was at 3.52 with 134 Ks and 38 walks, while giving up less than one home run per nine innings; an impressive stat for a power pitcher.

Santillan’s name has not been rumored in any trades this offseason, which signifies a commitment from the Cincinnati Reds front office to Santillan. Again my prediction is he will be in a Cincinnati Reds uniform in late 2019, possibly sooner.

In Vladmir Gutierrez, the Cincinnati Reds have a similar style of pitcher as Santillan. At 23-years old there is a significant upside with the right-hander from Cuba. Gutierrez started 27 games at Double-A Pensacola in 2018, posting a 9-10 record with a 4.35 ERA. He had 145 strikeouts in 147 innings pitched to go along with 38 walks.

Gutierrez’s HR9 was slightly higher than Santillan at 1.1. With both Jared Hughes and David Hernández beginning their second year of two-year contracts, there is a possibility that the Reds could use Gutierrez in a relief role should the team fade down the stretch and trade either Hughes or Hernandez at the end of July.

If both Hernández and Hughes are on the Reds roster after July, anticipate September as the timeline for seeing Gutierrez as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. His name has been rumored in trades, so there is also the possibility that Gutierrez makes his MLB debut in 2019 but with another team.

For comparison purposes, Tyler Mahle, posted a 14-6 record and 3.64 ERA in 2016 with 141 strikeouts and 37 walks at the Single-A/ Double-A level. Taking a look at another member of the current Reds rotation, Luis Castillo posted a 8-6 record with a 2.26 ERA while at Single-A/ Double-A in the Florida Marlins organization with a 4.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Many in the Reds camp believe that there are better days ahead for both Mahle and Castillo with the Cincinnati Reds. If all things are equal, we’ll get a glimpse into both Santillan and Gutierrez having similar and possibly slightly higher upside than these two current Reds who will be part of the 2019 starting rotation.

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Other names to keep an eye on in 2019 within the Reds Minor League system include Taylor Trammell, Shed Long, and Jose Siri. Of course, let’s not lose sight of Hunter Greene and Tyler Stephenson as they progress through the minor league system. However, for the immediate future, the trio of Senzel, Santillan, and Gutierrez will be three players to follow as they likely make their respective marks in 2019 as Cincinnati Reds.