Reds prospects: Arizona Fall League is key to Michael Siani’s development

MINNEAPOLIS, MN- AUGUST 27: Cincinnati Reds prospect Michael Siani #6 of the USA Baseball 18U National Team bats. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN- AUGUST 27: Cincinnati Reds prospect Michael Siani #6 of the USA Baseball 18U National Team bats. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images) /

If Cincinnati Reds outfield prospect Michael Siani ever hopes to be more than defensive replacement in the major leagues, he must develop his hit-tool in the Arizona Fall League. Siani is one of seven from the Cincinnati farm system headed to the desert this month.

The Arizona Fall League has long been considered a training ground for some of the best players in Major League Baseball history. Players like Derek Jeter and Bryce Harper cut their teeth in the AFL, and most recently for the Redlegs, Tyler Stephenson spent some time out west.

This year, the Cincinnati Reds are sending seven of their prospects to Arizona. Those seven will join players from the Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, and Kansas City Royals as members of the Surprise Saguaros.

The Reds have been in center field since Billy Hamilton left.

The Cincinnati Reds are a mess in center field. You could argue that it’s the team’s weakest position. In 2018, Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler, Phillip Ervin, and Mason Williams logged time in center field. Hamilton’s 1,200-plus innings playing the position dwarfed all others. In 2019, Nick Senzel became the team’s primary centerfielder following Hamilton’s departure the previous winter.

Since 2019, we’ve seen Senzel, Schebler, Ervin, Michael Lorenzen, Brian O’Grady, José Peraza, Jesse Winker, Shogo Akiyama, Aristides Aquino, Brian Goodwin, Travis Jankowski, Tyler Naquin, Delino DeShields, Mike Freeman, TJ Friedl, Jose Barrero, Scott Heineman, and Alejo Lopez all log at least one inning in center field. To call the position a revolving door would be a massive understatement.

This is where the credibility of the front office can be called into question. The Reds converted Senzel from an infielder to the team’s starting centerfielder, and the former first-round pick has been underwhelming and injury-prone.

In addition, the Reds front office signed Akiyama to a three-year/$21M deal and have provided him with little playing time over the last two seasons. Naquin is a serviceable centerfielder, but he was brought in as a backup during spring training. And let’s hope that management doesn’t have visions of transitioning Barrero into the team’s starting centerfielder next season.

Reds prospect Michael Siani needs to develop his hit-tool in the AFL.

I put all of this information out there to say that Michael Siani needs to develop into what he was drafted to be; the Cincinnati Reds starting centerfielder in 2023. According to MLB Pipeline, the team’s No. 11 prospect was originally on track to be promoted to the bigs next season, but that’s not going to happen.

After an elbow injury at the end of last year required a good deal of rehab for Siani, the 22-year-old only played in 97 games and was relegated to the role of designated hitter more times than not. Despite not having to play the field, Siani still failed to develop hit hit-tool. The former fourth-round pick hit just .216/.321/.327 at High-A Dayton.

The Arizona Fall League was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, in 2019, Tyler Stephenson, Jose Barrero, Jonathan India, and Dauri Moreta all suited up for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Stephenson was the talk of the team after hitting .347/.418/.490 inn 13 games.

The Cincinnati Reds can only hope to see some similar success from Michael Siani trip to the desert. Even if he doesn’t have success, the experience alone should be enough to help in his development. India, the likely Rookie of the Year, didn’t have near the success of Stephenson, hitting only .133/.254/.333.

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The Reds cannot afford to have Siani be little more than a defensive replacement in the outfield. The Pennsylvania high school product was signed for $2M, well over-slot for his draft position, to be a difference maker for this club. His development in the AFL will be key moving into next season.