3 Cincinnati Reds prospects who've fallen woefully short of lofty expectations

Cincinnati Reds third basemen Alfredo Rodriguez (69) looks down the line.
Cincinnati Reds third basemen Alfredo Rodriguez (69) looks down the line. / Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services,
3 of 3

Oftentimes, teams and fans alike tend to overvalue their top prospects. In order for a small-market franchise like the Cincinnati Reds to have success, they cannot afford to make mistakes with some of their elite minor league talent.

While we've seen the Reds hit with such players as Tyler Stephenson, Jonathan India, and Tyler Mahle. Unfortunately, we've also seen some misses in recent years with the likes of Robert Stephenson, Alex Blandino, and while he's still part of the organization, Nick Senzel.

Today, I want to take a peek at some of Cincinnati's highly-rated prospects who've fallen woefully short of the team's lofty expectations. All of these players are still part of the Reds organization, however, it's questionable if these former top prospects will ever make their debut in the big leagues.

1. Reds SS Alfredo Rodriguez has fallen short of expectations.

Before there was Jeter Downs and Jose Barrero, the Cincinnati Reds had high hopes for Alfredo Rodriguez. Signed back in 2016, the now-27-year-old has never lived up to the hype that saw Cincinnati ink the Cuban shortstop to a $7M signing bonus.

Rodriguez's defense has never been the problem. In fact, he could be inserted into any team's starting lineup today and make every play on the defensive-side of the ball. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, he's never been able to figure out the other half of the equation.

Baseball, especially in today's game, is about more than just defense. Had Rodriguez been around 30 years ago, at the very least, he'd have been a utility infielder. But the game now requires shortstops to be more than just glove-first wizards on the infield dirt.

Alfredo Rodriguez finally spent an entire season at Triple-A last season after dipping his toe into the top-level of the minor league system in 2019. In 453 at-bats, Rodriguez hit .283/.333/.354 and put up a wRC+ of 86. Rodriguez has never seen a wRC above 100 in his five minor league campaigns.

You have to believe that 2022 is it for Alf-Rod. If he hasn't figured it out by now, it's doubtful he ever will. It's not as if the Cincinnati Reds are still coveting his services. The team failed to protect Rodriguez from the Rule 5 Draft the past two seasons, but no other team has taken a flier on the shortstop.

Cincinnati Reds Chris Okey (72) poses during media day.
Cincinnati Reds Chris Okey (72) poses during media day. / USA TODAY NETWORK

2. Reds C Chris Okey has fallen short of expectations.

The Cincinnati Reds spent a second-round draft pick on former Clemson backstop Chris Okey. The Reds were said to have coveted Louisville's Will Smith in the 2016 MLB Draft, but the Cardinals' catcher was taken near the end of Round 1 by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Seeing how the two catchers measure up to one another, it's painfully obvious that Smith was the cream of the crop in that draft class. To make matters worse for Cincinnati, the Reds first-round pick that year was Nick Senzel. While he's no longer a prospect, Senzel has not met the lofty expectations the organization had for him either.

Okey played nine games for Triple-A Louisville in 2019 and missed all of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Okey began the 2021 season back with the Bats, but only garnered 38 starts behind the dish.

In his limited ABs, Okey displayed a good eye at the plate (11.3% walk-rate), but has a lifetime slash line in the minor leagues of just .207/.282/.326. Okey was never viewed as a bat-first catcher, but he had potential to be a solid overall backstop

Chris Okey's prospects of finding his way onto the Cincinnati Reds took a hit following the ascension of Mark Kolozsvary last season. While Tyler Stephenson is in need of backup next season, Kolozsvary will be the favorite in-house candidate to land that spot.

Mascot Mr. Redlegs celebrates the Cincinnati Reds win.
Mascot Mr. Redlegs celebrates the Cincinnati Reds win. / Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

3. Reds LHP Jacob Heatherly has fallen short of expectations.

The Cincinnati Reds spent a third-round pick on Jacob Heatherly, but the left-hander has yet to live up to the lofty expectations. Heatherly, more than the other two prospects on this list, has seen his stock fall in part due to injury.

The Reds offered Heatherly second-round money in order to sign the southpaw away from his commitment to the University of Alabama. Heatherly appeared in nine games during his first professional season and posted a 4.99 ERA with 31 punch outs in less than 40 innings of work.

Heatherly showed a better feel for the strike zone in 2018 with a 26.6% strikeout-rate and 11.41 K/9. But his unsightly 21.7% walk-rate kept Heatherly at the Rookie Level throughout his first two seasons. A shoulder injury only allowed Heatherly to make four starts in 2019 and in the 8.2 innings in which did throw, Heatherly owned an ERA of 8.31.

Heatherly missed the 2020 season due to the shutdown of the minor league season and only pitched at the Cincinnati Reds complex in Arizona last year. Heatherly announced via Twitter in September that he'd be undergoing Tommy John surgery, which will effectively end any chance the left-hander had at competing in 2022.

Jacob Heatherly has been saddled with injuries throughout his professional career. While that's certainly a reason for Heatherly's lack of performance, the fact remains that he's been unable to reach his true potential, and this most recent setback will likely put his Reds career in jeopardy.

Next. 4 outside-the-box extension candidates the Reds should sign. dark

You're not going to bat 1.000, but missing out on some of these highly-rated prospects certainly affects Cincinnati's ability to compete. I hope that all three are able to rebound in 2022 and perhaps resurrect their careers.