Prospects are always hard to predict, and oftentimes, organizations and fans alike overvalue their young talent. That said, a small market club like the Cincinnati Reds must rely heavily on scouting and development of their prospects in order to have success.
Cincinnati's farm system has really improved over the last few seasons. Despite the fact that Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson, Tony Santillan, Vladimir Gutierrez, and Jose Barrero all graduated to the big leagues, MLB.com has vaulted Cincy's farm system into the Top 10 among all major league clubs.
With the likely ascension of starting pitchers Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, the Reds farm system is sure to take a hit, but a fantastic haul during last year's MLB Draft landed nine of the Top 250 draft-eligible prospects according to MLB Pipeline.
We did, however, see a few prospects miss their mark in 2021. Tyler Callihan dropped from No. 8 in 2020 to No. 12 due in most part to injury. Jackson Miller, ranked No. 14 prior to the 2021 season, fell all the way down to No. 25. Injuries limited Miller to just three games last season.
Will the aforementioned duo make strides in 2022 or will we continue to see them tumble down the prospect rankings? Which five Cincinnati Reds are likely to exceed expectations heading into next season?
1. Ivan Johnson, Reds IF prospect
Ivan Johnson is one of my favorite young prospects in the Reds farm system. Cincinnati's fourth-round pick in 2019, Johnson is switch hitter who has success from both sides of the plate. Not necessarily known as power-hitter, but did send 10 balls over the fence in 2021 and posted a .617 slugging percentage playing in the Arizona Fall League.
Johnson had a terrific season split between Low-A Daytona and High-A Dayton last season, posting a wRC+ of 125 at both stops. Johnson combined for a slash line of .264/.367/.451 with 19 doubles and 11 stolen bases.
Coming up through the Reds organization certainly presents its share of problems for Johnson, who appears to be blocked at nearly every position he plays. A middle infielder by trade, Johnson was shifted from shortstop to second base after the Reds selected Matt McLain in the 2021 MLB Draft and assigned him to play alongside Johnson with the Dayton Dragons.
At the big league level, Jonathan India, the reigning Rookie of the Year, would appear to be Cincinnati's second baseman for the foreseeable future. Other young prospects like Elly De La Cruz have a higher ceiling than Ivan Johnson, and there's also the matter of Jose Barrero, the Reds likely starting shortstop heading into next season.
Still, after seeing how well Johnson performed in 2021 and his fantastic showcase during play in the Arizona Fall League, I'm not betting against the 23-year-old next season. Look for Johnson to put up similar numbers to what he produced last season and maybe even make it to the Triple-A level by season's end.