5 Reds minor league predictions for the 2022 season

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Nick Lodolo (40) throws a pitch.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Nick Lodolo (40) throws a pitch. / Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services,
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While Major League Baseball and the owners quibble over dollars and cents, and perhaps nonsense, Cincinnati Reds fans can be sure of one thing; the minor league season will begin as scheduled. After the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the 2020 season, it was fantastic to see minor league baseball return last season.

Still, it felt as though there was a lot we didn't know about several of the Reds top prospects. I don't know about you, but I hadn't heard about Elly De La Cruz until the then-19-year-old broke onto the scene with an .847 OPS in his first professional action outside the Dominican Summer League.

Looking ahead to the 2022 season, there are a lot of talented, young players in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. Who's going to make the major league debut? Who may be dealt prior to the season or at the July trade deadline? It's time to make some predictions.

1. Reds pitching prospect Nick Lodolo debuts before Hunter Greene.

Book it! While both Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo will both find their way onto the MLB diamond in 2022, I believe the southpaw will out-duel the flamethrower in spring camp and make his major league debut first.

No, I don't think this has anything to do with service time manipulation. Hopefully the owners and the Players Association figure that out during the upcoming CBA negotiations. This boils down to who is better equipped for the big leagues.

While Greene may have the higher ceiling, the higher floor belongs to Lodolo. The lefty is a reliable starter with an advanced feel for the game. Cincinnati sat back during the 2019 MLB Draft, and while every other team selected a position player, the Reds allowed the game's best pitching prospect to fall into their lap.

While Hunter Greene wowed the crowds in both Chattanooga and Louisville last season with his 100-plus fastball, let's not forget the numbers that Nick Lodolo posted while making stops at both Double and Triple-A as well.

Lodolo, who suffered through some minor injuries in 2021, went 50.2 innings in 13 starts and posted a 2.31 ERA. The southpaw put up a ridiculous 38.8% strikeout-rate and a pristine 5.5% walk-rate while punching out 78 batters. Lodolo recorded six or more strikeouts in eight of his 13 starts last season.

Hunter Greene is electric, and the former first-rounder has the potential to be the ace of the Cincinnati Reds staff. However, Nick Lodolo is former first-round selection himself, and his arsenal is a bit more polished than the Reds No. 1 overall prospect.

Matt McLain connects in an at-bat at UCLA.
Matt McLain connects in an at-bat at UCLA. / Andy Bao/GettyImages

2. Reds shortstop prospect Matt McLain transitions to center field.

The Cincinnati Reds have a bevy of talented middle infielders in their farm system. So many, that a position change is necessary for at least one. Of all the Reds infield prospects, last year's first-round pick, Matt McLain, is the most likely to make the transition.

I don't want to hear about how it's insanely dumb for an organization to turn an infielder into an outfielder. This sort of thing happens all the time. Shortstop prospects are typically the most athletically-gifted players on their team, so it's no surprise that some of the best centerfielder prospects were once shortstops.

Billy Hamilton comes to mind. The former Reds centerfielder was drafted as a shortstop, but Cincinnati soon moved him to the outfield grass. The San Diego Padres are likely to follow suit with CJ Abrams. The New York Mets may soon do the same with top shortstop prospect Ronny Mauricio, and the Minnesota Twins have played shortstop prospect Royce Lewis in center field.

Even if McLain sees time split between both shortstop and center field, it's a step in the right direction for the former UCLA Bruin. The Reds are stacked with shortstops at the moment. Kyle Farmer just put up fine numbers in his first year as the starter but will likely be pushed for playing time by the up-and-coming Jose Barrero.

With both Barrero and Farmer battling it out in camp and the uber-talented Elly De La Cruz ready to rocket through the Cincinnati farm system, the Reds need to adjust their plans for Matt McLain. We also cannot forget about Ivan Johnson, a former fourth-rounder who can play both second base and shortstop.

Cincinnati's best centerfield prospect at the moment is Michael Siani. While Siani's defense is MLB-ready right now, the former fourth-round pick has yet to prove that he can consistently make contact. McLain started 27 games for High-A Dayton in 2021; all at shortstop. I expect Cincinnati to stretch his defensive versatility this coming season.

Cincinnati Reds hat and glove sits in dugout.
Cincinnati Reds hat and glove sits in dugout. / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

3. Rece Hinds becomes the talk of the Reds farm system.

We all knew coming into the 2021 minor league season that Jose Barrero was likely to have success. The same could have been said for Hunter Greene. Heading into 2022, Reds fans can expect big things from former second-round pick Rece Hinds.

The Florida high school product may have the loudest tool in the entire Cincinnati farm system. It's kind of a toss up between Hinds and former first-rounder Austin Hendrick. Hinds, who was hindered by injury in 2021, slugged .542 in just over 200 at-bats last season. Of his 52 hits, 39 (75%) went for extra bases.

The type of power that Rece Hinds possesses is unique. Not much was seen from Hinds during his first year in the Reds farm system, as a quad injury forced him out of action after just three games. During instructs in 2020, however, Hinds impressed the Reds coaches and front office staff and spent last season at Low-A Daytona.

The biggest question surrounding Hinds may be where he lines up defensively. Frankly, with the type of power he has, it doesn't really matter. Furthermore, it's almost a forgone conclusion that the National League is going to adopt the designated hitter, so at worst, the Reds could run out Hinds as the team's DH.

But, I'd love to see the Cincinnati Reds attempt to shift Rece Hinds from third base to first base. The 21-year-old is still two to three years away from making his big league debut, and the right-handed slugger may be a nice replacement for Joey Votto when the future Hall of Famer hangs up his cleats.

Virginia Cavaliers starting pitcher Andrew Abbott (16) pitches.
Virginia Cavaliers starting pitcher Andrew Abbott (16) pitches. / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

4. Pitching prospect Andrew Abbott forces his way onto the Reds roster.

I've been singing his praises all offseason, so you didn't expect me to stop now, did you? While we all expect Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and maybe even Graham Ashcraft to make their major league debuts in 2022, I'll give you another name to watch; Andrew Abbott.

Last year's second-round pick is not too far away. Abbott is an advanced hurler who the Reds should ticket for the bullpen in 2022. Now, I'm not advocating that Cincinnati put Abbott on the Opening Day roster, though this young man's stuff is good enough to do so.

I do think, however, that you'll see Abbott soar through the team's farm system in 2022, culminating with his MLB debut in late-August or early-September. Abbott has the makings of a starter, but could be brought to the big leagues as a reliever next season.

In no way should Cincinnati give up on Abbott as a potential starter, but perhaps taking the same approach the Chicago White Sox did with Garrett Crochet wouldn't hurt. The former University of Tennessee pitcher has been part of the White Sox bullpen the last two years, but I'd expect we'll see Crochet make a run at Chicago's starting rotation in 2022.

The same could be true of Andrew Abbott. The Cincinnati Reds could start Abbott at High-A Dayton or even Double-A Chattanooga to begin his 2022 campaign, and by season's end we could see the southpaw making appearances out of the Reds bullpen.

Cincinnati Reds hat and glove sits in the dugout.
Cincinnati Reds hat and glove sits in the dugout. / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

5. Reds shortstop prospect Elly De La Cruz takes a step back.

Elly De La Cruz was the most talked about Cincinnati Reds prospect last season. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for just $65,000 in 2018, De La Cruz burst onto the scene with his ridiculous stat line while playing 11 games in Rookie Ball.

In 50 at-bats, De La Cruz slashed .400/.455/.780 with 11 extra base hits and 13 RBIs. De La Cruz was quickly moved up to Low-A Daytona where the right-handed hitting infielder cooled a little, hitting .269/.305/.477 in 50 games with the Tortugas.

The Reds player development team believe that Elly De La Cruz is a five-tool talent, and I have to agree with their assessment. However, given his age (20 years old), I think De La Cruz is still several years away from seeing that potential through.

De La Cruz is bound to find a bump in the road, and I believe that will be this coming season. Tthe youngster spent time at both shortstop and third base last season. De La Cruz has yet to fill out his 6-foo-2 frame, and may eventually profile as a third baseman instead of a shortstop.

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Reds Country should be excited about Elly De La Cruz. He went from relative obscurity to one of the top prospects in the Reds farm system. I think we'll see continued development from De La Cruz in 2022, but I don't expect the same type of leap we saw last last season.