The Cincinnati Reds, like every franchise throughout Major League Baseball, has a handful of boom-or-bust prospects; players that have the potential to be superstars or flameout before even reaching the big leagues.
A former first-round pick that comes to mind is pitcher Robert Stephenson. The right-hander had all the talent needed to be a frontline starter in the league, but lack of control and consistency eliminated any chance of Stephenson finding stardom in the majors. Stephenson is now a reliever for the Colorado Rockies.
Who is the Cincinnati Reds biggest boom or bust prospect?
When we look at the Cincinnati Reds farm system, three players come to mind as the organizations top boom-or-bust prospects. Elly De La Cruz tops the list, but former first-round picks Hunter Greene and Austin Hendrick have to rank high as well.
First, let's look at Greene. The flamethrower will be in the mix for a spot in the starting rotation this spring, if and when the season gets underway. Greene showed that the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2019 in no way affected his ability to throw gas. Greene continually and consistently hit 100-plus on the radar.
The key for Greene is developing a secondary pitch. A lot of players can throw over 100-MPH, but very few are starters in the league. The reason for that is two-fold; 1) lack of control 2) lack of a secondary offering. Greene has very good command and control with his fastball, but needs to continue to develop that secondary pitcher, otherwise, he may end up in the bullpen.
Hendrick's subpar minor league performance is a product of lack of playing time, The COVID-19 pandemic really took a toll on Hendrick's playing time despite the fact that he spent some time at the alternate site in 2020.
If Hendrick can gather some meaningful at-bats in 2021, it won't be long before we see him steadily climb the ladder to the bigs. Like all young hitter, Hendrick struggles with pitch recognition. If Hendrick can lay off the breaking stuff, his on-base percentage will improve and he'll see more pitches in the zone.
But, if you're looking for the Cincinnati Reds biggest boom-or-bust prospect, it's Elly De La Cruz. The 20-year-old infielder burst onto the scene last season. After not even being part of MLB Pipeline's pre-season Top 30, the switch-hitting De La Cruz comes in at No. 8.
De La Cruz has the potential to be a five-tool player. The Dominican signed for just $65,000 during the 2018 international signing period. Obviously the Reds have a more impressive prospect at their disposal than they had hoped.
The big question with De La Cruz is whether or not he can handle major league pitching. This is a huge upcoming season for De La Cruz as he has the opportunity to cement his standing as a top prospect or fall by the wayside.
The overwhelming majority of Reds Country will be cheering for Elly De La Cruz to be that five-tool player many scouts think he can be. But, De La Cruz will have to zero-in on the strike zone. If De La Cruz is able to cut down on the punch outs next season, it won't be long until he finds his way to Cincinnati.