3 Reds prospects with the most to gain in the Arizona Fall League

Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee infielder Matt McLain (93).
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee infielder Matt McLain (93). / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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The Arizona Fall League (AFL) has been a proving ground of sorts for the some the Cincinnati Reds top prospects in recent years. Fans have seen Tyler Stephenson, Jose Barrero, and most recently Mike Siani take their skills to the desert during the month of October with an eye toward improving their skills.

This season, the Reds will be sending seven players to the AFL. The Reds affiliate this season will be the Glendale Desert Dogs. The Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles, Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Minnesota Twins will also have representatives present as well.

Twins prospect Austin Martin will be on the team as will Andy Pages of the Dodgers' organization. But which three prospects from the Cincinnati Reds have the most to gain from playing in the Arizona Fall League this year?

1. Reds OF prospect Rece Hinds has the most to gain in the Arizona Fall League.

It's no secret that Rece Hinds possesses some of the loudest pop in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. It's also no secret that an abnormally high strikeout-rate and an inability to stay healthy have stunted Hinds' development. In addition, the former second-round pick is learning a new position.

But that's exactly why it's so important for Hinds to get reps in the Arizona Fall League this year. Hinds played the majority of the year with the Dayton Dragons, but a hamate injury took about two months away from the 22-year-old. Hinds closed his 2022 campaign with six games at Double-A Chattanooga and one should expect that he'll begin next season in southeast Tennessee as well.

Can Rece Hinds stay healthy? That will be the biggest question going forward and it was one of the biggest reasons the Cincinnati brass decided to move the Florida native from the hot corner to the outfield. Injuries derailed Hinds' path to the big leagues thus far, but the AFL will give him more at-bats and more time in the outfield.

2. Reds SS prospect Matt McLain has the most to gain in the Arizona Fall League.

Matt McLain is the shortstop version of Nick Lodolo. McLain was an advanced bat when the Cincinnati Reds drafted him last season, much like Lodolo was advanced hurler when the Redlegs drafted the southpaw in Round 1 of the 2019 MLB Draft.

The question for McLain is what position he'll play in the major leagues. The former UCLA Bruin has seen the majority of time in the minor leagues at shortstop, but once Elly De La Cruz was elevated to Double-A Chattanooga, the Reds' top prospect was handed the shortstop position and McLain moved to second base.

There are mixed reviews as to whether or not De La Cruz will outgrown the shortstop position once he makes it to the major leagues. There's also big questions as to whether or not Jose Barrero will be able to hack it in the bigs. Both of those concerns are even more reason for Matt McLain to get reps at shortstop during the Arizona Fall League.

The presence of fellow shortstop prospect Noelvi Marte on the Desert Dogs may make things a bit tricky, but there are whispers of the Cincinnati Reds looking to move the 20-year-old from shortstop to third base.

Any amount of reps that McLain can receive before heading into the offseason will only help. Just like Rece Hinds, the 23-year-old missed some time this season due to injury. If McLain shines during the AFL, there's a really good chance that he'll be the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day shortstop in 2023.

3. Reds RHP prospect Christian Roa has the most to gain in the Arizona Fall League.

Injury seems to be a theme here, and that's a not a good thing. But, what Christian Roa did once he returned from the injured list was very good. The Texas A&M alum worked his way up through the Aggies system from the bullpen to the starting rotation and the Reds are convinced that Roa can be a starter in the major leagues.

After seeing the numbers the right-hander put up this season, the Reds seem to have good reason to be optimistic. Though he only made three starts at Double-A Chattanooga, Roa went 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 19 punch outs over 17 innings of work.

Prior to the three starts with the Lookouts, Roa had appeared in 17 games for the Dayton Dragons. Roa was 4-3 with a 4.14 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 74 innings. Roa did, however, walk a lot of batters this season. The former second-round pick posted a 14% walk-rate according to FanGraphs.

The high number of free passes will no doubt be something that the Glendale Desert Dogs' coaching staff will be working on. Minnesota's minor league pitching coach will have the pleasure of being Christian Roa's pitching coach during AFL play.

The Cincinnati Reds are also sending Noelvi Marte, Sam Benschoter, Jake Gozzo, and Vin Tampenelli to the desert this fall. Nick Krall and the Reds front office are hopeful that the additional work will pay off and help accelerate the growth of these seven prospects.