[Editor’s note: No one knows more about the Reds minor league system than Doug Gray. We’re thrilled that he’s agreed to write this column for us this season. – SPM]

First, I would like to thank everyone at Redleg Nation for allowing me the opportunity to write once a week at the site. I have been reading the site for a while and have been a part of plenty of podcasts over the past few years, but writing on the site is something new for me. As some of you may know, I cover the Reds farm system every day at RedsMinorLeagues.com and at the end of each season write a Prospect Guide with scouting reports on the Top 100 guys in the system. Here at Redleg Nation I am going to still be focusing on the farm system, I won’t be covering the day-to-day kind of stuff, but providing different looks at players or stories from within the system.

Now that the little introduction is out of the way, let’s talk about the final week before the regular season begins.

The 2014 spring training schedule for the Cincinnati Reds will come to an end with two exhibition games against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in Pensacola and against the Louisville Bats in Louisville. In past years the Reds have played a variety of similar games. In 2009, they played two games against the Reds “Futures” teams, one in Zebulon, North Carolina where the Double-A affiliate at the time was playing and one in Dayton where the Dragons play. In 2012, the Reds played a Futures style game at Great American Ballpark.

On Friday at 6:05pm local time and 7:05pm for those on EST, the Cincinnati Reds will take on the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, their Double-A affiliate for the last two seasons. The Wahoos are managed by Delino DeShields, who will return for his second year as manager. The game will be on local television, and if I am reading correctly in their local paper, the game will also be available on Milb.com. The Blue Wahoos have only been in existence for two seasons, both spent as a Reds affiliate, so the list of Reds who will be returning is rather small. Billy Hamilton is the only position player that has spent time in Pensacola. The pitching staff will bring three returnees as Tony Cingrani spent half of the 2012 season there, while Logan Ondrusek and Manny Parra threw a combined seven innings there in 2013.

After the game, the Reds will fly to Louisville where they will play the Triple-A Bats at 4:00pm EST on Saturday. The Bats have been the Triple-A affiliate since the 2000 season and will be managed by former big league manager Jim Riggleman for the second straight year after being moved up from the inaugural year with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in 2012. With Louisville’s long affiliation with the big league club, there are very few players on the Reds roster who haven’t played there before. Brandon Phillips is the only regular that hasn’t played for the Bats, though he has played in the stadium before from his time in Buffalo when he was in the Cleveland system. Ryan Ludwick only has a few games worth of rehab with the Bats under his belt.

With the big league roster opened up by injuries, it is tough to pinpoint exactly which of the top prospects will be available for these two games on either the Pensacola or Louisville rosters. Using my own Top 25 prospect rankings though, here are the guys that I see for each roster involved for these teams:

Cincinnati Reds

  • Billy Hamilton – Center Field

Louisville Bats

  • Tucker Barnhart – Catcher
  • Daniel Corcino – Pitcher
  • Ryan LaMarre – Outfield
  • Chad Rogers – Pitcher
  • Neftali Soto – Infielder/Catcher

Pensacola Blue Wahoos

  • Carlos Contreras – Pitcher
  • Jon Moscot – Pitcher
  • Yorman Rodriguez – Outfielder
  • Robert Stephenson – Pitcher

That is probably the deepest prospect group to be in the upper minor leagues for the Reds in several years after all of the trades left the top end of the system rather thin. It may be even deeper if C. Trent Rosecrans is correct about Jesse Winker skipping over Bakersfield and heading to Pensacola, but I would be a bit surprised if that were the case. Add in Donald Lutz, who technically isn’t a prospect anymore because of the amount of time he has on a big league roster making him ineligible for the 2014 Rookie of the Year Award and you get even more depth. While you will still see veteran guys all over the roster, there will actually be a decent amount of prospects mixed into the squads as well.

The two A-ball squads will have to wait until next week as the Dayton Dragons and the Bakersfield Blaze both get things started on April 3rd with home games to kick off their respective seasons.

11 Responses

  1. lwblogger2

    Good to see you writing here on a regular basis Doug. I’m looking forward to your columns.

  2. Shchi Cossack

    And added dose of Doug Gray each week is certainly a good thing. Kudos to Doug for participating here at RLN along with his insightful work at RML. I would encourage anyone not familiar with RML to take a gander and also enjoy Doug’s weekly contribution here at RLN.

  3. Shchi Cossack

    The rosters for the Bats and Blue Wahoos are looking very encouraging…finally! Hopefully the days of filling those rosters with aging non-prospects are over. Now the competition at the upper levels really begins and competition is a good thing.

    • Doug Gray

      Fully expect plenty of “veteran” types of guys on the rosters in both Louisville and Pensacola. There will just be a few more prospects filled in as well.

  4. zaglamir

    As someone who knows nothing about the Reds Farm system besides Dayton Dragons games are a cheap way to drink near a quality baseball game, I look forward to your articles, Mr. Gray.

    As a question, it seems like I’ve been hearing about Neftali Soto as a guy who’s going to be ready to make an impact… Any chance of him being ready to make the leap to the bigs this year and make the impact I’ve been hearing about?

    • Doug Gray

      I guess it depends on what impact you heard about. I don’t think he is ready to play full time right now. Plenty of power in his bat, but his aggressive approach at the plate is an issue and holds him back.

    • Shchi Cossack

      I certainly don’t want to speak for Doug, but I wondered the same thing and asked Doug about Soto’s and Heisey’s improved spring training production and prospects back on the 16th over at RML. Doug responded, “I still want to see him show more plate discipline over a few months before I change my mind that he is a backup with pop off of the bench. Crushing the ball in the spring is nice to see, but a few weeks doesn’t change years, for either Soto or Heisey really, of being big free swingers who struggle to get on base.”

  5. WVRedlegs

    Welcome aboard RLN. I enjoy your work at RML, on the podcasts, and your prospect guide.
    Pensacola is going to be loaded this year. I can’t wait to go see them on their northern most Southern League trip this summer in Kodak, TN, just outside of Knoxville.
    Pensacola Blue Wahoos vs. Tennessee Smokies. Five game series July 31-Aug. 4. Reds are on the road that weekend. Tennessee is the AA affiliate of the Cubs. Cubs minor league system loaded with prospects. Great opportunity to see some not-too-distant future NL Central stars on both teams. Most expensive ticket is $10. Could be a great opportunity for an RLN gathering. A mini-baseball vacation. Just down the road from Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. Knoxville is a 4 hour drive from Cincinnati. Hope to see some of you there!!

  6. vegastypo

    Welcome, Doug….. I’m curious about Henry Rodriguez being released a while back. Was he just so bad defensively that the Reds couldn’t ever foresee him in the bigs? Having seen the Reds’ pathetic-hitting backup infielders for the last few years, I wondered if he might have had more of a shot this season. … I also was hoping the Reds could maximize the number of decent bench hitters, so Price had more options when using a DH or pinch hitter, etc.

    • Doug Gray

      His defense wasn’t really going to cut it for what the Reds needed. They said they released him to let him catch on somewhere else to give him a better chance.

  7. Sunbreakthedawn

    Very happy you are writing here Doug as well as your own site. RML and RLN both seem like deeply passionate causes for those that run them. It seems perfect to have a concrete link between the two.