[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.