The 2015 Major League Baseball draft has come and gone (for information on who was selected and scouting reports/stats you can check that out here) and now we get to see those players, as well as some others that were already in the organization officially begin their 2015 years with the Arizona League Reds or Billings Mustangs. Both teams kicked off their respective seasons last week. While some of the names to follow are obvious, there are some lesser known names at the two levels that warrant keeping an eye on. Below are five guys to keep an eye on from each roster.
Arizona League Reds
The Arizona League Reds are the lowest team in the organizational chain that plays in the United States (the Reds have two teams in the Dominican Summer League as well). The games take place at the spring training complex in Goodyear and are open to the public if you happen to be in the area and want to check out a game. The level of play in this league is generally quite raw – as the players are usually teenagers (the average player is just under 20-years-old). This season the roster is full of international players, more so than usual. Here are the five guys that I believe are the ones to watch for on this roster:
Jose Siri | Outfield
19-year-old Jose Siri will be repeating the season with the Arizona League Reds after spending all of his 2014 with them. He hit .248/.310/.376 there last season, but showed a nice array of tools in the process. There’s a chance that he’s got the best all around set of tools on the team. While he is repeating the level, he’s got a chance to really break through in 2015.
Jake Turnbull | Catcher
While Raisel Iglesias was the organizations big splash on the international scene in 2014, landing a big league deal worth $27M, it as Australian catcher Jake Turnbull that got the biggest signing bonus from the Reds on the minor league side in the 2014 signing period. He’s just 17-years-old, but at 6′ 0″ and 195 lbs, he’s already a physical player. He’s the second youngest player on the roster. He’s got some power potential to work with and his plate discipline was noted to be good – though it’s a big step up in competition from where he played last year.
Leandro Santana | Third Base
The Reds brought 18-year-old Leandro Santana to the US this season to play, something that they don’t typically do with players that young. He spent the 2014 season with the Dominican Summer League Reds where he hit .303/.434/.418 in 40 games with the club. Despite being just 17 last season he performed quite well against mostly older competition and impressed enough that the organization felt he could make the jump at such a young age.
Montrell Marshall | Third Base
Montrell Marshall may be the guy you have heard of from this list, even if you can’t quite recall why. Marhsall is the cousin of Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips and was drafted in the 12th round of the 2014 draft, but didn’t play last season because of a back injury that is now healed. While he’s currently listed as a shortstop on the roster, he’s 6′ 5″ and 215 lbs. He’s going to be a third baseman in the future, if he’s not already there. Still a teenager, Marshall was impressive at the plate in instructional league in 2014 and has plenty of power to tap into in the future.
Mason Felt | Left Handed Pitcher
The Reds selected Mason Felt in the 2012 draft with their 5th round selection. He didn’t play the year he was drafted and that winter was involved in a car accident that took the life of his father and left Mason in critical condition. He would recover with time from his injuries and is ready to play baseball again. At this point in time I don’t have a clue where his abilities lie, but I’m rooting for his success after all that he’s gone through since being drafted three seasons ago.
The Billings Mustangs have been a Cincinnati Reds affiliate for an incredible 42 years now. The league is generally made up of college players that were recently drafted along with a mix of younger international and high school guys. The average age in this league is just over 21-years-old. The roster here has a nice mix of recent draft picks, guys moving up from Arizona and several international signings. Here are the five players that I believe are the ones to watch for from this roster:
Jacob Constante | Left Handed Pitcher
The left handed pitcher was the Reds big international signing in the 2013 season, signing Constante to a $730,000 signing bonus. He’s been a huge groundball pitcher ever since, generating grounders at a 70% rate in two seasons. He may have the best pure stuff of anyone on the pitching staff.
KJ Franklin | First Base
Franklin was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. He is repeating things in Billings where he struggled mightily in 2014, but he will look to build upon a late surge at the end of the season and through the playoffs where he hit .375 with a .531 slugging percentage. He’s already walked as many times in three games as he walked in any two week stretch last season. Franklin has plenty of power potential to tap into if he can hone in the strikezone.
Tanner Rainey | Right Handed Pitcher
With their 2nd round competitive balance pick the Reds selected Tanner Rainey out of West Alabama. He never started in college, but he may just profile as a starter and for now, the Reds are going to have him starting in the Mustangs rotation – though his usage will be limited to 2-3 innings per start. Along with the previously mentioned Jacob Constante, he may have stuff that stands out above the rest of the pitching staff.
Zach Shields | Center Fielder
Shields wouldn’t have made this list before Sunday. He was a 10th round selection out of UNC Wilmington this past season and he’s just 1-7 so far through two games…. but he also made this catch on Sunday and shows off big time speed and range in center field.
Tyler Stephenson | Catcher
Tyler Stephenson was the Reds 1st round pick in the 2015 draft. The catcher, as I type this sentence (11:17pm on Monday night) is hitting .571 with four walks and one strikeout through two-and-a-half games played. His power potential jumps out at you and he’s supposedly advanced behind the plate. He’s the top prospect on the team and has unrivaled upside on the Mustangs.