The Cincinnati Reds announced that they have invited 18 non-roster players to spring training for 2019. There are several top prospects that got invites, along with a few underrated players who could make a little bit of noise.

  1. Anthony Bass (RHP)
  2. Odrisamer Despaigne (RHP)
  3. Vladimir Gutierrez (RHP)
  4. Alex Powers (RHP)
  5. Tony Santillan (RHP
  6. Juan Graterol (C)
  7. Chris Okey (C)
  8. Tyler Stephenson (C)
  9. Christian Colon (IF)
  10. Alfredo Rodriguez (IF)
  11. Nick Senzel (IF/OF)
  12. Aristides Aquino (OF)
  13. TJ Friedl (OF)
  14. Brian O’Grady (OF)
  15. Jordan Patterson (OF)
  16. Taylor Trammell (OF)
  17. Mason Williams (OF)
  18. Kyle Wren (OF)

Three of the Cincinnati Reds top four prospects are on that list. Nick Senzel comes in at the top of the list, while Taylor Trammell is the Reds third ranked prospect, and Tony Santillan is the fourth ranked prospect in the organization. Sixth ranked Tyler Stephenson will be in camp to do some catching, and ninth ranked Vladimir Gutierrez also got an invitation.TJ Friedl rounds out the top 25 prospects who got an invitation to spring training – he cracked the list at #15.

Looking at the list there doesn’t seem to be a good chance for most of these players to break the roster with the big league club. Guys like Taylor Trammell and Tyler Stephenson haven’t played above A-ball. The odds that they jump into the Majors is slim-and-none, especially given what’s in front of them. But among the prospects themselves one guy stands out above the rest, while one guy may be overlooked if you aren’t well versed.

Nick Senzel is the teams top prospect and he has been since the day he was drafted. He was probably ready to play in the Major Leagues LAST April. As a second baseman/third baseman, there simply wasn’t a spot for him to play every day. There still isn’t a spot for him at either of those positions, but he’s spent his offseason learning to play the outfield in Goodyear at the Reds spring training complex. He’s played left and center in instructional league, and he’s been working in center field since completing his rehab from surgery to have bone spurs in his elbow removed.

If he’s going to break into the big leagues it would seem that right now it would have to be in center field. Things could change if Scooter Gennett is traded, or if there’s an injury that happens. But looking at things right now, center field is the opening there for the taking.

The fact that center field could be there for the taking brings us to outfielder TJ Friedl. He’s not the prospect that Nick Senzel is. But he’s a quality prospect who hit .284/.381/.384 between Advanced-A and Double-A last season. That came with 30 stolen bases, 66 walks, and 100 strikeouts in 570 plate appearances. And unlike many of the players that the Reds are considering as center field options, he undoubtedly can play center field defensively. It’s his natural position and one where he wouldn’t be stretched like Yasiel Puig or Scott Schebler (or maybe Nick Senzel – which has yet to be determined). While it seems unlikely that he’s the favorite to win the job, given how center field currently looks and the uncertainty with almost every candidate for the position, his odds are probably better than you would think with just a surface look.

When you look at the pitching, one arm stands out among them: Tony Santillan. He’s got the second best stuff in the farm system behind only Hunter Greene. But he’s also ahead of Greene right now in terms of readiness, having split his 2018 season between Advanced-A and Double-A. Santillan posted a 3.08 ERA between the two stops last year in 149.0 innings. He allowed just 13 home runs, walked just 38 batters, and struck out 134. Like Friedl, it’s unlikely that he breaks camp with the team – but given his stuff, there’s always a chance that it could happen. The Reds would probably prefer he gets more time in the minors, but with two plus pitches and control, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing to see at the end of March.

The Non-Top 25 Prospects with a chance

Brian O’Grady and Alex Powers aren’t going to be found on top prospect lists. But both of them performed well in the upper levels of the minor leagues in 2018. The right-handed relieving Powers picked up 18 saves for Double-A Pensacola. He posted a 2.34 ERA in 42.1 innings while giving up just 30 hits. He also struck out 55 batters with 11 walks. His profile is more that of a 6th/7th inning reliever. But he could be close to being ready to contribute in the Majors in that role.

Brian O’Grady could be an interesting fit as a utility player. He put up an OPS of .826 in Double-A last year in the first half. In the second half he was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. While there he was even better, hitting .306/.365/.563 in 42 games. He can play all three outfield spots, though he is stretched a bit in center. And he’s also got plenty of experience at first base. As a guy who could play a little bit of everywhere, he could bring some value. And he also has a little bit of speed and pop, so pinch running and hitting roles could be there, too.

And then there’s Mason Williams. Last year he came to spring training in a similar role as a non-roster invitee. He didn’t make the team out of spring training. What he did show enough to keep him on the mind of the team. He went to Triple-A Louisville and played well. With the Bats he hit .280/.341/.418 in 87 games. That led to him getting called up to Cincinnati in late July where he hit .293/.331/.398 the rest of the season, playing in 51 games. He can play center field and he’s got enough speed to be useful as a pinch runner off of the bench.

14 Responses

  1. Scott C

    I don’t know where you get some pop in his bat, over 9 seasons combined in the minors and the majors he has 34 career home runs. That’s less than 4 a year and 142 doubles over those 9 years which is slightly less than 16 doubles a year. Not my idea of pop.

  2. Doug Gray

    No. It just depends on the player.

    • Doug Gray

      Get them experience in that situation. Get them around players like Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez to pick up on things. Trammell could theoretically be ready to play for the Reds in the second half of this season. Is it likely? No, probably not. But it’s not insanely unlikely, either.

      Typically you give guys invites for a few reasons:

    • You needed to offer it to get them to sign the contract with your organization as a minor league free agent.
    • You legitimately believe that they have a chance to make your team.
    • To give them the experience in this kind of situation and put them around players in your organization that you want them to learn things from, even if it’s indirectly – simply by watching how they go about their business in preparation, pre-game activities – things like that.

    Your comments about TJ Friedl are verrrry interesting! My mind immediately flashed to a similar situation concerning one Alex Blandino. This time last year almost no one gave him a chance to crack the opening day roster, much less play a valuable roll on the team. However, if you happened to get the opportunity to see him play during spring training…well, that was a different story! He seemed much better than one might have suspected and generally, seemed like a man on a mission!

    Sure enough, until his injury, he had become the Red’s version of the ‘Swiss Army Knife’, performing well and playing 7 different positions. He further proved to be both an intelligent player, as well as quite an athlete. Just the kind of guy who comes out of nowhere to become a valuable piece to the puzzle of a major league roster.

    Perhaps the Red’s farm is actually better than I/we have dared believe. Perhaps young Mr Friedl will pull a similar surprise this spring training. Perhaps Jesse Winker is truly the real deal and will become a fixture in LF for our current ‘window of opportunity’, and beyond. Perhaps Nick Senzel is actually the no 1 ranked rookie prospect among all of the MLB universe! (I just saw this yesterday in a respected publication) Perhaps we will indeed sign Keuchel! Perhaps, perhaps, PERHAPS…my head is about to explode!

    Truthfully, I am getting very excited about the prospects of this year’s Spring Training!!!

  4. Scott Gennett

    He’s certainly a legitimate option out of the bench, with strong defensive and running skills plus above average on-base. Question is if they’ll choose to go with a 5th outfielder.

  5. Scott Gennett

    He has some chance since there’re only 5 bullpen locks so far after Iglesias, Hughes, Hernandez, Lorenzen and Garrett. It’ll be up for grabs.

  6. David

    Where will Puig, Kemp and Schebler play, if Jesse Winker is in Left and none of them play center? Or do Kemp (RH) and Winker (LH) sort of…platoon? I would wager that Kemp gets traded before the beginning of the season, as there is sort of a traffic jam out there.

    I think we may see someone on the roster that will play CF (like Mason Williams, TJ Friedl or Phil Ervin), but I am going to guess that Puig or Schebler play most of CF, and perhaps get a late inning replacement like Williams, Ervin or Friedl.
    Schebler has the wheels to play CF, but not a strong arm. Puig can run like the wind and has a gun for an arm, but will he agree to play in CF?

    • Jeff in AL

      I think that Puig would be quite passable in CF and he would play anywhere he’s asked just to play 81 games in GABP and hit bombs and get to kiss Ward again…

      • Scott Gennett

        Unless further trades, I think the regular OF will be Winker LF, Puig CF and Kemp RF, it’ll be a sort of a “murders row” OF. Schebler must show more consistency in order to compete with it and Ervin struggled mightly with defence in his 2018 showcase.

  7. Doug Gray

    I don’t think he has the best chance, no. I think that’s Senzel – I really don’t think the team would play the “11 day” game with him at this point if they truly believe he’s got a spot on the team. The bullpen is deep with options because it seems there’s going to probably be a few starters from the past that aren’t going to likely be starters in the future that could grab any left over spots. Whether that’s Romano, Stephens, Stephenson, Reed, Mella – there’s a whole heck of a lot of competition for 1-2 spots in the bullpen.

    • Doug Gray

      I mean, I can see it, I just don’t know that they will. After how things went last season, and at his age, and with what they claim they want to do – if he’s capable of playing somewhere on the field every day and that spot is open, I think it’s his from day 1.

  8. Davy13

    Not necessarily. JT Realmuto is still ripe for the taking if the offer is right for the Marlins. I think it is worth the shot with some of our prospects.

    • Gonzo Reds

      Think the Catcher we obtained in the big trade with the Dodgers, Kyle Farmer, will be in the mix as the backup as well. He is the only player from the trade with longer than a year left on his contract. My Dodger friend was high on him so perhaps he’ll be a steal throw in, at least till the farm hands can stay healthy long enough to make it to the majors.

      ESPN no longer listing us as a candidate to land Keuchel. They seem to think we’re going after Jackie Bradley Jr as our top target now. I really feel like the Dodger trade with all the one year players is a bit of a waste unless we land Keuchel for this year. Otherwise, we’re just shooting for a 80 win season at best, not a wild card. Then we take a step back with all youngsters in 2020.