This week has seen both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus release their Top 100 prospect lists (or 101 in the case of Baseball Prospectus). For the Cincinnati Reds they only had three players listed between the two lists. Jose Garcia and Austin Hendrick were both in the Top 100 list at Baseball America, with Garcia rating 79th and Hendrick 97th. On the Baseball Prospectus list the only Red that made the list was Nick Lodolo, who was rated as their 57th prospect. That’s it.
On the one hand, that’s not exactly a good showing. In fact, it’s a bad showing. But things may not be as bad as they first appear, either. Baseball America, for example, had eight Cincinnati Reds prospects receive votes in their polling for the Top 100 among staffers involved in compiling the list.
Baseball America is the gold standard when it comes to prospect lists and rankings. There’s a few reasons for that. First, they were the original publication that had them, dating back to the 1980’s. Second, unlike many other organizations, the overturn among writers who get final say on the prospect lists from year to year doesn’t change much. That’s not the case at places like Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, etc. who tend to have plenty of people come in and leave within a matter of a few years. The consistency of people involved makes it easier to compare their specific lists from year to year.
With that said, it’s not that there’s issues with the lists from Baseball Prospectus or Fangraphs (or ESPN). All prospect lists from reputable publications are worth looking at. It is worth pointing out that while I do have a byline at Baseball America for a monthly contribution, I had no part in their prospect rankings for the Top 100 or for their Cincinnati Reds list. What I find more important than the number/ranking next to a players name is what is said in the write up under the players name. Everyone is going to value certain things a little differently. Read the write up and decide for yourself based on that information.
We only have the two lists to look at right now. And when it comes to the Top 100, as said before, it’s not a strong look. But, let’s dive a little bit deeper. What’s clear is that neither publication thinks the Reds have a Top 50 caliber prospect, much less a guy in the top 10 or 25 – guys who can be considered elite level prospects. Those guys are more likely to eventually become All-Star caliber players than those rated lower and obviously are preferable.
Cincinnati’s highest rated prospect on either of the two lists was Nick Lodolo at 57 on the Baseball Prospectus list. Baseball America’s Cincinnati Reds Top 10 list has Lodolo as the Reds 7th best prospect. As said before – people are going to have different values based on what they feel is more important for a prospect to have. But the look between these two lists certainly is a bit telling about just how close the Reds top 6-8 prospects are in terms of value, too. The group at Baseball Prospectus thinks that Nick Lodolo is clearly the best prospect in the organization given that he’s at least 44 spots higher than any other prospect on their list. But Baseball America would have six other prospects in the organization rated higher than that, but also didn’t include Lodolo in their Top 100.
Cincinnati’s farm system is deep with good, but not elite prospects. Depth is important, of course. Having solid to good players goes a long way in the Major Leagues. No weak spots can really help a team. But if a team is going to make a run to be among the best teams in baseball, they tend to require at least one MVP level kind of star. While it’s not unheard of for those guys to never be Top 25 or Top 50 caliber prospects, the overwhelming Majority of those guys are former Top 25 prospects.
There are some guys in the farm system for Cincinnati who have the kind of upside to be rated in the upper echelons of prospect lists. Hunter Greene was inside the Top 30 the year he was drafted, but has fallen down lists after his elbow injury. If Jose Garcia’s bat steps forward he has a chance to get there. Austin Hendrick with his big time power potential could get there if he gets the most out of his development. Right now, though, the industry at large doesn’t have those guys rated there. There’s still too much risk involved with all of those players to rate them up there.
Cincinnati’s farm system has some flaws. It’s strong at the top, but more so because of the depth it has than because it’s got a true “difference maker” prospect – at least according to the prospect evaluators among the national media.
Ranking prospects right now isn’t easy. Many players didn’t get a chance to show any improvements that they did indeed make in 2020 because there was no minor league season played and they didn’t get invited to their teams alternate site as spots were limited, and for the most part, only there for guys who would have been in Double-A and Triple-A who could help the big league team if needed. There were a few exceptions to that rule, but the exception isn’t the rule.
In my opinion, the Reds have a middle of the pack farm system. The lack of an elite prospect hurts them. Their depth in that good but not great prospect range helps. But there’s also a question of depth in that 15-25 prospect range, too. There are guys in that range who have the upside to climb higher within the organizational rankings, but a lot of them also have some real question marks in their game, or are completely unproven players who haven’t played yet (draft picks from 2020 or big dollar international signings from the last two years). It’s a solid, but unspectacular farm system right now.