The Cincinnati Reds announced today that they have invited 18 minor league players to Goodyear, Arizona for spring training. However, these 18 players will not be a part of “big league camp”, as these are not non-roster invites. What this seems to be is basically the players that will be in “early minor league spring training” – or basically, Triple-A spring training.
In a normal year big league spring training will begin around the middle of the third week of February. Minor League spring training will then start around the end of the first week of March and there are about 200 players in total at the facility between the big leagues and minor leagues. But this year spring training isn’t normal and teams are going to be having two different stages of spring training. This season the big leaguers and the “Triple-A” guys will be having spring training simultaneously in February/March. Once they are completed and go to their home cities (it’s not entirely clear where the “Triple-A” guys will go – whether it’s their home city or an alternate site until the regular season in the minors begins), then the players competing for spots in Low-A, High-A, and Double-A will head out to Goodyear for minor league camp with the hopes of a regular season beginning the first week of May (minor league schedules are not out yet, but expected to come out soon).
Among the 18 players that the Cincinnati Reds invited out for this early minor league camp are five of their Top 25 prospects (several other top 25 prospects will be in big league camp as they are on the 40-man roster). The organization’s top two prospects – Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo – were among the early invites. Jonathan India, who is the teams #7 prospect, TJ Friedl (#11 prospect), and Lyon Richardson (#16 prospect) join them among the invites.
It’s a bit surprising that the first four of those players aren’t going to be non-roster invites to big league camp. In a normal year they may have been given those opportunities, but with limitations due to COVID-19 on how teams can operate with the number of players/people, guys who may not truly be competing for a roster spot in the big leagues could be in minor league camp and just brought up for some game action during big league spring training on days when they are needed and or the coaching staff wants to get a look.
Jonathan India was one of the prospects from the alternate training site at Prasco Park last season who really seemed to take a step forward and was impressive. With half of a season under his belt in Double-A in 2019 and an ability to play multiple positions, he’s probably the position player among the group that is most surprising that didn’t get a big league invite.
Here’s the entire list of 18 players that are being brought in:
|Brandon Finnegan||L||L||27||Alternate Site|
|Nick Lodolo||L||L||23||Alternate Site|
|Lyon Richardson||S||R||21||Alternate Site|
|Mark Kolozsvary||R||R||25||Alternate Site|
|Chuckie Robinson||R||R||26||Alternate Site|
|Jonathan India||R||R||24||Alternate Site|
|Errol Robinson||R||R||26||Oklahoma City|
|Alfredo Rodriguez||R||R||26||Alternate Site|
Outfielder Narciso Crook spent his offseason playing for Licey in the Dominican Winter League. He played in 14 games and capped off the regular season with a 3-homer game. Crook has experience playing all three outfield spots, though he’s more of a corner outfielder than center fielder. TJ Friedl last played in July of 2019 – when his season was cut short with an ankle injury that required surgery. A good defender in center, he’s also got speed on the bases, and good eye at the plate.
Among the pitchers, Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo stick out from the list as the top two prospects in the organization. Both players were at the alternate training site last year. Greene was coming back from Tommy John surgery, but got back to his triple-digit velocity at the top end, touching 102 MPH, and working on improving and adding to his secondary pitches – he added a cutter to go along with his slider and change up. Lodolo, who only threw 18.1 innings in 2019 (2.45 ERA, no walks, 30 strikeouts), spent last spring with the Reds in big league camp and then at Prasco Park. The lefty made strides with his change up this past summer at Prasco, which had been the biggest area of weakness in his repertoire.
There are some interesting arms beyond the Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo group, too. Dauri Moreta is a reliever who last pitched in 2019 with the High-A Daytona Tortugas and then in the Arizona Fall League with Glendale. In his 68.0 combined innings between those two stops he allowed 54 hits, 7 home runs, walked just 12 batters, and struck out 73 to go along with an ERA of 2.65. His fastball works in the 93-95 MPH range and will touch a little bit higher and he’ll mix in an above-average slider, as well as an occasional change up.
Graham Ashcraft has less professional experience than anyone on this list – he’s thrown more professional innings than Nick Lodolo, but only because Lodolo’s time last year at Prasco Park isn’t accounted for. He was a 2019 draft pick and threw just over 50 innings in his debut season for the now defunct Greeneville Reds. There’s a lot to like with Ashcraft, who has three potentially above-average pitches with his fastball that works in the mid 90’s, a potentially above-average slider, and a potentially above-average curveball. He also throws a change up that is a little below-average. The 6th round pick posted a 4.53 ERA for Greeneville in 2019, but that misses out on how good he was in 12 of his 13 starts. He had what I refer to as a “Bronson Arroyo” on July 2nd when he allowed 10 earned runs in 2.0 innings. That one outing distorted his ERA for the rest of the 12 starts he had on the season, which was 2.96. In his debut he also posted a ground ball rate of 55%, which was the third highest in the farm system behind Tejay Antone and Luis Mey.
Most of the players on this list will likely head to Triple-A when the year begins, along with many of the players who don’t make the Reds out of spring training. Some of them, though, will probably stick around in Goodyear for the lower level minor league camp and then join one of those teams for their regular season.