Baseball America has tabbed the Cincinnati Reds farm system as the 7th best system in all of Major League Baseball. You will need a subscription at Baseball America to see the list and read about each system, but here’s the link if you’ve got that covered.

One note to start things off is that not every prospect ranking place uses the same criteria for determining who is or isn’t prospect eligible. The general rule is that a player who is eligible for the following season’s Rookie of the Year is eligible as “a prospect”. Those rules are anyone under 130 at-bats in the majors, anyone under 50.0 innings pitched in the majors, or in rare cases where neither of those are met, but the player has 45 days on a big league roster in non-September games/days. Some places utilize the service time portion and some places don’t. It usually doesn’t come into play, but every so often it does. For the Reds this offseason, it does, because Jose Barrero is eligible by the at-bats portion, but not by the active days portion. Baseball America does not use the active days in their calculation, thus Barrero counts as “in their farm system”.

With that out of the way, it’s not surprising that the Reds have a good showing in the organizational rankings. The team has three prospects inside the top 40 – Jose Barrero, Hunter Greene, and Nick Lodolo. They also have a 4th prospect in the Top 100 with breakout shortstop Elly De La Cruz.

Farm systems are generally going to be rated well or rated poorly by the handful of guys at the top of the organization’s rankings. That’s likely what’s going to be the difference maker for the future. As noted above, Cincinnati is doing well in that category with the guys they have rated in the Top 100 (and Matt McLain, the 2021 1st round pick is rated in the Top 100 list at other publications). But the team also has some depth behind the guys at the very top.

There’s a good mix of both upside with players like Graham Ashcraft, Jay Allen, Rece Hinds, and others mixed in with close to the majors (or ones that have already had a cup of coffee) that can step in and help out in some way soon with players like TJ Friedl, Alejo Lopez, and Dauri Moreta.

Over the last decade plus the Cincinnati Reds have had a strong farm system rating a few times. Nothing tops that 2008 class that included Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey – all of whom were rated as Top 25 prospects by various publications. It’s been since then that the organization has developed a true star-caliber player from within. Devin Mesoraco could have been that guy, perhaps, if his body didn’t betray him. Aroldis Chapman could have been that guy if the organization didn’t shove him into the bullpen and limit him to 60-70 innings a year. Perhaps Jonathan India can build upon his rookie season and get there – we noted earlier this week how much the ZiPS projections like him in 2022.

There is that true star power in the farm system. Hunter Greene, Jose Barrero, and Elly De La Cruz all have the tools to be stars if they get the most out of them. That doesn’t always happen – in fact, it usually doesn’t. But when it does it can really alter an organization’s outlook. And when your farm system has a few of those types of guys it gives you better odds of it happening *this time*.

Editors note: I write for Baseball America, covering the Cincinnati Reds farm system. I am not involved in any of their rankings and was not asked for any input.

35 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    Given MiLB may be the only game in town for some time, I’d love to see our Reds excel at multiple levels. The potential is certainly there, but, as you noted, it often doesn’t happen. And then stuff like Meseraco’s physical breakdown rushes in from nowhere.

    Thanks for keeping us informed. And here’s to RoY and TySteve performing well in 2022 (provided they get the chance soon).

    • Alan Horn

      I agree that the Reds have done well in drafting and development. No matter how well you do in those areas you are going to have to pick up additional pieces via trades and free agency. You are going to have to pay good pieces reasonably well and you can’t make expensive or foolish mistakes if you are the Reds in relation to trades of FAs. The mistakes part is what is haunting the Reds lately and currently. Moose and Akiyama come to mind. There is no margin for those kinds of errors with the small market Reds. In fairness they have made some good signings recently like Castellanos. What I am saying is that they can’t afford the bad ones so they have to be ultra careful. There is a huge difference in making a 1 or 2 million per year mistake and a 17 million per year mistake.

  2. Old-school

    Nice article Doug and why Im optimistic

    Id like to see the Reds trade Sonny gray for 2 more prospects- maybe a major league ready reliever and a AA solid prospect ready to help soon

    Sign Castillo and Mahle to anchor the SP rotation

    • Shawn

      We waited to long to resign Castillo. He will be to expensive now. I would like to see the Reds resign Mahle tho. Trade Gray, Castillo and Winker before the season starts. All eyes should be in competing in 2024

  3. LDS

    Let’s hope that a few of them realize their potential at the MLB level. It would be a nice change of pace for the team and the fans.

  4. tim

    do you think aroldis chapman feels like he was “shoved” into the bullpen? does he regret not having a career as a starter? he’s done pretty well for himself as a closer, still maybe the best there is, year in and year out.

    • Doug Gray

      I’d say both yes and no. For the first several years of his career he would repeatedly say he wanted to be a starter. But eventually he changed his tune and said he preferred the bullpen.

      • Mark Moore

        He seemed to fall in love with his own headlines and the “glorious closer” role. I know I’m in the minority, but without him as a starter, I’m just as happy to have him somewhere else. I’m in the camp that views the “closer” role as vastly overrated, especially with the $$$ attached these days.

    • Jonathan Linn

      @ Tim – Aroldis is on pace to have a HOF career…2 Reliver of the Year awards, multiple All-star games….he just needs to finish his 30’s strong. Another reliver of the Year award would help as well.

  5. MBS

    I didn’t have a problem with Chapman as a reliever the 1st year (2010), we were in a playoff run. He should have been put back as a starter the following season.

    • Mark Moore

      You mean like the Rays did with a young David Price? Imagine that approach … (sarcasm font off)

  6. Stock

    Per Fangraphs rating system the Pre-2018 class is the better than the 2008 class.

    • Doug Gray

      I can’t be certain what you are looking at, but there’s no way I’m going to be convinced that there was a class better than the one that had Votto, Cueto, Bruce, and Bailey (as well as Stubbs, Frazier, Wood, Mesoraco, and a severely underrated but long time away from breaking out Justin Turner).

      The “pre 2018” class right now has Tyler Mahle or Jesse Winker as the best player and then there’s an enormous gap to someone else. And while those guys are good they have done nothing remotely close to what Votto or Cueto have done.

      • Stock

        The class did not turn out better than the 2008 class but the prospect class was better.

        Per Fangraphs:
        FV of 60 :
        Senzel (Fangraphs value of $55 million)

        FV of 55:
        Trammell ($46 Million), Greene ($34 Million)

        FV of 50:

        Siri ($28), Winker ($28), Garcia ($28) (now Barrero), Long ($28) and Mahle ($21).

        FV of 45+:
        Downs (8)

        FV of 45:
        Stephenson, Blandino, Friedl, Santillan, Gutierrez, Mella, Rainey (Hitters $6, Pitchers $4)

        FV of 40+:
        Fairchild ($4)

        FV of 40:
        Aquino, Rodriguez, Hernandez, Ervin, Okie
        Herget, Lopez, Hernandez, Heatherly
        Total value of all 9 = $14

        Grand total $328

      • Doug Gray

        Just not going to get me to buy into four top 25-ish prospects being less valuable than a good system with a little more depth but far less star power. Especially when all four of those guys were in AA/AAA.

      • Stock

        Fangraphs sets the values not me. I think BA had both Votto and Cueto around 40.

    • Stock

      2008 Class I don’t have FV but I did have rankings and reviewed based upon your top 25 review:

      Bruce: 1 one rated prospect. Prior to 2010 most #1 prospects have a 65 rating. Some have 70 (Bryce Harper). I give Bruce 65 though it makes no difference in the final result.

      Bailey was in the 5-10 range like Senzel. In spite of the i listed him at a FV of 65 which is probably an upgrade.

      Bruce ($62) and Bailey ($64)

      Next two up are Votto ($46) and Cueto ($34). Both were 20-50 overall prospects or FV of 55.

      FV 50:
      Stubbs was at the bottom of the top 100 rankings. FV 50 = $28.

      FV 45+:
      This is where I need to estimate more since I do not have their FV.
      Frazier was taken about the same time as Downs in the draft and performed about the same in Billings. Downs was 45+ so I put Frazier at 45+. Frazier was taken much later than India so I would have him inferior to India 6 months after the draft.

      FV45:

      In 2018 Stephenson was a better prospect than Meso was in 2008.
      In 2018 Santillan was a better prospect than Travis Wood was in 2008. Lets give both Meso ($6) and Travis Wood ($4) the same value as Stephenson and Santillan though.

      FV 40+:
      Soto = Fairchild ($4) moving Soto up one rung only makes $2 difference.

      FV 40:
      I gave Francisco, Dorn, Rosales, Waring, Roenicke and Lotzcar this FV.

      Total FV: ($268)

      Potential Disputes:
      1. Should Bailey be a 60 vs. a 65?
      2. Should Soto be a 45 vs. a 40+?
      3. Should more players be given a FV of 40?

      Also Bruce being given a 70 vs 65 does not make a difference.

    • Stock

      If you are looking at them as prospects, which you should do when you discuss prospect classes the pre 2018 class was superior.

      If you are looking at them from a production once they reach the majors the jury is still out.

      I am hoping Greene and Mahle have career WAR’s that are far better than that of Bailey and Cueto.

      Winker is about 2000 AB from having a WAR to match Bruce.

      Votto alone has a WAR of 60.
      Turner, Stubbs, Meso and others added another 72 or so.

      The question is can Stephenson, Santillan, Long, Downs, Fairchild, Barrero, Trammell, Siri, Friedl, Gutierrez, Blandino, Rainey, Aquino and others match this with a discount if Mahle and Greene amass a career WAR between them of 47.

      Personally I am hoping Stephenson, Barrero and Greene all have career WAR’s > 40 and Mahle >20. If Senzel can stay healthy I can see him eclipsing 20.

      It will be difficult to beat the 2008 class as far as actual results go but it is possible and too early to tell.

      You judge prospect classes on what you project them to do and the pre-2018 class was superior per Fangraphs.

      • Doug Gray

        It was not superior. I don’t care what the *average value of a prospect rated XYZ* says a guy was worth. It’s just incorrect. Baseball America had that 2017 class as the 10th best farm system at the time. The comparison isn’t even remotely close.

      • BK

        Stock, I really enjoyed your comments, today. You clearly spent a good bit of time researching what you wrote, and it’s nice to have some non-CBA related baseball stuff to read about. There’s such volatility to prospect ratings (well-respected, trained scouts come to differing conclusions often) and there are likely differences in the level of talent from year-to-year. That said, very interesting thought to compare those two classes.

  7. Stock

    Is it true that Santillan is still a prospect for Baseball America. To be consistent if you classify Berrero as a prospect you should classify Santillan as a prospect. They did not reach their AB/IP limits but they both reached their service time limits.

    • Doug Gray

      So by definition Santillan should have been eligible by their rules, but he wasn’t considered. I don’t know why – perhaps it was an oversight, but he was not listed among the teams Top 30 prospects in the BA Handbook that just came out and there’s just no way he wouldn’t be in the Top 30 in the organization.

  8. Optimist

    I suppose the neutral way of stating it is that great starters and great relievers have different psychological attributes, Smoltz and Eck being the obvious exceptions or refutations of this view. Still, I suspect it holds true and I wonder if there’s data to support it.

  9. Greenfield Red

    When you consider who graduated last year, the new international kids, and the depth of another 6-8 guys who have high upsides but are not in the top 100 yet, it is the one area of the Reds organization that should give us all a little hope.

    I read where the Volpe may not be as off limits by the Yankees as he was. Maybe he and Dominquez for Castillo. That would help the system.

    • Stock

      If the Reds get Volpe and another prospect for Castillo this instantly becomes the best prospect class for the Reds since at least 2008. At the top it is comparable to the 2008 class and the depth is comparable to the 2018 class.

      Volpe and Bruce are both 65 prospects
      Bailey was a 65 prospect and Greene only a 55
      Barrero and Votto are both 55 prospects
      Cueto was a 55 and Lodolo is a 50 prospect.
      Del La Cruz, McLain and Stubbs are probably all 50 prospects.

    • Old Big Ed

      Never, never, never trade for Yankee prospects, who are almost always over-hyped. When they are not over-hyped, a la Derek Jeter or Andy Pettitte or Bernie Williams or Mariano Rivera, the Yankees keep them.

      The Yankees are mediocre at best at development, but they are world-class at understanding the value of the few prospects that they do have.

      • Greenfield Red

        Good point Ed. The baseball machine favors the Yankees in every way. I didn’t think about it

  10. Stock

    Thanks BK.

    There is so much to consider when comparing prospect classes. Comparing where a class stands vs. other teams is not a fair comparison.

    To say the 2018 class was ranked 10th and the 2008 class was ranked 5th so the 2008 class is better is a wrong assessment. Things have changed. By 2018 teams had learned from the Cubs that all in, all out is a good strategy. The delta between the best farms and the worst farms is much greater now than before.

    As for using a $ value based upon Fangraph rating, this is exactly what has been done on this site several times. I have no doubt that is what the publications do to create their overall rankings. They may break it down into smaller groups for the top 100 but the difference is so small they may not.

    Doug you are looking at 4 players but ignoring the lack of depth in the system. For example:

    Todd Frazier was taken with the 34th pick of the 2007 draft and was the Reds #6 prospect per you at year end.

    Stuart Fairchild was the 38th pick of the 2017 draft and was he 13th prospect as rated by you at the end of 2017.

    You can’t just say prospects 1-4 are better so the class is better. Look at the prospect between these top 4 and the 34th (Frazier) and 38th (Fairchild) picks in the prior draft.

    Frazier was the #6 prospect so the only one we are looking at from the 2008 class is Drew Stubbs.

    Fairchild was 13th. The 8 players between prospect 4 and Fairchild are Jessie Winker, Tyler Stephenson, Tony Santillan, Shed Long, Jose Siri, Vladimir Gutierrez, Jeter Downs and Jose Barrero. Seven of these 8 played in the Majors last year and Jeter Downs spent the year in AAA.

    Fangraphs agrees the the top 5 prospects in 2008 are much better than the top 5 prospects in 2018. However, in 2008 the prospect depth left much to be desired. Per Fangraphs, prospects 6 and 7 in 2018 had more value than prospects 6-50 in 2008. Finally per Fangraphs, Prospects 8-13 more than made up the difference between the 2008 and 2018 top 5 prospects.

    • Jonathan Linn

      Stock – i think Dougs point is…he would rather take 4 Top of the line prospects who turned out to be All-Star caliper players than tons of depth that may or may not turn out. Even though the 2018 group may produce more players who may end up being mediocre/ replacement level players…doesn’t make it a better system. This would be were I am at.

      Now if Winker turns out 5+ more seasons like his 2021, Barrero becomes Larkin-like, Senzel become a regular starter+ occasional all-star, and Stephenson becomes a top catcher…then we may have a different discussion. Oh and Greene has a career similar to Cueto before the injuries….But those are a lot of what ifs

      • Stock

        you are comparing actual performance and if we do that we can’t compare these two classes for at least 10 more years. But agree it will be tough to beat any class with Votto.

        What is normally done with prospects is to compare projected future value. Otherwise there is no way to know if the Reds are the 10th best class or the 30th. Rankings are computed on projected FV. By doing this the 2018 class is far superior to the 2008 class per Fangraphs.

    • Stock

      Thanks for your input Jonathan. My view is when rating prospect classes you don’t know how they will turn out. Jay Bruce was the Number 1 prospect in Baseball prior to the 2008 season. Homer Bailey was a top 10 prospect. Nick Senzel was a top 10 prospect.

      Joey Votto was Baseball America’s #43 prospect prior to 2007 and #44 prior to 2008. Yet his Career WAR has eclisped the other three combined. If you judge a class after 20 years it will be difficult for the 2018 class to beat the 2008 class because of Votto.

      However, if you judge it as of the point in time then the 2018 class is without a doubt the better class.

      2008 Class:

      Bruce #1 Per BA
      Bailey #9
      Cueto #34
      Votto #44 (peaked at 43 in 2007)
      Stubbs #100 (peaked at 88 in 2007)

      No other players in this class ever made the top 100.

      2018 class who made BA top 100.

      Senzel #7
      Greene #29
      Trammell #48 (peaked at #33 in 2019)
      Mahle #90
      Winker # 98 (peaked at #48 in 2016)
      Santillan N/A (peaked at #69 in 2019)
      Jeter Downs N/A (peaked at #71 in 2021)
      Tyler Stephenson N/A (peaked at #98 in 2016)

      Senzel, Trammell and Greene match up with Bailey, Cueto and Votto as prospects.

      The question is would you rather have Bruce and Stubbs or Winker, Santillan, Mahle, Downs and Tyler Stephenson. Fangraphs says Winker and the other four are better overall than Bruce and Stubbs.

      Fangraphs also says the 2018 9-50 prospects are better than the 2008 6-50 prospects.

  11. Stock

    Interesting note on the depth of this years class.

    2008: Frazier was the #6 prospect 6 months after he was taken with the 34th pick in the draft.
    2018: Fairchild was the #13 prospect 6 months after the Reds used their 2nd round pick (#38 overall) to select him.
    2022: Abbott is currently the #17 prospect 6 months after the Reds used their 2nd round pick to select him.

    Doug usually updates his top 25 if several major trades happen. If he does this year and the Reds get 2-3 prospect in trades Abbott may fall out of the top 20. I get the feeling Ricardo Cabrera will move past him plus at least 1 or 2 from trades, depending upon whom they trade.

    This is a testimony to the depth the system has right now.

    • Jonathan Linn

      btw – I would love to listen to a podcast between Stock and Doug discussing current and past prospect lists. 🙂

  12. Michael

    @stock

    Shouldnt Mesoroco be on the 2008 list? With downs being considered for the 2018 class it would seem that he should be there and he peaked at #12 with BA.