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.