Kiley McDaniel of ESPN released his farm system rankings and he has the Cincinnati Reds rated 5th overall. That’s a lot better of a rating than the one handed out by Keith Law of The Athletic earlier this week, who rated the system 13th. That seems like a big gap, and it is. But there could be a reason for it, too.

ESPN’s McDaniel uses a value-to-dollar system to rank farm systems. Based on a players FV rating (Future Value, based upon their graded tools along with a risk assessment) the prospects in a farm system are given a dollar value based on historical data of what similarly graded prospects ultimately provided to a big league organization before reaching free agency. If you want to read about how all of this works, here’s your link. On the flip side, most places aren’t doing it like this and are going more off of what they feel things stack up like by just looking at the various systems. Both certainly have merit. But there are also times when the two things are going to lead to some disagreements in the strength and value of a farm system (the Reds aren’t the only organization with big discrepancies between these two rankings).

McDaniel has the Reds taking a huge step forward from the rankings last year, which had Cincinnati with the 20th rated farm system. That system, of course, included Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Hunter Greene, but still was rated near the bottom. Despite their graduation, along with that of Alexis Diaz and a few others, things have shot upwards for the farm thanks to another huge step forward from Elly De La Cruz, the drafting of Cam Collier, and trades that reshaped the amount of top 200 prospects and depth in the organization.

In the paragraphs on Cincinnati’s farm system McDaniel notes that most of their top prospects will be in the upper minor leagues this season, “so the Reds could be interesting again soon”. Interesting can mean a wide variety of things. Fun to watch doesn’t always mean wins a bunch of games or compete for a spot in the playoffs. But interesting certainly could mean good and capable of competing for a spot in the playoffs.

As things stand right now, at least in my opinion, the Reds farm system is only so-so when it comes to pitching. There’s a little bit of upside here, but every pitcher with upside has some pretty big question marks on their resume. Of course the farm system graduated multiple quality big league pitchers last season, so while the “farm” may not be incredibly strong here – the organization has a a good group of young pitchers to work with right now.

Not every prospect is going to work out. Even the best of the best will see guys not turn out as expected at times. But there are also guys who are going to turn out to be much better than their prospect rankings suggested that they would be. You never really know until you know. During the last Reds rebuild the farm system was rated as an above-average one but the pitchers didn’t develop as much as was needed, and the position players never really stepped up.

It’s always better to be thought to have a good farm system than to not be thought to have a good farm system because that’s generally the reflection those within baseball will hold. The players in the minor leagues don’t necessarily have to be used by the big league club on the field to improve their team. Sometimes those players are traded to acquire others with the goal of improving the team.

61 Responses

  1. redsfan4040

    I still think they could be interesting this year. (Note that interesting doesn’t necessarily equal contending). All the reasons for optimism have been laid out 10,000 times over on here, but…
    – Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Diaz sophomore seasons.
    – Healthy India, Stephenson, Sims, Antone, and Santillan?
    – Can Spencer Steer claim the third base job as his?
    – Elly is one prolonged hot streak in Louisville away from being in the majors.
    – Can Jose Barrero be the 2021 version of himself?
    – Will any of the OFers become every day dudes, or are they really the big red platooned outfield?
    – Is Joey Votto riding off into the sunset after this year, or is he resurgent and is back in 24?
    – The entire minor league system will be fun to follow.

    All these reasons and more have me optimistic and ready to watch some Reds baseball in 2023. Go Reds!

    • CFD3000

      There are sooo many pessimistic comments on RLN that I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who can see some potential for 2023. Thanks 4040. Also, whether Votto is ready to play every day by Opening Day or not, I do think we can at least hope for a resurgent year, and I’m frustrated by the collective assumption that this will be his final year no matter what. I think it’s just as likely that he gets and stays healthy, is productive again, and comes back to contribute again in 2024. Dude works hard at being healthy, and really good at baseball. I’m not betting against him.

    • Redsvol

      I agree, and I’ll add one more. Major league baseball is returning some rules that make it a young man’s game. Reds got a bit long in the tooth the last 2 years. The pitching was older and the fielders were definitely older. Pham, Naquin, Farmer, Votto, Solano were not good defenders and not good on the base paths. Before them, we gave substantial at bats to Suarez, Winker and Castellanos – again, not good fielders and not good base runners.

      We can’t help but be funner to watch with guys that are mostly 26 years and younger. We will take our lumps but I’m looking forward to seeing some better defense and base-running from the Redlegs. Not to mention, most of our starting pitchers will be 25 or less. Not many teams can claim this type of youth movement.

      • Mick

        I’ve been a reds fan for the past 61 years and a die hard fan at that.I’m tired of the same bs out of this ownership, it’s been the same song and dance with them. All you hear is wait until next year this has been the same bs since 2002, with phil running the show he’s probably looking for trades to get rid of the young pitchers and the catcher who will be back this year. As a fan i’m embarrassed to tell anyone that i’m a reds fan. So you tell me how can a fan be excited about the new season, also need new field manager. Should lose another 100 games this year again.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      There will be some degree of improvement in ’23 based on the fact that they had a nearly historic number of games missed due to injury in ’22. Cut that number even in half and that means many more games for Stephenson, India, Votto, Fraley, Senzel, Sims, Antone, etc. It’s not enough to improve to respectability, but just from a probability standpoint, it has to make a positive difference.

    • David

      Honestly, I don’t know if the Reds can really count on TJ Antone and Lucas Sims. Antone said he felt pretty good last fall, but now he apparently has forearm muscle discomfort.
      Sims had a lower back injury, and that is hard to come back from.

      Having said that, I do think the BP will be better in 2023 than in 2022. How much better will go a long way to determining how many games the Reds win. Pitching wins games, as much as we like to get excited about having good hitters. If you are always “in the game” or almost always hold the lead, you find ways to win.
      Constantly getting ‘way behind or blowing a lead late was the story of Cincy in 2022 (and 2021 too).
      I really don’t care much about all these “Pennyball” signings, as they likely won’t move the needle at all. But if the Reds had actually gone out and gotten a couple of real relievers (and they may have actually signed a couple that will work out as free agents), then the could win more games in 2023.

    • Terry Grote

      Thank you for the positive flip on the Reds. I can’t wait to see a Reds team to root for.

      • Christopher Hoeb

        Elly de la cruz needs to be with the big club if you want to see what he can do give him the chance now . I like seeing Hunter Greene up here a little early but the experience can go far for this young group.

    • Christopher Hoeb

      Elly de la cruz needs to be with the big club if you want to see what he can do give him the chance now . I like seeing Hunter Greene up here a little early but the experience can go far for this yound group.

  2. LDS

    Got to love optimism, regardless of how misguided. This sentence pretty much sums up my thoughts on the subject “Fun to watch doesn’t always mean wins a bunch of games or compete for a spot in the playoffs.” And no rational Reds fan should want Bell within two leagues of EDLC.

    • MBS

      I am hoping we have a new manager in 24. EDLC may come up in 23, but I’m not worried about Bell, he’ll have his orders on how to use EDLC.

  3. Rednat

    Interesting like the fall of the Roman Empire is interesting to study I guess. The Griffey era failed, The Votto era failed. Call me pessimistic all you want but I got a feeling this ‘Rays Way’ era is going to fail miserably as well.
    I don’t blame ownership for the demise really. I blame the dominance of pitching in the league now. It is just getting ridiculously expensive to sign even average hitters anymore and I don’t blame the reds for not overpaying for mediocre position players. On the other hand it is virtually impossible to rely totally on prospects to fill a major league roster. As Doug says many of these top prospects never pan out.
    So for now we are stuck with the Pinder’s and Vosler’s of the world just to fill the roster. I think the “interesting “ aspect is, how long will the fans put up with these losing season? We have already had 8 90 loss seasons this century with many more to look forward to in the near future

    • redfanorbust

      Hey Rednat. Reds only had a few winning seasons in 33 ish long, long years and even those didn’t amount to much. Who knows how much longer us fans will put up with it. I cautiously disagree with your feelings that this rebuild will fail. IMO much depends on if Reds spend the money next year from the savings of Votto/Moustakas contracts coming off the board to augment the young upcoming players. As for hitting being expensive, any average player or above is expensive. With the shift being taken away pitching should come back down to Earth.

      • Joey Red

        With all due respect you actually think the Reds will spend money? Plus it would take a gargantuan amount of cash to make this team competitive.

      • Colorado Red


        They will need to improve on development of players.
        There are several a year to two away.
        I do not know what will happen, but they have the close a couple of good setup men would go a lone way.
        A couple of solid OF would help.
        If a lot there way, they might have a chance in 24.
        I doubt they are competitive this year

  4. Votto4life

    The Titanic was an interesting cruise.

    • Jim Walker

      I was thinking along the same lines. 😉

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Martini was previously on the Reds roster for six weeks in late 2019 and early 2020.

      • Kevin Patrick

        Thanks for posting this transaction here Tom. I wonder if Doug is tired of doing write ups on these minor league signings. I’m so spoiled I’m used to seeing a breakdown here of almost everyone. It just shows that this site is fantastic.

    • LDS

      Anyone have an update on Votto? Two more RF candidates with ML experience, are they looking to free Myers up for 1B? Or still looking for Roy Hobbs?

      • 2020ball

        We’ve known since before the winter Votto might not be ready for the start of the year.

    • Jim Walker

      I think Plummer is the more interesting of the two. He was the #23 overall pick in the 2015 draft. He’s had decent AAA numbers; and, 2026 will be his age 26 season.

      The Reds suddenly seem to be loading up on MiLBLH bats who could play 1B/DH or cover for Myer et al to do so. It is still too early to call that ominous in regard to Votto’s prognosis; but, it bears noting.

    • Votto4life

      Hopefully, this new committee will address the disparity between the haves and the have nots.

  5. Jon

    This season needs to be what 2009 and 2019 were. A season of improvement and development at the Major League level for the young talent before the Reds go all-in in 2024. If that doesn’t happen, there is no hope for this fanbase under Castellini.

    • Joey Red

      All in??? That’s wishful thinking at best.

  6. Votto4life

    I know it will never happen but I always thought one way to address inequalities among the teams would be to expand in the larger markets. Put another team or two in New York and Los Angeles. Maybe another team in Philadelphia and Boston. It may take a few years, but teams like the Yankees and Dodgers would eventually lose market share and be force them to reign in spending.

    Of course, the problem is there is no way the established teams in those markets would approve such a plan and would certainly veto it.

    I don’t entirely buy the “small market” excuse, but at the same time, I don’t think the Reds are anywhere near on equal footing with the Dodgers and Mets.

    They just have to be a better way.

    • BK

      Whether the Red’s ownership group has performed well and market inequities in MLB are two different issues. Too often here, they are conflated.

    • 2020ball

      Those markets are controlled by those teams and none of them would approve such a move. Example: the Giants blocked the A’s from moving to San Jose because they control those market rights and they didnt want fans on that side of the bay to migrate over time to the A’s.

    • Kevin Patrick

      When the Expos left Montreal, I wanted them to move to New York and have a stadium with a huge neon sign right outside Brian Cashman’s office blinking endlessly “Expos…Expos…” over and over.

    • Jim Walker

      Have a look at this Tweet. The map and table address how many MLB teams have the most people closest to them.

      The Reds come in at 4th highest. I’m sure there could be quibbling over how the multi-team mega markets are allocated. Nevertheless, this data should give pause to the theory that the Reds are in truth a “small market” team.

      From 1970-1979, the Reds averaged roughly 2.4 million a year in attendance. In comparison to the rest of the National League, they led the league once, were second 4 times, third 4 times and sixth once.

      It is probably no coincidence that the Reds president and GM for this period through the 1977 season was Bob Howsam who had prior experience in Denver (early days of the NFL Broncos and MiLB baseball) and St Louis (MLB Cardinals) in building a regional fan base.

      • BK

        As for in-game attendance, the majority of those in the Red’s “closest to” zone are an overnight or full-day trip away from GABP. On the other hand, the NYY, NYM, and Dodgers have about the same as the Reds in their metro areas–they have a huge advantage.

        I find it fascinating how many “Reds” fans want to disprove the “small market” conundrum that the Reds have to deal with.

      • Melvin

        BK – Do you consider Indianapolis an overnight or full day trip away?

      • BK

        For a night game, it’s an overnight trip, full day for a day game. More importantly, the chart doesn’t show television markets. The disparity in what each franchise gets from its RSN is more significant than local game attendance.

        The biggest area that the Reds Ownership can improve is attendance. They will have to field better teams consistently to regain a large, loyal fanbase. But increased attendance will only narrow the gap; it won’t close it. Bottom line: I don’t see how the Twitter chart doesn’t give pause to the market size argument.

      • Melvin

        BK – It’s just a 1 hour 45 minute trip from the west side of Indianapolis. I’ve driven home many times after a night game. No big deal.

      • BK

        Melvin, my point is that the chart ignores proximity to the ballpark. We would agree that distance is a factor in whether someone can attend a game. The top markets have a much higher concentration of those who live closest to them in their metro areas. That said, thanks for pointing out my weak analogy.

      • Melvin

        BK – Bottom line is if these crazy owners put a good team on the field there is more than enough Reds fans close enough to support the team. They WILL come. There is a great thirst for a “Winner”.

      • BK

        Melvin, the Cardinals have sustained three million in attendance for the last twenty years (except 2020 and 2021 which were impacted by COVID). The Red’s modern peak was 2.4M in attendance in 2013-15 (best ever was 2.6M in 1975). Although Cincinnati’s metro area is about 15 percent smaller, how would three million in attendance affect the Reds.?

        In 2019, the Cardinals had $383M in revenue. The Cubs had $471M, the Dodgers had $556M, and the Yankees had $673M. Under the current CBA, the Cardinals are the gold standard for small-market teams. That said, they operate at a big disadvantage from the one larger market division rival that we share and are nowhere close to having the financial muscle of the Yankees or Dodgers. Also, the Cardinals have a city block-sized development that sits across the street from their stadium with bars, restaurants, and rentable venues with sightlines to their games. When I lived there in 2015, it was generating $20M annually for the team. Lastly, the Dodgers and Yankees have three million in attendance every year, too–their RSN agreements dwarf the Reds and Cardinals.

        Boosting attendance must be part of the long-term strategy, but it is not enough to close the gap with the largest market teams. Again, the chart illustrates some untapped potential for the Reds, but it absolutely does not demonstrate that the Reds are on equal footing from a market perspective across MLB. That will take a structural change on the part of the large market Ownership groups and cooperation with MLBPA.

      • Melvin

        BK – I really don’t think most Reds fans believe that the team financially can compete with the likes of the Dodgers/Yankees etc. There is no way a Reds owner can/should expect to make as much profit in Cincinnati. However the real argument is that the Reds can still make a profit while still paying to put a good winning team on the field being competitive without going into a rebuild on a regular basis. The real problem is that owners like Big Bob & Son want to try and make as much profit as the “big boys” by keeping payroll cheap. The Reds need an owner who understands and doesn’t mind making less money. They need an owner who just wants to win. That can be done. The fact that they care very little about attendance tells me they’re making most of their money in other ways and really don’t have much incentive to increase payroll which would bring more fans into the stadium. They’d rather just keep payroll low. That’s guaranteed money. Whether or not fans coming to Great American Ball Park while spending money on hot dogs etc. is taking a chance. Big Bob & Son really don’t care much about winning or the fans. Their #1 priority is making money. They need to sell the team for the sake of the Cincinnati Reds.

  7. Melvin

    “The Reds could be interesting again soon”

    DLC should be interesting enough by himself. Just don’t count on winning too much.

  8. SOQ

    At this point, I would be ok with “Fun to watch”

  9. William

    Keith Law is greatly overrated. He has been wrong about things over and over. I do not take his ranking of the Reds system at 13th too seriously. He is just making his money with a lot of words. I think the Reds are in good shape for 2024 – 2027. Sit back and enjoy life. Watch the Reds in 2023, but find something else to help you enjoy life. Best wishes.

    • Greenfield Red

      Agree William. I have put all sports to the side except baseball, and that has less importance than it used to.

      I also think the Reds will be good after 2023 and the owners will open the checkbook. There was no reason in 22 and there is no reason in 23. Those two teams have been destined to be bad by decisions made in 2014 through 2020

  10. Oldtimer

    It was a different time but Gabe Paul built a strong farm system in 1950s and Bill DeWitt did the same in the 1960s. That was a primary reason for Reds improving in 1960s and excelling in 1970s (along with Howsam trades).

    A strong farm is a key building block to contention and ultimately winning a championship.

    • Brad Legg

      This ownership group is not interested in winning. After the younger Castellini spilled the tea really not interested in the fans. Where ya gonna go? This is the second season in a row I will answer not GABP. This from a 54 diehard year fan. Guess the fandom died.

    • TR

      MLB’s first farm system was put together by Branch Rickey for the Cardinals starting in the 1920’s with the two main minor league teams, at that time, Houston and Rochester. The ability to bring up outstanding young players , over the last century, has been a key to the Cardinals success.
      The Reds, with an outstanding current farm system, are headed for success down the road. We need to be patient.

    • Doug Gray

      Antone’s been in Arizona for over a month now. Tyler Stephenson is in Arizona, too.

  11. Ken

    I used to get excited when I felt the Reds minor league system was on the upswing. I watched Rose, Tommy Helms and others win Rookie of the Year awards and become stalwart cornerstones of one of the game’s finest teams.

    But any enthusiasm these days is tempered by the fact that the Reds do not have the ability to re-sign their stars. As soon as the rookie contract ends, bye-bye. This cycle is pretty convincing in preventing the Reds and other teams from sustaining their ability to compete. The Reds’ only hope is some kind of salary cap, but the MLBPA is far too powerful and the owners far too obstinate to foster positive change. So we can raise our glasses to potentially terrific prospects, but will we ever see another star become the long-term face of the franchise like Votto? It seems unlikely.

    • Greenfield Red

      Pretty sure they resigned, or at least extended Bailey, Mesorocco, and Geno. So, you can’t say they don’t resign their own.

      Additionally, of all the “stars” they traded away, only Castillo shows any hope of contributing in 23 and beyond. And there is little chance he will be productive for the 5 years Seattle gave him 108m for.

      I don’t want the Reds to sign any more 10 year contracts for 30 yo guys. The last two have been disasters (Griffey and Votto).

      The Reds need to get younger, faster, and more hungry. That is the current plan. They just need to stick to it, which is made harder by the thousands of fans who constantly criticize with no clue what they are talking about.

    • Doug Gray

      I mean the Reds signed Joey Votto to one of the largest contracts in the history of baseball. The same people own the team now. It’s not a matter of “can’t” it’s a matter of “don’t want to”.

    • Greenfield Red

      The Reds are 140 games under .500 from 2007-2022. 2-9 in the playoffs. The face of the franchise has an OPS under .600 in those playoff games. No thanks on another “face of the franchise”.

      • Jon

        One (or two) star players cannot carry an MLB team to the promised land. Just ask Trout and Ohtani. And five of Votto’s playoff games came in 2012 when he was rushed back too soon from a knee injury that sapped his power.


    Nick Krall could be a magic touch GM.

    All prospects live up to their billing, even.

    As long as Bob & Sons own controlling interest of the club, the best we can hope for is to break the Cubs record of not winning a WS and become the lovable small market team that goes 120 years between WS wins.