As we get closer and closer to the start of spring training the national publications are in full on “prospect ranking season”. Most places have released their Top 100 lists and now they are beginning to release their farm system rankings. Today saw both ESPN and Baseball America released theirs, with ESPN ranking the Cincinnati Reds farm system 10th and Baseball America ranking them 11th in Major League Baseball.

ESPN’s ranking of the farm system at #10 is a good showing, particularly given that in the last year the club has graduated Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Brandon Williamson, and Andrew Abbott. The farm system has tumbled a little because of that, going from 5th in these rankings a year ago, but that’s to be expected. Within the division, the Reds are third behind the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers – who just improved their farm system after acquiring several highly rated prospects in the Corbin Burnes trade yesterday. Following the Brewers and Orioles trade, the Reds now have as many Top 100 prospects on the ESPN list as any team in the game with six of them.

The crew at Baseball America (editors note: While I do write a monthly column on the Reds farm system for Baseball America, I am in no way involved with their rankings) had Cincinnati a spot lower than ESPN, coming in at #11. They note that even with all of the graduations of 2023, the Reds still have a deep farm system. Like the ESPN list, the farm dropped down the ranks a few spots – a year ago Cincinnati was at #8. The Cubs and Brewers are both rated higher than the Reds here. Baseball America only rated three Reds prospects in their Top 100 list, but their depth beyond those three plays large.

As things appear today, the Reds will likely rely on their farm system far less in 2024 than they had in 2023. A big part of that is simply that they relied on it heavily in 2023 and many of the guys found success and have now established that they are big leaguers. That leaves fewer spots for guys to come up and play in this year if guys remain healthy.

With that said, Noelvi Marte seems like he’s going to get plenty of playing time in 2024. Beyond him, though, it may be more of a situation for guys who get their opportunity to come up if someone is injured and the club needs someone to fill in.

50 Responses

  1. Optimist

    10/11 seems about right, but consider this line from Doug – “Baseball America only rated three Reds prospects in their Top 100 list, but their depth beyond those three plays large.” Yes, they graduated so many, and yes, they won’t need such volume in MLB this season, and while 10 or 11 seems about right, the good news is it’s arguably better, and very unlikely to be worse.

    For long-time readers of Doug’s work on the RML site, (https://www.patreon.com/redsminorleagues/posts) the depth and quality of players through all levels of the MiLB system is impressive, and I don’t recall any prior multi-season stretch of such depth AND quality. If one of the prospects explodes, or if several are very good, the ranking should shoot right back into the top 5.

    • DaveCT

      As you’ve noted. the depth is very, very good. And, also, there are a number of high ceiling guys who have yet to really establish themselves as Top 100 prospects, such as Petty, Arroyo, Stewart, Collier, Cabrera, Duno, the recent top international signing (Sanchez), the upcoming no. two draft pick, etc. The system is sound and productive.

      • MBS

        @Dave, I was basically typing this same message. I bet we’ll be a top 5 farm system this time next year. Marte will probably be the only top 100 prospect that we have who will graduate this year.

      • Greenfield Red

        Add Hector, Aguiar, Acuna, and Lin, Stafura, Floyd, and Schoenwetter to this list. There are probably others. Carlos Sanchez has been quietly making noise for a couple of years now. Most are still teenagers.

  2. Mark Moore

    #10 out of 30 is top third. I’m happy with that. And, as noted, we shouldn’t have to dip into the pool as deeply this season.

    • Melvin

      Maybe some more of those guys will make it to the top 100 before the end of the year. Lots of potential.

  3. Mauired

    If half of the haul of teen prospects continue to develop, Reds will have a top 5 farm system again. In addition to having the number 2 pick this summer. Pretty amazing since Reds already have the best young team in the National League.

  4. Justin T

    The Reds have sold the fans on the farm system and development of young players. I dont think ESPN and other publications think as highly of the farm system as the Reds and their fans. To think about the talent we’ve traded away, I’d sure hope we would have a top farm system. The depth is definitely better than in years past.

    • Old Big Ed

      Well, their rookies last year were McLain, CES, De La Cruz, Steer, Williamson and Abbott, after 2022 rookie seasons from Diaz, Friedl, Greene, Ashcraft and Lodolo.

      If a team has brought up 11 regulars in 2 years, and finished with a winning record, then its farm system is absolutely killing it. It is understandable that the system (minus those 11 regulars) would be a bit short at AAA this season. On the other hand, this will be Marte’s rookie year, and that of Connor Phillips. They should be loaded at AA and below, though.

      • docproc

        And Stephenson and India (ROY) in 2021. That’s 13 regulars in 3 years. Impressive.

    • DaveCT

      It’s not a sales pitch. It’s basically fact at this point.

      ESPN
      2023 — 5th
      2024 — 10th

      BA
      2023 — 8th
      2024 — 11th

      As Doug notes, this is in spite of the unusually large number of 2023 promotions.

      Then, factor in the additions of Adolpho Sanchez, the 2024 number 5 ranked international prospect, Naibel Mariano, the 2024 number 42 ranked international prospect, as well as the number two overall pick in the 2024 draft, and, factually, you are adding three elite talents.

      These will combine with Victor Acosta and Ariel Almonte, the number 17 and 25 international prospects in 21, Ricardo Cabrera, the number 3 international prospect in 2022, and Alfredo Duno, number 4 in 2023. as well as talents like Carlos Jorge and Leo Balcazar, international signees who are Top 10 Reds this year.

      The three year overall influx of talent to the Mel’s includes: Greene, Ashcraft, Lodolo, Williamson, Abbott, Diaz, India, Stephenson, Benson, Friedl, Steer, EDLC, CES, Marte, with Phillips, Arroyo, Petty, Stewart, Collier, Rowder, Floyd, Dunn, Lin in the minors.

      That is depth and quality, including elite talent, the Reds’ greatest deficit of the past 15 years, IMO.

      This deficit, elite talent, along with the mediocre player development of a previous administration (Jockety) was likely the seed of the last rebuild’s failure, the trading for “major league ready” players in exchange for the assets we were selling off.

      But, there’s a new sheriff in town. His name is Talent Acquisition. Dude means business.

  5. Mauired

    I don’t think it’s just fan love. Reds went from losing 100 games to a winning record in one season. And it wasn’t because of the big free agent signings of Casali, Weaver, Maile, and Myers.

  6. Amarillo

    I’m surprised ESPN ranked us 10th after naming 6 top 100 prospects. I’m not against the ranking, but the method doesn’t sound typical.

    • Optimist

      I wondered about that as well, and wonder if it has to do with the relative opinions/rankings of the prospects? IOW, is having a top-3 prospect, and 2 others in the 75-100 range better than having 4 or 5 spread out from #30-80?

      I suspect there’s a weighting involved with the perceived “can’t miss” top 5 or 10 prospects. Better to have one HOF type and 2 regulars/journeymen than 5 productive regulars.

      • Mauired

        Reds are definitely underrated Nationally. BA had them 8 last year? With Elly, McClain, Abbott, Steer, Williamson, CES, Marte, Phillips and others in lower levels. No way seven teams had more talent in their farm systems last year.

    • Stock

      The Reds do have a lot of depth. But that is only half the battle in rankings and justly so. The guys at the top are much more valuable than those further down. My guess is the teams ahead of us have 2-4 players in the top 50 or one in the top 5.

  7. JayTheRed

    I don’t put much into rankings or preseason predictions at all. Yes, there is probably some statistical formula used to figure out these things but. Honestly until I see them playing both in spring training and in the first month of the season, I don’t like making too many judgements on the players.

    • TR

      I feel the same way about preseason predictions, and, in general, regard them as filler before the games start to count. The eye test is my proof when the box score shows at least one hit consistently over a period of time, then it’s time to really take notice of that player.

  8. Stock

    Next year the Reds should easily have a top 5 prospect class. This of course assumes the only sure graduate in 2024 is Marte. Hurtusbise, Phillips and Lyon Richardson also have a solid to average chance to graduate. Lowder, Blake Dunn are long shots but could graduate. Afterall, Abbott was a much lower prospect in AA than Lowder.

    What will we find out come next October.

    1. Whomever the Reds choose with the second pick of the 2024 draft instantly becomes a better prospect than Marte is right now. In fact I would be surprised if they are not a top 10 prospect.

    2. Cam Collier has worked all winter to change his launch angle and dominates in 2024, forcing his way into AA and a second top 25 prospect.

    3. Rhett Lowder and Chase Petty do well and are consistently a top 50 prospects.

    4. Edwin Arroyo storms back on prospect lists with a stellar 2024 and becoming a top 15 – 50.

    5. The other three studs from the 2023 Daytona 9 shine in Dayton and Chattanooga and at least two of them are top 100 prospects (Sal Stewart, Leonardo Balcazar and Carlos Jorge).

    6. Blake Dunn puts up a better 2024 than 2023 and forces his way into the rankings.

    7. Alfredo Duno and Ricardo Cabrera soar in 2024. At least 1 will finish as a top 100 prospect.

    8. Long shot at making the top 100 – Rece Hinds

    9. Very long shots at making the top 100 – Ty Floyd and Julien Aguiar

    10. Very long shots if they do not graduate – Jacob Hurtubise and Lyon Richardson

    That is 11 players in the top 7 groupings above. That seems a bit extreme. So I will make the same prediction I made last year.

    4 players in the top 50 with another 4 players in the 51 – 100 range.

    Last year I was pretty much spot on in improvements. Where I was wrong was that I predicted the only 2023 graduate would be Spencer Steer. I felt EDLC would be ready but the Reds would stink so they would slow play EDLC until September.

    If the Reds have 4 top 50 players and 4 additional players in the top 100 they will be one of the three best systems in the pre-2025 rankings.

    • Greenfield Red

      Agree Stock. But how much longer does Hector have to hit like he has at every level to make the Top 100? How about Carlos Sanchez?

      • Greenfield Red

        Victor Acosta also never mentioned. Could have a big year.

      • Stock

        Sorry Greenfield. Hector should be in category 5. The combination of the lack of power and spending 2024 in Daytona will keep Sanchez out of the top 100 next year. But he could make pre-2025 lists.

        Not a Victor Acosta fan. I guess you could put him in category #9. Maybe add a couple of very’s.

      • Greenfield Red

        .856 career OPS, in Hi A before 20, a 15% K rate, and 11% walks. There is a lot of good there.

      • DaveCT

        Acosta, 55 defense and 55 arm, 50 hit and 50 run, BA.

    • Redsvol

      excellent detail Stock – I love it!

      I’m with Greenfield though, I don’t know what more Hector has to do to get recognized outside of Reds fandom. The guy just hits – and against much older competition. Something tells me the competition’s scouts know all about our under-rated guys.

      I still think we lack some depth in pitching prospects. Need to see some of last year’s pitchers start to produce and hopefully avoid injury.

      At some point, we’re going to run out of minor league teams to put all the middle infielders. As noted, even the most recent international signees haven’t even moved the needle yet, but should in 2024. At some point, some of these guys are going to need to be traded for a top starter. Not enough room for them.

      • DaveCT

        The greatest concern with HRod is his swing rate.

        “Rodriguez swings at everything. MiLB hitters generally swing at 46-47% of the pitches. Anyone who swings more than 50% of the time is extremely aggressive. Rodriguez swings 63% of the time, and he chases pitches as much as almost anyone in the minors.”

      • DaveCT

        BA, 24 Top 30 list scouting report.

      • Greenfield Red

        Dave, that seems like a canned excuse. He has a career 15% K rate and an 11% walk rate. That’s way better than most.

      • Doug Gray

        Rodriguez has 53 walks in 836 career plate appearances. That’s a 6.3% walk rate. His career strikeout rate is 15.6%, but that’s buoyed by his time in complex ball. His time in Daytona and Dayton have him striking out at a 19% clip. Now, a 19%/6% ratio can and will work with the right ingredients, but your numbers weren’t quite right and I do think it’s worth pointing out his contact rate was elite in the complexes but it’s merely a solid rate outside of the complexes (to this point in his career).

      • Greenfield Red

        I saw 102 career walks. I was looking at another column. 51 career walks will need to improve, and now the “swings too much” noise makes sense. My eyes are getting old.

  9. Brian

    I’m not sure what that tells us. I’m trying to remember but I think that I read that about 40% of top 10 prospects fail to become league avg. mlb players and over 70% of top 100 fail to do so. It’s obviously better to have prospects that rank high but I’m not sure that having an extra guy make the top 100 means a ton given the random, high failure rate.
    That kind of thing had me open minded about listening last year to trade offers on ELDC. I had the same thought when Greene was a pre anointed phenom. They both very well could become dominant at the mlb level but that doesn’t always translate. I place top value on above avg. players that are 3-4 years mlb established.
    I do get the Reds and their cry poor motto but I can’t help wondering what ELDC could have been exchanged for at top hype. The guys physical tools are obviously crazy good but there could be several of our last years rookies that have better baseball careers.

    • MBS

      The return could be huge, but guys like EDLC, and Greene sell tickets. If you move guys like that when they are that young, you better have a very lopsided deal.

      • Brian

        MBS, I just know that I miss Castillo. A guy like that can be a difference maker if you make the playoffs. I get the young talent that he brought back those question marks netted Seattle with a stud who is very capable of out pitching other teams number 1. I don’t know what’s more valuable than that. EDLC is a super talented question mark. He’s established that he’s a great athlete. Will he establish that he’s a great baseball player in a jammed up infield?

      • TR

        It’s usually the case in trades that you have to give up something to get something. Who gets the best of the deal takes a while. Will the Reds or Mariners be the first to come out ahead? Sorting will continue this season with the Red’s plethora of infield talent.

    • Jason Linden

      There’s a difference between top-100 and top-10. Top-10 prospects usually become at least solid major leaguers. Elly and Hunter were both top-10.

      • Oldtimer

        ELDC was great for a month then batted .191 after ASG.

        Greene has been meh over two years.

        Both SHOULD be superstars.

    • Old Big Ed

      The person who traded Elly “at top hype” last year would risk going down in MLB history as the biggest dunderhead since Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth’s rights to the Yankees for $100,000. Nobody wants to be the guy remembered for drafting Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan.

      “Elly is 21, but he’s an old 21” was not going to sound reasonable last July, nor would it today or next year.

      Sure, it’s possible Elly will be a bust, but it’s more probable that whomever the Reds would have received for Elly last July would also be a bust.

  10. MK

    Tomorrow is Tony Perez Day in Reds Country, the date is 2/4/24.

  11. Brian

    Yes Jason, I mentioned above that I thought I read that nearly 40% of top 10 prospects fail to become league average players.

  12. Eric the Red

    I find it concerning we’re ranked 3rd in our division. It doesn’t much matter if we are ranked better than—for example—the Twins if we’re trailing the Cubs and Brewers. I know these rankings don’t translate instantly into the standings, but I’d rather be best in division than worry about the overall ranking. Still: Go Reds!

    • Redsvol

      This is a good point. We’re relying on making the playoffs because the NL Central is weak – but it won’t be for long with the talent in the farm systems.

      I think the Reds are 1 year ahead of the Cubs arrival and 2-3 years ahead of the Brewers. I’m impressed with he Cubs prospects. Not so much with the Brewers (other than Chourio) A lot is riding on the guys that came up in 2022 and 2023 to produce. Interesting year ahead.

      • Melvin

        If I’m not mistaken the Brewers have lost two of their main starting pitchers AND their manager. The Cubs are mostly likely the divisional team giving the most trouble for the Reds in 2024 in my view. We’ll see how much their new manager counts who they paid a lot of money for. I’m guessing A LOT. Some are even saying the Pirates have the most talent besides us. The Cardinals can never be counted out. We have the talent to at the very least win the division. We’ll see if it comes together to do that.

    • Brian

      As late as August, the Reds were listed as the 4th best minor league system in the division. That makes some sense though after bringing up so many last year.

    • Tom Reeves

      The Reds promote 6 excellent prospects in 2023 and you’re upset they’re now barely behind other teams in their minor league system rankings?! It’s amazing the Reds aren’t last in the rankings considering what they promoted lasted year. You have some mighty high expectations of the front office.

      • Brian

        Who is upset Tom? They’re just rankings. I just caution against getting overly excited about rankings just because of solute rate. The Reds should be a playoff team this year. They had to tank for awhile and trade some good pitching to get to this point. There’s plenty to currently be optimistic about, it will probably not matter though if they play their usual trade deadline song and dance. “This guy is hurt and may be able to come back, that’s as good as getting someone healthy from another team to put us over the top.”

  13. Fish

    Unrelated, have ya’ll seen this video of Blandino throwing knuckleball BP? They might have something. . .

    • AllTheHype

      If you subtract out his FBs and other non-kuncklers in the video, looks like he threw about 30% of his knuckleballs for strikes. That’s not good. He’ll need to improve on that, because if he has to throw a FB somewhat frequently to get back into the count, the batter is probably sitting on it and likely teeing off. His non-knuckler arsenal is likely A- ball level at best.

      That and the fact that knuckleball pitchers are at a severe disadvantage holding runners on. Throwing 72 mph with very late movement gives the catcher a limited chance at holding runners in place. And now there are only two pick-off attempts per PA. I don’t think we’ve had a knuckleballer in MLB since that rule change. More than any other pitcher, knuckleballers need pick off attempts to keep the runner guessing.

      He’s got his work cut out for him. It will not be easy. Personally I think odds are 10% chance (at best) that he makes it to MLB. That’s probably generous.

      Good story though. I’ll be rooting for him.