Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Talented trio headlines deep Reds farm system

@JimCallisMLB
March 13, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Seeking to halt a string of four consecutive last-place finishes in the National League Central, the Reds were one of baseball's boldest teams this offseason. They swung trades with the Dodgers, Nationals and Yankees to upgrade their rotation with Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood and

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Seeking to halt a string of four consecutive last-place finishes in the National League Central, the Reds were one of baseball's boldest teams this offseason. They swung trades with the Dodgers, Nationals and Yankees to upgrade their rotation with Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood and add Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to their outfield.

In those deals, Cincinnati parted with four of its better prospects: infielders Jeter Downs and Shed Long, plus right-handers Josiah Gray and Tanner Rainey. That contribution from the farm system -- No. 9 in MLB Pipeline's latest rankings -- was just an appetizer, however.

The Reds have a trio of impact prospects who should arrive at Great American Ball Park in the near future. Infielder/outfielder Nick Senzel (No. 6 on on our Top 100 Prospects list), outfielder Taylor Trammell (No. 16) and right-hander Hunter Greene (No. 31) are the cornerstones around which Cincinnati will build its franchise.

Hunter Greene pitching demo | Top 30 Prospects | Prospects' Spring Training stats

Senzel went No. 2 overall in the 2016 Draft for his pure hitting ability but has opened eyes with his all-around tools and athleticism since signing for $6.2 million. Drafted as a third baseman, he moved to second base last year after Eugenio Suarez broke out with the Reds, but he played just 44 games in Triple-A because of vertigo and a torn tendon in his right index finger. Non-tendering Billy Hamilton left Cincinnati without an obvious center fielder, so Senzel is trying to win that job this spring.

"He's just a great baseball athlete," Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender said. "He has natural instincts, he's an above-average runner and he has a nose for the ball, so there's no way he won't be a good outfielder.

"Right now, he has an opportunity in center field because we have All-Stars at third base and second base. We want to get this guy in our lineup."

Trammell, a 2016 supplemental first-rounder who signed for $3.2 million, should be ready at some point in 2020. The MVP of last summer's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, he offers the best combination of tools and skills in the system and will open this season in Double-A. He profiles as a center fielder who will allow Senzel to move to an outfield corner or second base.

"His learning curve is endless because he's such a good athlete and good self-evaluator," Pender said. "We'd like to see him be a better basestealer and baserunner, and defensively improve his angles and breaks and the accuracy of his arm. These are all things he's gotten better at, and I think his power is going to come when he adds more leverage to his swing."

The Reds have handled Greene with care since signing him for $7.23 million (a Draft record for a high school pitcher) as the No. 2 overall choice in 2017. They didn't let him exceed five innings in a start until last June and shut him down a month later with an elbow strain that healed with rest. He generates 100-mph fastballs perhaps easier than any pitcher in baseball history and could start to develop rapidly after beginning this season at the Class A Advanced level.

"He was having a very good second half until he tweaked his elbow," Pender said. "His slider was making progress and his changeup has really improved. He's a very gifted young man with a great arm, great aptitude and great desire. We haven't had to teach him a whole lot."

While Senzel, Trammell and Greene are the system's biggest potential stars, they tend to overshadow the organization's depth of talent. Right-handers Tony Santillan and Vladimir Gutierrez are potential mid-rotation starters who could get a look in 2019, and catcher Tyler Stephenson and third baseman Jonathan India are former first-rounders who could challenge for spots in the lineup by the end of next year. At the lower levels, the Reds have several intriguing outfielders (including Mike Siani and Mariel Bautista) and young arms (such as Lyon Richardson, Jacob Heatherly and James Marinan).

Camp standout

Senzel has done what he does best in big league camp, batting .381/.364/.524 with three doubles in seven games despite dealing with a minor hamstring injury last week. Manager David Bell has praised his play in center field, though it's still possible that he'll get some Triple-A time to get better acclimated to his new position.

T.J. Friedl slipped through the 2016 Draft before signing with Cincinnati for $732,500, a record for a non-drafted free agent. He has made an impression in his first extended stay in big league camp, showing his ability to hit for contact while providing value on the bases and at all three outfield spots. He has gone 5-for-15 (.333) with nearly as many walks (two) as strikeouts (three).

"Friedl flies under the radar," Pender said. "He does all the little things: he's a good defender, he bunts, he handles the bat, he's smart on the bases. He's a great teammate who makes people around him better."

Added to the 40-man roster in November, right-hander Jimmy Herget struck out seven and allowed just one run in five innings before getting reassigned to Minor League camp on Monday. A reliever who throws from a deceptive low arm slot, he sits at 92-94 mph with life on his fastball and flashes a plus slider.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.