Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system.
Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com will be visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the Cincinnati Reds.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- At the big league level, the 2015 season was a struggle for the Reds. They finished in last place in their division for the first time since 1983 and lost 98 games, their most since 1982.
But at the Minor League level, Cincinnati added a lot of talent. Because it wouldn't be able to contend in the rugged National League Central in the short term, it made sense to part with Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto, Todd Frazier and Mike Leake in trades that netted youngsters such as left-handers Brandon Finnegan and Cody Reed, infielder/outfielder Jose Peraza, right-handers Keury Mella and Rookie Davis and third baseman Eric Jagielo. The Reds also added the best catcher in the 2015 Draft in Tyler Stephenson, their first-round pick in an intriguing crop.
They joined a system that already featured several promising seven-figure bonus babies from past Drafts, including outfielder Jesse Winker, right-hander Robert Stephenson and lefty Amir Garrett. Cincinnati's Minor League depth recalls what it had toward the end of last decade and again at the beginning of this one, which translated into division titles in 2010 and '12 and a Wild Card berth in '13.
"This next wave is trying to reach the high bar set going back to when we had the Joey Votto /Jay Bruce /Homer Bailey /Cueto group, and then by that Frazier/Chapman/Devin Mesoraco /Billy Hamilton group," Reds director of player development Jeff Graupe said. "It's the deepest we've been recently. It's a lot of fun to watch these guys and hopefully rewarding down the line."
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The Reds' system could get much stronger in the next year. At $19.1 million, they have more combined bonus pool money for the Draft and international market than any team in the game. There also could be more veterans-for-prospects deals after they nearly dealt Bruce and Brandon Phillips during the offseason.
"What's really exciting is that this shouldn't be a long process," Graupe said. "We have a nice base already and this year we have the No. 2 pick in the Draft, the highest Draft bonus pool and the second-highest international bonus pool. We should be able to add more talent. We have to regroup but we don't have to take a major step back."
One of three lefties acquired in the Cueto trade with the Royals, Reed has been the Reds' best starting pitcher in big league camp. He allowed just two runs (one earned) in eight innings during his first three appearances, striking out seven while walking none. It's not out of the question that Reed could make the Opening Day roster despite having made just 13 starts above Class A, and manager Bryan Price said he expects him to make his Cincinnati debut at some point this year.
"He keeps getting better and better," Graupe said. "He was a big part of the return in the Johnny Cueto deal and his arrow is pointing way up. He's having a great camp with big stuff. The fastball and slider are both easy pluses, he's been 94-97 [mph] this spring and he's showing feel for a changeup. He's very aggressive."
Peraza, the best of the prospects the Reds landed in the three-team Frazier deal, also is making a positive impression on Price and his staff. He has gone 10-for-26 (.385) and used his plus-plus speed to lead the team with four steals while starting multiple games at shortstop, second base and center field.
"I believe he's the youngest player in our Major League camp and he carries himself so well," Graupe said. "He has a line-drive approach, makes a lot of consistent contact, he can run and he's going to be a plus defender up the middle. It's going to take some time to figure out where."
Right-hander Nick Travieso's career hasn't gone exactly as planned since Cincinnati made him the 14th overall pick in the 2012 Draft. His velocity dipped in his first full pro season, leading him to repeat low Class A in his second, and a comebacker broke a bone in his forearm last June just as he was hitting his stride in high Class A. Travieso returned to post a 2.10 ERA in his final six starts of the regular season and a 2.05 ERA in the Arizona Fall League, which could set the stage for a banner 2016.
"He's a big-bodied competitor who'll find a way to go deep in games," Graupe said. "He's done a nice job of figuring out who he is. He has a heavy fastball with a lot of early-count contact, inducing a lot of ground balls. His changeup is behind his fastball and slider, but it's enough to keep hitters honest. He's also added a curveball to give him something slower."
Right-hander Antonio Santillan had one of the most electric arms in the 2015 Draft, showing a 93-98 mph fastball and a hammer curveball when at his best. A tendency to overthrow and an inability to replicate his mechanics dropped him to the second round, however, and he recorded a 5.03 ERA in Rookie ball during his debut. Santillan is making progress cleaning up his delivery, giving hope that he'll reach his upside as a front-line starter.
"He's got plus weapons," Graupe said. "He's worked very hard to improve his delivery in terms of alignment to the plate, making it more consistent and repeatable. His stuff is right up there with anyone's. We're very excited to see what he does."
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.