Peraza, Reed among 6 to watch at Reds camp

Outfielder Rodriguez, righty Stephenson could crack Opening Day roster

January 22nd, 2016

CINCINNATI -- Many of the players the Reds have moved out over the past year -- Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Todd Frazier, Marlon Byrd and Aroldis Chapman -- were well-known quantities with high expectations attached to their performances.

When Reds Spring Training convenes Feb. 18 in Goodyear, Ariz., some of the faces in the clubhouse will not just be new. They also will be young and unproven in the Major Leagues. And don't forget about the prospects that already were in the organization who will have their first realistic shot at a big league job.

For a team undergoing a significant makeover, that's where much of the intrigue lies heading into camp. Here is a look at six young players who could be the most intriguing in 2016 for the Reds:

Jose Peraza: The Reds have a lot to be excited about with Peraza, who is a top 100 prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the Frazier three-team trade. The organization's new No. 1 prospect, according to, the soon-to-be 22-year-old second baseman has a good bat with a better than .300 career average in the Minors, a strong glove and very good speed on the bases.

What Peraza lacks is an immediate place to play to develop regularly. Brandon Phillips is at second base with two more years on his contract and full no-trade protection. Peraza had been a shortstop on his way up in the Braves organization but was moved to second because he was blocked by Andrelton Simmons. The same case holds with the Reds, where Zack Cozart is returning from injury to man shortstop. Peraza also can play some outfield. The Reds' answer might be to move him around all of those spots in a utility-type role. But he needs to play every day, which could make time in Triple-A Louisville the answer for the short term.

Yorman Rodriguez: The time is now for the 23-year-old outfielder. He has spent seven seasons in the Reds' system since his much-ballyhooed, then-club record signing out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old. His progress in the Minors has been slow, but he had a nice enough 2014 to earn a September callup. His promising start to 2015 was curtailed by an injury that cost him most of the second half. Rodriguez, who still has strides to make as a hitter, will arrive in camp this year out of Minor League options. He will have a good chance to claim the left-field spot and, if Jay Bruce is traded, Rodriguez's strong arm makes him a nice option for right field.

The big question about Rodriguez -- currently ranked as the Reds' No. 18 prospect -- is this: Would the Reds dare expose him to the waiver wire if he's not good enough in camp to make the 25-man roster?

Robert Stephenson: The organization's No. 3 prospect and ranked No. 36 overall, Stephenson seemed to stall at Double-A before finding some rejuvenation upon a promotion to Triple-A last season. There are three spots open in the rotation this spring and the soon-to-be 23-year-old should be right in the middle of the battle to claim one of them.

Stephenson has been the Reds' best pitching prospect for a few seasons, with a mid-to-plus 90s fastball and a good curveball. He struck out 140 batters each of the last two seasons (leading the organization last season) but was also prone to command and control issues at times. A strained right forearm in August might have prevented him from joining the all-rookie rotation last season, but he should have the stuff to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter now.

Cody Reed: One of the left-handed power starters acquired from the Royals in the Cueto trade, Reed could challenge for a rotation spot either this spring or later this season. The Reds' No. 7 prospect turns 23 in April and has three good pitches, including a fastball that can hit 96 mph.

At Class A Advanced and Double-A last season, Reed was 13-9 with a 2.41 ERA over a combined 26 games. Following the trade, Reed posted a 2.17 ERA in eight starts, and his 60 strikeouts for Double-A Pensacola were the most in Minor League Baseball over that stretch. He ended the regular season with 14 innings without an earned run and 17 strikeouts over two starts.

Jesse Winker: Heading into next month, Winker appears to have longer odds than some others who are a little older. The 22-year-old has yet to play in Triple-A, but perhaps he can use his good left-handed swing to hit his way onto the 25-man roster anyway.

The No. 2 prospect in the organization, and No. 27 overall, Winker batted .282/.390/.433 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 123 games for Pensacola. He was named the Reds' Minor League Hitter of the Year. While starting out in Triple-A seems more plausible, a strong start could certainly force the Reds' hand to get him to the big league level.

Jake Cave: The Reds didn't dabble much in the Rule 5 Draft during their recent years of contention but are in a position to carry such a player now. That would be the 23-year-old Cave, who was plucked from the Yankees in last month's Rule 5 Draft. A left-handed hitter who has batted .285/.346/.391 in four Minor League seasons, Cave lacks power but plays all three outfield spots. He could serve in a platoon role for Cincinnati, where he is the No. 19-ranked prospect.

As a Rule 5 pick, he must remain on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to his old team for $25,000. Back in the 2006 season, the Reds had double Rule 5 success with outfielder Josh Hamilton and reliever Jared Burton. In 2008, however, it did not work out when they nabbed reliever Sergio Valenzuela, who was sent back midway through Spring Training.