Is there another Aristides Aquino out there?

August 14th, 2019

After winning Reds Minor League player of the year honors in 2016, Aristides Aquino stalled mightily in Double-A during the next two seasons. He did slam 37 homers in 245 games at Penascola, but he batted an overall .227/.293/.421 and fell out of the Reds' Top 30 Prospects list.

While Aquino had impressive raw power and arm strength, he looked doomed to become just another toolsy prospect waylaid by an inability to make quality contact. The Reds removed the outfielder from their 40-man roster last November and non-tendered him, though they re-signed him to a Minor League contract the next day.

Adopting an exaggerated open stance this spring has made a world of difference for Aquino, who spent the first four months of this season batting .299/.356/.636 with 28 homers in 78 Triple-A games. Called to Cincinnati on Aug. 1 after Yasiel Puig went to the Indians in the Trevor Bauer trade, "The Punisher" became the first big leaguer ever to deliver eight homers in his first 12 games, including three in one contest against the Cubs.

Are there other prospects who have yet to prove they can hit for average but still have a chance to make an impact in the Majors? Here are 10 to consider:

Luis Alexander Basabe, OF, White Sox No. 9 prospect: Outside of Luis Robert, Basabe has the best all-around tools among Chicago's deep collection of Minor League outfielders. He's a solid center fielder with plus raw power, speed and arm strength, but he has batted just .243/.337/.377 since the Red Sox included him in the Chris Sale trade in December 2016.

Will Benson, OF, Indians No. 18 prospect: He led the low Class A Midwest League with 22 homers and ranked third with 82 walks in 2018, but Benson also struck out 152 times and his .180 batting average was the second-lowest among full-season qualifiers in the Minors. The 14th overall pick in the 2016 Draft has drawn comparisons to Jason Heyward for his athleticism and hit .272/.371/.604 in his return to the MWL this year -- but just .192/.301/.333 since a promotion to high Class A in June.

Jazz Chisholm, SS, Marlins No. 4 prospect/MLB No. 58: Acquired at the Trade Deadline for Zac Gallen, Chisholm led all Minor League shortstops with 25 homers and was one of the more electric players in the Arizona Fall League in 2018. He has 20 homers this year in Double-A, but he's batting just .213/.312/.440 with a 33 percent strikeout rate at that level and has a 30 percent whiff rate in pro ball.

Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Red Sox No. 2 prospect: Though he's a career .250 hitter in full season ball and batted .234 in Double-A before a promotion to Triple-A two weeks ago, Dalbec may be the most big league-ready player on this list (albeit one blocked by Rafael Devers). He has some of the best power in the Minors, continues to improve his walk and strikeout rates and plays a fine third base.

Kameron Misner, OF, Marlins No. 10 prospect: Misner had the best all-around tools among college players in the 2019 Draft, yet he lasted 35 picks because he batted just .222 with 39 strikeouts in 30 Southeastern Conference games. A center fielder with 30-30 upside, he has hit .247/.370/.371 with 24 whiffs in his first 22 pro games.

Corey Ray, OF, Brewers No. 4 prospect: The fifth overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Ray struggled in his first two pro seasons but broke out with 27 homers and 37 steals in 2018 despite batting .239 with 176 strikeouts in Double-A. A hand injury has contributed to a .169/.248/.282 line in 36 Triple-A games this year, dropping his career average to .235 with a 30 percent strikeout rate.

Buddy Reed, OF, Padres No. 28 prospect: Reed's raw power, speed, center-field defense and arm all grade as plus tools or better, yet he has been handicapped by his lack of plate discipline. He has batted .213/.284/.333 with 13 homers, 37 steals and 167 strikeouts in 148 Double-A games during the last two seasons.

Jake Rogers, C, Tigers No. 7 prospect: Some clubs considered Rogers the best defensive prospect in the 2016 Draft, yet he lasted three rounds because he hit .233/.333/.309 in three years at Tulane. Part of the Justin Verlander trade with the Astros in August 2017, he has batted .229 since the deal but should have at least a Jeff Mathis career because he has outstanding throwing and receiving skills as well as some raw power.

Zack Short, SS/2B, Cubs No. 9 prospect: A 17th-round sleeper out of Sacred Heart (Conn.) in the 2016 Draft, Short provides solid raw power, speed, arm strength and middle-infield defense. He's a career .238 hitter in pro ball but mitigates that by drawing walks at a 16 percent rate, yielding a .375 on-base percentage.

Jose Siri, OF, Reds No. 15 prospect: Siri has better all-around tools than organizationmate Aquino, flashing what he might become in 2017 when he hit 24 homers, stole 46 bases and set a Midwest League record with a 39-game hitting streak. However, he has batted just .237/.304/.412 in the upper Minors the last two years.