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
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. -- Reds farm director Jeff Graupe stands on a back field watching a very talented group of prospects that includes Nick Senzel, Taylor Trammell, Tyler Stephenson and Alfredo Rodriguez, take batting practice, and he can't help but smile just a little bit.
• Reds' Top 30 Prospects list
It's not just from that hitting group, though it was a particularly talented one. Cincinnati has one of the best and deepest farm systems in baseball, coming in at No. 9 overall according to MLBPipeline.com. One of the biggest contributors to the rise in rankings was the trio the Reds got at the top of the 2016 Draft, all of whom are currently participating in their first Spring Training.
:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::
Senzel went No. 2 overall and is the team's No. 1 prospect. No. 5 prospect Trammell went 33 picks later and Chris Okey went in the second round, eight picks later, and comes in at No. 13. That's three members of Cincinnati's Top 15 taken in the top 43 picks of the Draft.
"When they showed up, you knew what you were getting," Graupe said of the trio. "All three of those kids are really good kids, too. Their physical tools are incredible as well. Nick is a way better athlete than he gets credit for being, whereas Taylor is a way smarter player than he gets credit for being. Okey is the grinder who shows up every day, with that catcher's makeup. We're excited to add all of them to the system."
Not that this is a new process for Graupe and the player development staff. They've grown accustomed to preparing a new cadre of talent from the Draft every year. Perhaps it's not always as high profile a group as Senzel, Trammell and Okey, but it is the primary way the organization continues to acquire talent. Even with some of the rebuilding type trades made over the past couple of years, 19 of the Reds' Top 30 came via the Draft.
"Our department has a great working relationship with Chris Buckley and his staff," Graupe said about Cincinnati's scouting director. "I give a ton of credit to those guys. I think they've outperformed their Draft position almost every year. Like with everybody, you have a couple bumps in the road, but they've put in really good pieces for our staff to work with.
"When you have coaches from Barry Larkin to Eric Davis to Mario Soto to Billy Doran every spring, you're able to make guys better. They've given us players with makeup who want to get better. That's a pretty good combo."
• Q&A with Taylor Trammell
Garrett, Winker ready to bang down door
Amir Garrett and Jesse Winker, Nos. 2 and 3 in the Top 30, are also original draftees of the Reds. Garrett came back in 2011, with Winker a year later. Both spent considerable time in Triple-A last year, that proverbial phone call away. Garrett was already on the 40-man roster, Winker would be added during the offseason, yet neither was brought up in September.
"I think both guys wanted to be there, and I'm sure both feel they earned it," Graupe said. "Just with the circumstances with where our Major League team was, it just wasn't the right combo. But both guys are ready to push for the Opening Day roster, and they're going to be given every chance to compete for it."
Winker has been doing his usual thing, hitting for average (6-for-20) over his first 10 Cactus League games. Garrett has thrown well in his two outings, allowing one run in 4 2/3 innings. Graupe has seen each steadily climb through the system, each having to conquer the organizational ladder a rung at a time to get to this point, and he thinks neither will be denied.
"They're hungry and they're ready," Graupe said. "Jesse had the best offseason of his career. I think he truly dedicated himself to breaking through and staying. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do in 2017.
"Amir is one of the most competitive people I've ever met in any walk of life. He's right there, he wants it, he's champing at the bit. I think he's going to be very difficult to stop."
Graupe pointed to a pair of 2015 draftees, first-rounder Stephenson and second-round selection Tony Santillan, as guys the front office think are poised to take large steps forward. Both are coming off of up-and-down first full seasons of pro ball in 2016.
Stephenson never was able to get himself going in Dayton because of injuries, first a concussion then a wrist issue. His 2016 season gets a mulligan and he was in camp early and looked good swinging the bat early on.
"I think Tyler's going to have a big year," Graupe said. "He's fully healthy and he's ready to go."
Santillan threw well in the Pioneer League, then got bumped up to full-season Dayton and hit a speed bump. Graupe sees his season as a success, especially going back to the start of his year when Santillan got good work in during extended Spring Training.
"Unfortunately, the world doesn't get to see what he's doing in extended," Graupe said. "He had a great April and May, did really well up in Billings, then battled some back tightness in Dayton that hurt his command. He's made a good adjustment over the winter. I think he's going to be better for it.
"Those are two guys who put the work in this winter, they look great. I think they learned some good lessons last year that are going to serve them well moving forward."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.