Pipeline names Reds Prospects of the Year

September 19th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Reds outfielder had a breakout 2019 season for Triple-A Louisville, but he really turned the corner in the latter half of 2018. Left-handed pitching prospect Packy Naughton, on the other hand, endured a challenging ’18, learned from the experience and made big leaps.

MLB Pipeline named O’Grady as the Reds organization’s Minor League Player of the Year, while Naughton earned Pitcher of the Year honors. Each team's hitting and pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.

O’Grady, 27, was an eighth-round selection out of Rutgers University in the 2014 MLB Draft, and he hit 14 home runs in 2018 between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville. This season, he batted .280 with a .909 OPS, 28 homers and 77 RBIs in 112 games for Louisville.

“Pitchers started having to come into the strike zone more to him,” said Shawn Pender, the Reds’ vice president of player development. “The power has always been there, but it just didn’t show itself in games the way I think anyone would like. What he’s done offensively is just take advantage of hitters’ counts, as good hitters do as they start to develop. He’s learned to look for his pitch and not miss it when he gets that opportunity. When he’s in positive counts, he’s a dangerous hitter and has been able to maximize that.”

Louisville named O’Grady and outfielder Aristides Aquino as its co-Most Valuable Players. Aquino, who burst onto the big league scene for Cincinnati last month, was not eligible for the MLB Pipeline award because he wasn’t in the Top 30 list of prospects in 2019.

When he was struggling as a Double-A hitter in 2017, O’Grady credited Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and Milt Thompson with finding an adjustment. He added a leg kick and opened his hips to take away any lefty swing vulnerability on the inside part of the strike zone.

“Ever since then, that's been the ground mark with tiny tweaks here and there,” O’Grady said earlier this month. “I don't really stride as close as I would then. That's still kind of the thought, but for whatever reason, that keeps me more in direct line with the ball and be able to use the whole field and drive the ball better.”

O’Grady made his Major League debut on Aug. 8 and has played center field, left field and first base for Cincinnati.

Naughton, 23, was a ninth-round pick from Virginia Tech in 2017, and he didn’t have a standout year during his first full pro season in ’18. He was 5-10 with a 4.03 ERA in 28 starts and 154 innings for Class A Dayton.

Beginning 2019 in Class A Advanced Daytona, Naughton was 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA in nine starts before being bumped up to Double-A Chattanooga, where he was 6-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 19 starts. Combined at the two stops, he pitched 157 innings with 35 walks and 131 strikeouts.

“I don’t think there was any hesitation in moving him up to Double-A,” Pender said. “He certainly showed that he was going to be capable there. His biggest thing is pitch ability and competitiveness. He just knows how. He has a good combination with a three-pitch mix and a feel for everything, and [he is] an athlete and thinker on the mound. I’m sure he will be pressing us to get to Triple-A next year.”