Aussie signee signals new tactics for Reds

Scouts Down Under make impact with southpaw acquisition

January 18th, 2022
Scout Donald Lutz (left) with Ben Walmsley.

CINCINNATI -- Among the dozen players the Reds have added since the start of international signing day on Saturday was one from a nation the organization has rarely mined successfully.

It obviously remains to be seen if 17-year-old left-handed pitcher Ben Walmsley will pan out. But the club is hopeful it can expand its footprint Down Under as evidenced by recently adding former outfielder Donald Lutz as a scout. Lutz, who was the first German-developed player to play in the Major Leagues, also starred in Australia during winter ball.

“We hired Lutz just before Christmas as a new area scout in Australia because of his experience with the Reds, and he’s a big name down there,” said Trey Hendricks, the Reds' director of international scouting. “He’s living in Brisbane. He reached out to us and expressed interest in getting into scouting. We had a spot for him, so we’re excited to have Donald.”

The Reds already have scout Matt Everingham working in Australia, and Boomer Prinstein as an international crosschecker who covers the region, including to see Walmsley. But the organization only has room for a limited number of players on its short-season affiliate teams.

“We have to be very thoughtful on the players we sign,” Hendricks said. “We have one team in the Dominican Summer League and one team in Arizona. We can’t sign the volume of players that some other teams can, [clubs] that have two teams in the D.R. and two in either Arizona or Florida.”

Walmsley (right) with his parents (top) and Lutz.

Walmsley was a player the Reds have eyed for a long time. Only 33 native Australians have reached the Major Leagues, according to Baseball Reference.

“Our local scout was providing us constant information, even during the tough times of the pandemic,” Hendricks said. “Nobody could even get there. Interstate travel in Australia was shut down for a long time. Definitely it was a challenge evaluating Ben, like other Australian players, the last two years. But this is one we identified early, stayed on and it worked out.

“We’re going to give him a chance to start. He’s up to 91 mph with his fastball. He’s got above-average deception. He hides the ball well and he’s got encouraging potential with his secondary offerings. They’re still developing but he has the feel of spinning his breaking ball and he’s still working on his changeup. He has a low-mileage arm in Australia that doesn’t get the innings or wear-and-tear that you might find in Latin America sometimes. We like the upside.”

Reds pleased to land prized Venezuelan shortstops

On Saturday, the Reds kicked off the signing period by inking 17-year-old Ricardo Cabrera, a Venezuelan shortstop ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 3 international prospect.

“Industry-wide, he’s well known and has been for years,” Hendricks said. “He was showcasing at a very early age against older competition. He always stood out, not only physically but also the way he swung the bat. He really impacts the ball. He’s got an advanced approach for his age. We expect big things from Ricardo. He expects it of himself, too.”

Cabrera also profiled well defensively and has a chance to remain at shortstop as he climbs his way up within the organization.

“He’s got the actions, hands and footwork that you look for in a shortstop,” Hendricks said. “He’s got above-average arm strength right now for his age. We clocked him at 93 mph from shortstop. But if he’s forced to move off of shortstop, we think he has the offensive profile to play third base, second base or wherever he ends up.”

A second Venezuelan shortstop, Anthuan Valencia, was also signed. Valencia was ranked at No. 32.

“He was a little bit more under the radar than Cabrera. He didn’t leave Venezuela to showcase like a lot of [other] Venezuelan players do,” Hendricks said. “Certainly a talented kid. He has a really good chance to stick at shortstop. He doesn’t have the size or power that Cabrera has right now, but he is very competitive in the box and puts together good at-bats. He can spray line drives from gap to gap. We’ve given him the nickname, ‘El Capitan,’ because he’s very vocal and energetic. He gets his teammates going and leads by example.”

Other signings

The Reds also signed outfielder Esmith Pineda, ranked at No. 49, for $800,000. Pineda, who is from Panama, starred as a pitcher in the 2016 Little League World Series.

And Adrian Reyes, an outfielder the Reds signed from the Dominican Republic, could have an impact bat.

“He’s a big, strong, switch-hitting corner guy,” Hendricks said. “He’s got the arm to play right field. He has a chance to have huge power in the future.”

Lisnerkin Lantigua and Nelfri Payano are a pair of right-handed pitchers also signed from the Dominican Republic.

“Both of them [have] three-pitch [mixes], starter traits,” Hendricks said. “Both of them have been up to 93 [mph] at 17 years old. Both were former position players. Lantigua was an outfielder and has been pitching for about two years. Peyano was a shortstop and has been pitching for about a year now. Both of them will be in our DSL rotation.”

Among other additions were shortstop Jesús Correa from Colombia, outfielder Carlos Sanchez from the Dominican Republic, catcher Henry Guerrero and right-handed pitcher Joneiker Arellano from Venezuela and right-handed pitcher David Lorduy out of Colombia.

“We added some guys we think are going to be impact-caliber players,” Hendricks said. “It’s a slow burn with some of these guys -- they’re 16-17 years old. It will take some time in the Minor Leagues, but these are really talented kids.”