Reds aim to develop homegrown talent in spring
Left fielder Winker, righty Stephenson to start '15 in big league camp
CINCINNATI -- Try as they might sometimes, small-market clubs in the Major Leagues can't outspend big-market clubs. For a team like the Reds to keep their window of contention open as long as possible, it requires some reliance on the player development system and having young players blend almost seamlessly with established veterans each season.
Over recent years, homegrown talent has filled the Reds' 25-man roster -- from Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto beginning several years ago to Billy Hamilton last year.
Who will be part of the next wave? As part of MLB.com's multi-part series previewing Spring Training before it opens on Feb. 18, the prospects to watch are in focus.
Here are few prospects to keep an eye on at Reds camp:
LF Jesse Winker: Rated by MLB.com as the organization's No. 2 prospect and No. 26 overall in baseball, Winker will be in big league camp for the first time as a non-roster invite. A 21-year-old lefty hitter that reached Double-A last season, he is widely viewed as a possible part of the 2016 lineup. He was on his way to a strong year in 2014 before a July car accident left him with a sprained ligament in his right wrist and out for the season. Winker returned for the Arizona Fall League fully recovered and led the league in hitting, however.
RHP Robert Stephenson: The Reds' No. 1 prospect (24th overall) will be back for his second big league camp as a non-roster player. A power pitcher, the 21-year-old Stephenson went through some struggles last season at Double-A Pensacola as he was prone to both allowing home runs and some control issues. With Cueto a possible free-agent departure after 2015, this could be a big year for Stephenson to improve and get himself ready for a possible 2016 Major League debut.
RHP Michael Lorenzen: A power pitcher like Stephenson that can bring fastballs into the upper 90s, Lorenzen is the Reds' No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com. Although still projected as a starter who had a nice year in Pensacola with a 3.13 ERA in 24 starts, the former college closer has the stuff to be a successful reliever right away if the Reds chose to go that route.
RHP Nick Howard: The Reds' 2014 top Draft pick, taken 19th overall, is the No. 4 prospect in the organization. This will be Howard's first Spring Training as a pro and it will be in big league camp as a non-roster invite after he pitched in 11 games for Class A Dayton last season after signing.
RHP Nick Travieso: Cincinnati's first-round Draft pick in 2012 and its No. 9 prospect last year, Travieso will be in big league camp for the first time as a non-roster invite. Another power arm in the system, he had a 3.04 ERA in 26 starts last season for Dayton.
LHP Amir Garrett: Added to the 40-man roster in the fall, Garrett gave up trying to be a two-sport player when he dropped college basketball and went all-in on baseball last year. Improvement came quickly, especially in the second half for Dayton last year, when he posted a 2.86 ERA over his final 14 starts. Garrett is the Reds' No. 19-ranked prospect.