After the completion of the regular season and alternate training sites, most player development staffs have turned their attention to instructional league play. In the past, instructional leagues have been populated by new draftees, recent international signings and players at the bottom rungs of their organizational ladder. This year, in an attempt to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, it’s been expanded to include many more players. MLB Pipeline will be providing position-by-position reports from instructional league camps in Florida and Arizona.
Bryce Bonnin, RHP (No. 22 prospect); Manuel Cachutt, RHP; Tanner Cooper, RHP; Noah Davis, RHP (No. 26); Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP (No. 17); Alexander Johnson, RHP; Evan Kravetz, LHP; Miguel Medrano, RHP; Luis Mey, RHP; Dauri Moreta, RHP; Leo Nierenberg, RHP; Ryan Nutof, RHP; Riley O'Brien, RHP; Matt Pidich, RHP; Braxton Roxby, RHP; Eduardo Salazar, RHP; Johnnie Schneider, RHP; Carson Spiers, RHP; Jake Stevenson, RHP
The Reds took Bryce Bonnin out of Texas Tech in the third round of this year’s Draft in the hopes he could develop as a starter. They obviously couldn’t really see how he looked against competition until instructional league play started. He’s been even better than advertised.
“He’s pitched and competed well,” Reds farm director Shawn Pender said. “His stuff has been really good, up to 97-98 mph and he’s been throwing his slider for a strike.”
Outside the Top 30, a pair of arms have been making a very good impression. Eduardo Salazar, a 22-year-old from Venezuela who pitched for Class A Dayton in 2019, has been showing a mid-90s fastball and the ability to throw both his slider and changeup for strikes. And Luis Mey, a 2018 international signee who is just 19 years old and has yet to officially pitch in the United States, is really opening some eyes.
“He’s been up to 96 mph here when I’ve seen him,” said Pender, who added that Mey is probably a good two inches taller than his listed 6-foot-2. “He’s projectable and has started to throw his breaking ball for strikes and is throwing his changeup some. He slows his arm down some on his secondary stuff, but he’s taken a nice step forward.”
Luke Berryhill; Daniel Vellojin; Garrett Wolforth; Eric Yang
No. 14 prospect Jackson Miller, the club’s Competitive Balance Round B pick in 2020, was supposed to be the top backstop at instructs, but was forced to stay home because of illness.
Eric Yang was a seventh-round pick in 2019 out of UC-Santa Barbara and had a solid pro debut in the Pioneer League last summer, putting up an .848 OPS and showing solid skills behind the plate. That’s what has really stood out for the 22-year-old in Arizona this fall.
“Yang’s been really consistent, done a good job of managing the game, staying with the pitching staff and doing the little things,” Pender said.
A pair of 2019 draftees have really stood out from this group, starting with Rece Hinds. The club’s second-round pick out of IMG Academy in Florida a year ago, Hinds barely got his pro career started last summer because a quad injury limited him to a handful of games. He’s now showing what the fuss was all about.
“Hinds has shown why he was a second-round pick as far as his athleticism and his power,” Pender said. “He’s developing well offensively.”
Also on the left side of the infield has been Ivan Johnson, the fourth-round pick from 2019 out of Chipola Junior College. A minor leg injury kept him from playing defensively at the start, but he’s been getting reps at shortstop lately. However, it’s his offensive potential that has people buzzing.
“He’s swung the bat well from the left side,” Pender said. “He might outgrow shortstop, but he has enough bat to play someplace else.”
Pender also wanted to shine a light on Gus Steiger, one of the Reds’ undrafted free agents from this year’s class. The South Dakota State product has played a good shortstop with a high baseball IQ and excellent contact skills at the plate.
The three Top 30 prospects in this crop have “all played like the interesting names that they are,” according to Pender. But there’s no doubt that 2020 first-rounder Austin Hendrick has turned the most heads, especially as the organization is still getting to know him.
“For a 19-year-old Northeast kid, he’s swung the bat well,” Pender said. “He has tremendous power and bat speed. He’s a really hard worker. He has work to do on his defense and baserunning and he’s already made strides while here.”
Like with the infielders, there’s an undrafted free agent who has made a name for himself: Jacob Hurtubise. A product of Army who was selected in the 39th round of the 2019 Draft by the Mariners, Hurtubise graduated in 2020 as the school and Patriot League leader in stolen bases and walks. He’s brought that skill set with him to instructs after signing in July.
“This kid can absolutely fly,” Pender said. “You have to see it to believe it. He has a motor that never stops. He’s been fun to watch, not just because he can run. He knows what he needs to do to be good with his game. It’s a good pickup for us.”