2020 Prospect Opportunities — Reds

Today, we continue along in the National League Central to discuss potential opportunities for prospects to earn starting jobs at positions currently manned by a player at risk of losing his job if his poor play continues. We’ll move on with the Reds. The team benefits well from the addition of the DH, as it helps alleviate the logjam of outfielders and offers more playing time opportunities to players that deserve them.

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National League Prospect Opportunities
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Phillies Reds Rockies

C
At Risk: Tucker Barnhart
Replacement: Tyler Stephenson

Tucker Barnhart has been the Reds’ starting catcher four straight seasons now and has generally delivered a wOBA around .300. However, his strikeout rate jumped for a second straight seasons and finished above 20% for the first time last year. Driving that was a spike in SwStk% to double digits for the first time as well. That’s not good for a hitter whose career BABIP sits around the league average and only mustered a .149 ISO, which set a new career high. The skills now are solid enough, but there’s enough warning signs to make him at risk of losing his job.

Tyler Stephenson is the team’s top prospect, but has yet to play above Double-A, so he’s probably a long shot to actually make his MLB debut this season. That said, he’s shown excellent plate discipline, with double digit walk rates three seasons running, a strikeout rate between 16% and 17% in two of his last three minor league stints (including 2019 at Double-A), and a SwStk% that has declined at every single stop, ending at just 8.2%. He also has a fly ball tilt, but that would matter more if he was able to turn those flies into homers at a double digit clip, something he has never done. What’s interesting is he owns 65 grade Raw Power, which is near elite, but only 40 grade current Game Power. His highest ISO sits at just .142. Given his on-base skills, he doesn’t need to hit for a lot of power to be valuable to the Reds, but he’ll need to hit for some power to be valuable to fantasy owners.

SS
At Risk: Freddy Galvis
Replacement: No one

Freddy Galvis has been solid enough in recent years, posting a WAR around 1.5 in four of his last five seasons. But with poor plate discipline and an increasing strikeout rate coinciding with a surge in SwStk%, there’s downside risk to his offense. Of course, he owns a career .290 wOBA, which is poor, and all projection systems forecast a return to that level, after a career high wOBA of .307 last year. His UZR/150 has also been negative the last two seasons, so it’s not like his defense will keep his leash long.

Luckily for Galvis, the Reds don’t have any upper level prospects to replace him at shortstop should he fail. Alex Blandino might earn some PAs, but he’s not appealing in fantasy leagues.

SP
At Risk: Wade Miley
Replacement: Jose De Leon

Wade Miley has managed to handily outperform his SIERA for two straight seasons. But this isn’t an inherent skill, as his career ERA is almost identical to his career SIERA. Did he suddenly learn something at age 31 when this all started? Highly unlikely. So we’re left with a pitcher with a weak strikeout rate and only league average walk rate who relies on his defense to convert all those balls in play into outs. The randomness over a small sample of BABIP means he’s at great risk of torpedoing your fantasy team’s ratios and the Reds’ chances of winning the games he starts.

Remember Jose De Leon?! The Reds acquired him from the Rays back in late 2019 after he missed all of 2018 due to TJ surgery and had been plagued by arm injuries. He’s a former top prospect who has posted excellent strikeout rates in the minors. Walks could be an issue, though, as his walk rate has sat in double digits during every stint he has had since 2017 at High-A. That’s not surprising, since he hadn’t pitched a whole lot and probably was never fully healthy. It’s a small sample, but during his time in the Majors, his four-seam fastball, changeup, and slider all generated double digit SwStk% marks. He’s the ultimate speculation.

We hoped you liked reading 2020 Prospect Opportunities — Reds by Mike Podhorzer!

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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It’s also worth noting that DeLeon’s fastball velocity finally returned this spring. Logic would state that Tyler Mahle would be the #6 starter, but if DeLeon shows enough command, the Reds may have gotten a steal.