Top 5 Prospects for 2015: Cincinnati Reds

This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.

In a Nutshell: The Reds’ left-field picture currently looks like a dog’s breakfast and I remain (perhaps in the minority) a non-believer in Billy Hamilton as an impact starter in the outfield. The infield is more or less set for Cincinnati. No team has too much pitching, so there is always a need there…

The Top 5 Freshman for 2015

1. Jesse Winker, OF: Missed time in 2014 slowed Winker’s timetable but he still has a shot at receiving meaningful at-bats for the Reds in 2015. The club currently has a gaping hole in left field and a trade of Jay Bruce could create another hole in right field. He offers strong on-base skills and solid power potential. A left-handed hitter, he handled southpaws very well in 2014, which bodes well for playing time projections.

2. Michael Lorenzen, RHP: The Reds have a stacked starting rotation but, much like in 2014, injuries are bound to rear their ugly heads, and Lorenzen should be one of the first arms recalled. With experience as both a starter and a reliever in pro ball and college, his versatility should allow him to quickly settle into any role necessary. His command isn’t as strong as his control but he should hold his own in The Show in 2015 and has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.

3. Ben Lively, RHP: Lively, 22, doesn’t have the most overwhelming stuff but he attacks the strike zone with a solid array of pitches and his delivery creates natural deception, which helps his stuff play up. In 151.0 combined innings between High-A and Double-A in 2014, the right-hander allowed just 117 hits and struck out 171 batters. The biggest concern with Lively is the fly-ball heavy approach that he adopted last year.

4. Robert Stephenson, RHP: Stephenson has a higher ceiling than both Lorenzen and Lively but he needs more polish — especially in the command department. Dominating when he’s on, the right-hander allowed just 114 hits with 140 strikeouts in 136.2 innings at the Double-A level in 2014 but he issued 74 free passes. When things click for this 21-year-old hurler, he could develop into a No. 2 hurler.

5. Tucker Barnhart, C: Barnhart, 23, is more valuable in real life baseball than fantasy because his main skills are defense and makeup. He’s the kind of catcher who should make those pitching to him better. Barnhart won’t embarrass himself at the plate because he makes consistent contact but his bat lacks pop.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

newest oldest most voted

Some people were calling Stephenson a 70 grade prospect at the beginning of the year, right? Is he a top 5 pitching prospect based on raw stuff if the HR/9 and BB% dip back down, or is the no2 projection already based on that potential?