Three years ago the Reds were winning the National League Central with 97 wins and prospects appeared to be merely trade-bait for the next crucial piece to put them over the postseason hump. Instead, Cincinnati slowly declined before plummeting to the second-worst record in baseball last season, finally, as some fans would say, prompting a rebuild. Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake were traded midseason, while the offseason has been highlighted by the trades of all-stars Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman. The team also attempted to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips to the Nationals before the Gold Glove-winner used his no-trade clause to reject the deal. Simply put, these prospects have a bit more meaning now and the Reds are slowly beginning to recuperate their lower-level talent.
The system still features a couple of promising young players at the top who are knocking on Cincinnati’s door, but whether it be via recent trades, or a new found willingness to take projectable upside players in the draft as opposed to the guy with the easiest signability, the Reds minor league system features some sneaky depth, especially on the mound.
The Reds are still thought to be shopping Phillips along with Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, so the Redlegs appear to be serious about this rebuild — especially considering they rolled with a five-man rotation of rookies for nearly the entire latter half of the season. With that said, Cincinnati has a handful of prospects who are close to the majors, along with an array of others who are beginning to make their way through the system. Billy Hamilton is looked upon as a young piece to build around, although some are torn on whether he’ll ever hit enough to be the impact leadoff guy the Reds are hoping he can be, and with former All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco, shortstop Zack Cozart and now-ace Homer Bailey all returning from injury, the Reds may not fall completely off the cliff as they did in 2015. However, a series of new trades and slow development for its youngsters could have Cincinnati with another top-three pick in next year’s draft.
Anyway, here’s a peek at 20 of those players who will decide the Reds’ fate in 2016 and beyond.