20.) Gavin LaValley – 3B
Date of Birth: 12/28/94
Height/Weight: 6’3/235 Pounds
Acquired: Drafted 4th round in 2014 out of HS
LaValley has a 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame and pairs it with tremendous bat speed, giving him the ability to hit for both average and power down the line. Currently, LaValley is a .270 hitter with 10 HR across 184 minor league games, and despite just four HR last season in A-ball, he did manage 29 doubles.
A fourth-round pick out of high school in 2014, LaValley was a former offensive lineman even bigger than his 235 pounds suggest now, and was drafted for his power potential, which is what his prospect status will ultimately hinge on. However, he is not an all-or-nothing hitter and should prove to be at least a solid hitter for average with a chance for more, but maybe the biggest question with LaValley is his ability to stay at third base. A below-average runner without an elite arm, he could be pushed to first base which will put an even bigger emphasis on the development of his bat. His season in 2016 should tell us a lot about his future.
19.) Jake Turnbull – C
Date of Birth: 2/16/98
Height/Weight: 6’0/195 Pounds
Acquired: International Free Agency in 2014
Quite possibly my favorite, most intriguing player on this list. A 16-year-old signed out of Australia, Turnbull spent his age-17 season last year with the Rookie-ball Reds in the Arizona League — a league where he was nearly three years younger than the league’s average age — and held his own hitting .291 with a .395 OBP with a 17/31 BB/K ratio. He did manage just one HR and seven extra-base hits in total, but Turnbull showed the above average hitting ability and an advanced approach that prompted the Reds to sign him in 2014.
His coach in the Australian Baseball League — when he was 16 years old — claimed Turnbull as having ‘the best swing he had ever seen in an Australian junior’ which sheds light on to the type of hitter Turnbull is and can be. Obviously, his power development will ultimately be key as he ascends through the system, but currently at 6-foot, 195 pounds, Turnbull is an athletic, projectable catcher who profiles to be a strong offensive player.
Still, he’s entering just his age-18 season and will be a fun guy to monitor in 2016.
18.) Blake Trahan – SS
Date of Birth: 9/5/93
Height/Weight: 5’9/180 Pounds
Acquired: Drafted 3rd round in 2015 out of college
Trahan is a speedy, defensive college infielder drafted in the third round of last season’s draft. This doesn’t scream elite, but defense is always a priority. The issue is that he doesn’t always play to his strengths.
First, Trahan struggles making consistent throws to first base, costing him some routine outs, although it should be easily correctable with time. Second, the speedy, nearly power-less infielder tries to find his inner Giancarlo Stanton much too often. With 30-grade power and just a 45-grade hit tool, Trahan hit just .114 in a short stint with high-A Daytona last season. However, if you pair that with his 47 games of Rookie-ball — a league in which he was 0.2 years older than the league’s average age — he hit .281 with an impressive 25/24 BB/K ratio but just 12 extra-base hits.
Ultimately, Trahan can make an impact being a speedy, slick-fielding shortstop, but if he doesn’t correct his approach, he could flame out in AA and be off this list a year from now. Just another quick reminder to be who you are, kids.
17.) Scott Schebler – OF
Date of Birth: 10/6/90
Height/Weight: 6’0/225 Pounds
Acquired: Trade with Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015
Schebler, at 6-foot, 225 pounds, doesn’t quite look the same as the 6-4, 260-pound Evan Gattis, but he has a similar game. Schebler is a strong lower-half hitter with solid raw power and strong forearms. The difference is that scouts liked Gattis’ actual raw power a little more than Schebler’s as he is prone to swinging with all arms due to, what scouts say is, mediocre bat speed. His swing can turn a bit into an uppercut, while he occasionally gets out on his front foot looking to compensate for his fringy bat speed.
With that said, Schebler hit 27 HR in 2013 before turning around in 2014 and swatting 28 HR, all with a .287 AVG. He plateaued a little bit in 2015 hitting just 13 HR with a .241 AVG in 121 AAA games before hitting three HR with a .250 AVG in 19 major league games.
Everything considered, Schebler is the same prospect he has always been. He consistently makes hard contact, moves fairly well for his size and should be at least a fourth outfielder with a chance to start in the corners if he proves his power to be genuine and can learn to survive the “good pitches.”
*An additional look at Schebler can be found at an earlier post where Jeff Snider looked at the Los Angeles Dodgers Top 20 Prospects earlier this offseason.
16.) Tyler Mahle – RHP
Date of Birth: 9/29/94
Height/Weight: 6’4/200 Pounds
Acquired: Drafted 7th round in 2013 out of HS
A seventh-round high-school selection in the 2013 draft, Mahle was given an over-slot deal because the Reds liked his projectable 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame. Across 54 minor league games (45 starts and 263 innings) Mahle sports a 2.84 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and an 8.1 K/9 — including a 2.43 ERA and a 1.5 BB/9 in his first year of A-ball last season. Mahle doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but his fastball sits in the low-90’s and he complements it with both a curveball and a slider. He adds in a decent changeup that he can throw for strikes, as is the case with all of his pitches, but his stuff plays up due to his pitchability and willingness to mix pitches and change speeds.
While Mahle isn’t projected as a dominant frontline starter, he has good stuff and more importantly understands how to use it. He won’t blow hitters away, but he will out-smart them and that should help him as he moves through the organization. Entering his age-21 season, it would be nice to see Mahle continue his development in high-A with an outside chance at AA, and if he can limit his hits-allowed — which appears to be his biggest downfall thus far — he could prove to be at least a back-of-the-rotation guy with a chance to be a No. 3. He’s a guy I wouldn’t bet against, but don’t expect Cincinnati’s next ace.