'That’s just who they are': Cincinnati Reds encouraged by prospects throughout spring
GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The Cincinnati Reds won’t have many rookies on their Opening Day roster, but the organization caught a glimpse of the future throughout the spring.
Elly De La Cruz showed he can do things nobody else can do, particularly the way he runs the bases. Christian Encarnacion-Strand impressed with his power to all fields. Matt McLain showed he’s not far from the big leagues with the way he crushes fastballs.
Then there is the energy from guys who are even further away from the majors. Last week infield prospect Carlos Jorge, who spent last year in rookie ball, helped jumpstart a four-run rally in the ninth inning for a spring training comeback win by beating out an infield single with a headfirst slide into first base.
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“That’s how they play,” said Shawn Pender, the Reds’ farm director. “That’s just who they are. I know we say this all the time, but that’s something you scout and sign, not something you teach. When you have guys like that around, it makes the other guys see and feel that energy too."
The Reds committed to a complete rebuild last spring when they started trading veteran players off their roster. They had a fire sale at the trade deadline, swapping five veteran players for 11 prospects.
Spencer Steer made his Major League debut last September, the only prospect the Reds acquired who was at Triple-A, and the Reds should have more prospects graduate to the majors at some point this summer. The organization will exercise patience with player development, but the next wave of prospects will have a chance to prove themselves in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had our own players at the upper levels,” Pender said. “From that standpoint, we should be more competitive there because it’s more of our own guys. Now I will tell you that we’re sending some guys probably to Triple-A that will be a challenge in a way that probably Triple-A hasn’t been for us for a while. There will be some guys that will probably struggle early, but it’s where they should be for the challenge that they need.”
As a result of entering a rebuild, the Reds have more depth throughout their farm system. From Baseball America’s rankings, nine of their top 10 prospects were acquired in the last 12 months.
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The Reds may have more talent at shortstop than any farm system from De La Cruz and McLain in the upper levels to Edwin Arroyo, who is expected to be the everyday starter in High-A. Noelvi Marte, acquired in the Luis Castillo trade like Arroyo, will spend more time at third base in Double-A.
“Of all the kids, (Arroyo’s) personality is the one that has changed the most,” Pender said. “He’s now more outgoing. He’s not nearly as reserved. He’s more confident in approaching staff and players. He knows the layout of the place. He’s been the one, from a youth standpoint and (the trade) probably affected him the most.”
Even if the Reds are starting almost all their prospects in the minor leagues to begin the season, the front office was encouraged by what it saw throughout camp.
“Look, we have more athletes,” Pender said. “There is more energy with athletes because they can do more athletic things. Better plays. More energy on the bases. They have the toolset to be first-to-third runners, those kinds of things. It’s been really positive.”
Minor league updates
More news and notes from minor league camp:
➤ Chase Petty, the top pitching prospect in the organization according to Baseball America’s rankings, will be delayed in his start to the season because of an injury.
If Petty progresses as expected, he’s scheduled to debut at the end of April or early May. Petty, 19, finished last season at High-A Dayton.
“He’s another one who is growing,” Pender said. “He’s always been such a good athlete, you have to build his arm up so he can get stretched out. He’s going to be on an innings count, so him starting a little late might get him all the way to the end of the season where we don’t have to slow burn him because he’ll get to his innings at the end.”
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The Reds acquired Petty from Minnesota in the Sonny Gray trade last spring. He had a 3.48 ERA between Low-A and High-A with 96 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings.
➤ Righthanded pitcher Joe Boyle will continue to be stretched out as a starter. Boyle is one of the more tantalizing prospects in the organization. He gave up only 46 hits in 23 starts between High-A and Double-A last year, and he struck out 153 batters in 100 2/3 innings.
The issue is his command. He walked 84 batters last season, nearly one per inning. The upside is he’s nearly unhittable when he throws strikes.
“It’s going to make him throw some more changeups, some more secondary stuff,” Pender said of keeping Boyle as a starter. “It just forces him to learn to pitch more. I don’t think the stuff is ever going to go away, so at some point, if we eliminate (a pitch), he becomes a power reliever with a two-pitch mix and maybe a couple of changeups to a lefty.”
➤ Two trade acquisitions from last year’s trade deadline, center fielder Héctor Rodriguez (Tyler Naquin trade) and righty reliever Andrew Moore (Luis Castillo) could miss the first half of the season because of injuries.
Rodriguez, 19, broke his leg sliding into second base on a double play at the end of last season for Low-A Daytona. He’s running in front of trainers and taking batting practice during minor league camp, but the Reds plan to be cautious with his recovery.
“We’re going to have to watch that one just because of the injury and the fact he’s a speed guy,” Pender said.
Moore, 23, struggled after he was traded to the Reds. With Seattle, he struck out 58 and walked 17 in 32 1/3 innings while posting a 1.95 ERA in Low-A and throwing his fastball in the upper-90s.
➤ Bryce Bonnin, the Reds’ third-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, is expected to miss the entire 2023 season with a shoulder injury. The 24-year-old Bonnin made six appearances (five starts) at Dayton last year with a 2.52 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 25 innings.
➤ The Reds’ top two picks from last year’s draft, infielders Cam Collier and Sal Stewart, are expected to begin the season at Daytona. Collier, 18, figures to be one of the youngest players in the Florida State League.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Reds encouraged by prospects throughout spring training