In part one of our comparison of the rebuilds the Cubs have pulled off and the Reds are attempting, we established that the clubs have a few similarities despite being built in different ways – and occupying opposite ends of the National League Central standings.
The respective lineups in Cincinnati and Chicago are not that far apart in age, but the Cubs boast a larger contingent of top talents.
Of course the Reds’ roster might look a lot different by the end of this month. They still have a piece or two (maybe more) that could be moved, and many of the organization’s best young prospects are not in the major leagues yet.
The National League’s top-scoring lineup includes three everyday players (Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Addison Russell) who were once first-round draft picks and two players (Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler) who became highly regarded prospects after signing as Latin American free agents.
Anthony Rizzo (sixth round), Ben Zobrist (sixth round) and Dexter Fowler (14th round) all worked their way up to being All-Star-caliber players despite not being quite so highly regarded early on.
Beyond the current regulars, Chicago also has gotten contributions from youngsters Willson Contreras, an international signing, and first-round talents Javier Baez and Albert Almora this season. They will hope to add another first-rounder, catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber from Middletown, back to the mix next season after he recovers from a serious knee injury.
A look at various top prospects lists for the Reds reveals players who fit all of three categories – high draft picks, accomplished international prospects and potential diamonds-in-the-rough.
Third baseman Eugenio Suarez and utility man Jose Peraza were both international signings. Peraza was the top prospect for the Braves two years ago per Baseball America, and Suarez was the Tigers’ No. 7 prospect before he broke into the big leagues.
Joining them on the current 25-man roster is Billy Hamilton, a 25-year-old who was a second-round pick out of high school.
The Reds also planned to have a first-rounder behind the plate this season, but catcher Devin Mesoraco is out with his second-consecutive season-ending injury.
Lurking in Triple-A Louisville is outfielder Jesse Winker while fellow first-rounders Phil Ervin and Alex Blandino are still in Double-A Pensacola. Ervin is an outfielder while Blandino plays shortstop for the Blue Wahoos.
The Reds also have players who could defy their draft spots sooner or later and become productive major leaguers, a group headlined by Adam Duvall. The 2016 All-Star reserve was just an 11th-round pick out of the University of Louisville. He won a spring training battle for the left field job over Scott Schebler, a 26th-round pick who was among the Dodgers top 10 prospects two years ago.
Schebler has spent the season in Triple-A, where he has shared the outfield with Kyle Waldrop, a 12th-round pick, and the Bats’ pitching rotation is topped by players from each end of the draft spectrum. Righty Robert Stephenson was a first-round pick while standout lefty Amir Garrett went in the 22nd round, likely because he was still intending to pursue a college basketball career.
Pitching may yet be a trump card for the Reds when all is said and done. They have first-rounder Homer
Bailey rehabbing from elbow surgery and another first rounder in the rotation in Brandon Finnegan.
First-rounder Michael Lorenzen is in the bullpen along with Raisel Iglesias, another international signing who has displayed great potential.
While Stephenson and Garrett are just a step from the majors, 2012 first-round pick Nick Travieso is part of a Pensacola rotation with Rookie Davis, who was the Yankees’ No. 6 prospect last year despite being just a 14th-round pick.
All in all, the Reds organization appears to lack the measurable high-end talent the Cubs have both in the majors and the higher minor leagues when it comes to position players, but Cincinnati might be able to soon boast of a more talented rotation.
When we conclude our series Friday, we will review how the Cubs were put together, what the Reds have done so far and try to determine how likely they are to be able to take those next couple of steps.