We will start at the top of the ladder, a place that has become more of a holding spot for players who are close to the majors than a proving ground for the most talented prospects.
Four members of MLB.com’s top 30 Reds prospects are playing down the river from Cincinnati to start this season: Right-handed pitchers Tony Santillan, Vladimir Gutierrez, Riley O’Brien and outfielder T.J. Friedl.
Friedl, who was considered a potential steal when he slipped through the draft and signed with the Reds five years ago, is left-handed hitting outfielder who presents a base-stealing threat.
Santillan is a hard-thrower who had a breakout season in Dayton four years ago and a strong 2018 at Advanced A and Double-A but has been up-and-down since.
Gutierrez was a high-profile signing out of Cuba who struggled in Louisville two years ago then was suspended for failing a PED test last year. He still has the stuff to jump to the big club and help out if he gets on a roll.
O’Brien is in the Louisville rotation after being acquired last year for Cody Reed.
All three pitchers are on the 40-man roster.
Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A)
This might be the most interesting collection of talent among the four Reds farm teams.
Top pitching prospects Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo front the rotation after the team used first-round picks on them in 2017 and ’19, respectively. We’ve seen pitchers jump from Double-A to the Reds before, so it bears watching how Greene and Lodolo perform early.
Shortstop Jose Garcia is back at the level he would have been last year if the minor-league season had not been canceled and led to his playing 24 games for the Reds and hitting .194. He’s considered a major talent and still the team’s No. 5 prospect.
Also of note: 2014 first-round pick Nick Howard is pitching out of the bullpen in Chattanooga, where he struck out five of the first 10 batters he faced and allowed only one hit with no walks. Howard was a Dragon in 2014 and ’15 with the latter year being the first of a long struggle for him to find success. His rediscovering what made him a prospect could be a big boost for the organization.
Dayton Dragons (Advanced Class A)
Michael Siani is a repeat Dragon and the highest-rated prospect on the squad, checking in at No. 6 in the organization according to MLB.com and No. 10 per Baseball America. BA rates him the best athlete in the system, and he is a big-time base-stealing threat.
Lyon Richardson is also a Dragon again after starting 26 games for the team in 2019. He is rated the No. 8 prospect in the system by MLB.com while fellow righties Graham Ashcroft is No. 19 and Noah Davis is No. 29.
BA is much higher on Davis, ranking him No. 15 in the system. He was an 11th-round pick out of UC-Santa Barbara in 2018.
Daytona Tortugas (Class A)
While Chattanooga has three of the top five prospects in the system according to MLB.com, Daytona has five of the top 12 and seven of the top 17.
The biggest potential belongs to Austin Hendrick, a teenage outfielder from Pennsylvania the Reds used their top pick on last summer. A lefty, he is considered a power hitter with good athleticism who is the top position player in the system according to MLB.com (he’s just behind Garcia per BA’s rankings).
Rece Hinds is a slugging corner infielder the Reds picked a little higher than expected and gave a big bonus to turn pro rather two years ago. He is the No. 7 prospect in the system while fellow infielders Tyler Callihan and Ivan Johnson are No. 9 and 12, respectively.
Callihan is another lefty hitter the Reds took high (third round) in 2019 then paid big bucks to keep out of college, but he is more of a contact hitter. Johnson is an all-around talent they took out of Chipola Junior College one round later.
Right-hander Christian Roa is the top pitcher in Daytona and ranked No. 11 among Reds prospects. Their second-round draft pick last year was “a serious strike-thrower” at Texas A&M according to MLB.com, so he could stand out in the Reds organization.