All small and mid-market organizations that overspend on players who underperform on the field are eventually forced to dump bloated contracts to rebuild their futures. The Cincinnati Reds are the most recent team to find themselves in the precarious position of dumping salaries while trying to maximize the talent they receive in return. They have acquired a significant number of prospects that will have an opportunity to contribute in 2016, or could have a bright future in a new set of laundry. Let’s get into it.
It has been an active offseason for the Reds, who have traded big name talents Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier for a bevvy of prospects with varying degrees of upside and ability. While they received a lot of players, the overwhelming consensus in the media is that they haven’t acquired many with the All-Star ceilings that could lead the Reds back to prominence in the rough and tumble NL Central.
Let’s start with the most recent trade of Aroldis Chapman, then move on to the prospect return of the Todd Frazier trade.
After reports of a domestic violence incident put an Aroldis Chapman trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers on hold, the Reds found an alternative suitor in the New York Yankees. Reports suggest that the Yankees were willing to accept the public relations mess and the unknowns surrounding a possible suspension because the prospect price was too good to pass up, and it’s clear from the players in the deal that that was the case.
RP Aroldis Chapman
SP Rookie Davis
3B/1B Eric Jagielo
RP Caleb Cotham
2B Tony Renda
Rookie Davis, RHP, (4-29-93)
Davis wasn’t in BaseballAmerica.com’s Top 30 prospect rankings for the Yankees entering 2015, but after a strong season he moved up and was ranked sixth before the trade. He has a durable frame (6’5″, 245 lbs.) and with the adjustments he made to his delivery this past season, he profiles as a potential mid-rotation starter. Davis has good command and his fastball is league average for a right-handed starter. However, neither his curveball nor changeup are currently plus pitches and they don’t profile to become the out pitches that Fantasy owners look for from a long-term keeper. He struck out just over a batter per inning in Low-A, a percentage that predictably lowered after he was promoted to Double-A.
Davis should start 2016 in Double-A and finish it in Triple-A, with a chance that he throws some innings with the Reds in September. He should be ready for 150-165 innings as mid-rotation starter in 2017.
Eric Jagielo, 3B/1B, (5-23-92)
Jagielo’s offensive ability profiles as a viable full-time major league player. He has plus power (.825 career OPS) with a career on-base percentage of .356, suggesting that he has a strong grasp of the strike zone. He strikes out a lot and struggles to make consistent contact, but in today’s game that’s not an uncommon trait for a power prospect. The problems with Jagielo as a Fantasy prospect are his defense and the fact that his one viable tool is his power and batting skill. He won’t be an asset in batting average, he won’t steal any bases and he doesn’t profile to consistently hit 30 or more home runs like Chris Davis or Pedro Alvarez.
Most scouts believe that Jagielo’s lack of athleticism will require a move from third base to first. If he can stick at third base then he will be a viable Fantasy player, but a .255-.265 batting average and 20-25 home runs won’t profile well as a first baseman. With Todd Frazier on the way out and the immovable contract of Joey Votto staying put, the Reds may have traded for Jagielo with the intention of keeping him at third base and accepting the defensive deficiencies.
Jagielo could use more seasoning at Double-A with a stop off in Triple-A in 2016 before he is ready for the major leagues. Assuming he can stay healthy, which has been an issue, and continue to develop without issues, he could see some at bats in September but he should be in the major leagues in 2017 at the latest.
RP Caleb Cotham pitched 66.2 innings in 47 appearances in Double-A, Triple-A, and with the Yankees in 2015. He doesn’t profile as a closer or as an impact late inning reliever. 2B Tony Renda has shown an ability to get on base, but he lacks impact power or speed, even though he has stolen some bases in the minor leagues. He profiles as a utility player.
It is understandable that a rebuilding organization would envision a closer with one year of team control remaining as a luxury and decide to trade them. A little more difficult to understand is trading an All-Star and the cornerstone of your organization who is under team control for two seasons at 12 million dollars and a third year when he will be arbitration eligible. To trade 3B Todd Frazier under this kind of financial control for three more years, you had better get a hefty return of prospects.
Analysts are skewering the Reds for coming out the losers in this trade; here is the breakdown of their return.
White Sox receive:
3B Todd Frazier
2B/OF Jose Peraza
OF Scott Schebler
INF Brandon Dixon
Jose Peraza, 2B/OF (4-30-94)
Peraza’s Fantasy viability is debated in scouting circles. He has impact speed that could produce 30-plus stolen bases, and he makes consistent contact that could result in .300-plus batting averages with impressive on-base percentages as well.
In 2015 at Triple-A, he struggled to get on base and there is a concern that major league pitching will exploit his lack of power and force him to hit his way on base. That’s not easy to do, but he has made consistent contact and hit for high averages in the minor leagues.
A three home run season will be a monster year for Peraza (and more than likely at least one of them will be of the inside-the-park variety), so for Peraza to be viable he needs to bat .290 or better while stealing 25 or more bases as a middle infielder. It looks like he can do that, and it appears the Reds think so because he was the marquee prospect of what has been characterized by critics as a bad trade by the Reds.
Peraza is ready for at bats at the major league level even though he struggled in 2015, and it looks like the Reds want to give them to him. The question is where and when? Peraza was a shortstop with the Braves early in his development before moving to second base and trying some outfield because of Andrelton Simmons. Recent reports suggest that he is the Reds’ second baseman of the future. However, with Brandon Phillips blocking a trade to the Nationals and having two more years on his current contract, it is difficult to predict when the future begins or if it starts at a different position. To maximize Peraza’s Fantasy potential, he has to qualify as a middle infielder. The lack of power limits his ceiling as an outfielder.
Scott Schebler, OF (10-6-90)
Schebler has never been a hyped prospect, but the minor league statistics are intriguing. In 2013 at High-A, he hit 27 home runs, stole 16 bases and batted .296 with an OPS of .941. In 2014, he followed his breakout season with 28 home runs, 10 stolen bases and batted .280 with OPS of .921 at Double-A. He took a step back at Triple-A in 2015, but he held his own in limited at bats at the major league level for the Dodgers.
The improvement of his pitch recognition and his ability to work counts after advancing from High-A to Double-A is a sign that the statistics aren’t a fluke. He is an under-the-radar prospect that should be a full-time Fantasy contributor.
Schebler will steal some bases, but he lacks the impact speed for that to be a significant part of his Fantasy value. He has the power to consistently hit 20 home runs to go with batting averages that are a plus rather than a detriment as well.
The Reds have Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce (whom they have been trying hard to trade without success) and another prospect they received in their sell off (Adam Duvall) that Schebler will have to compete with for major league at bats. With Hamilton’s injury history and Schebler’s ability to play centerfield in a pinch, there is a possibility that he will see 400 at bats with the Reds in 2016. He is a 2016 deep league sleeper, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we look in the rearview mirror in July and see that he has eight to ten home runs and a respectable batting average. The Reds haven’t done especially well in these contract dumps, but Schebler is a sneaky good get and an undervalued prospect in dynasty leagues.
Brandon Dixon, INF (1-29-92)
Dixon is an intriguing prospect because he is completely off the Fantasy radar. You aren’t going to find him at the top of any prospect lists, but he had a solid offensive season for a middle infielder in 2015, with 19 home runs and 26 stolen bases.
Dixon doesn’t profile as an impact Fantasy player and he was old for the level last season, when he produced those offensive numbers. He profiles as a utility player and is blocked by Brandon Phillips and Jose Peraza at second base. Any middle infielder that shows signs of being able to hit 15 home runs and steal 15 bases is worth monitoring, especially if he plays some shortstop in 2016. Just realize that he is unlikely to be a consistent Fantasy contributor.