Prospects’ Progress: Daytona Tortugas, High-A, Cincinnati Reds

In a previous post, I took a look at Reds prospects in Low-A Dayton. Today, the series continues with an overview of some of the best so far with the High-A Daytona Tortugas.

Daytona is currently 14-5, good for first place in the Florida State League Northern Division, and second-best in the league behind only the Jupiter Hammerheads. The Tortugas are second in team batting average (.280), first in OPS (.826), first in RBI (121), and while they’re second in pitching strikeouts (183), they’re tenth of twelve teams in team ERA (4.79).

Batters

Tyler Stephenson, C (.329, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 17 runs scored)

The 11th-overall pick in 2015, Stephenson has never been particularly highly-rated as a hitter for average. However, he does have plus raw power and a fantastic arm, two tools that play at a premium at catcher. Stephenson is only 21, and while catchers generally take longer to develop in the minors, a position change (lack of speed and defensive shortcomings may limit him to first base or the corner outfield spots) coupled with his power becoming a game-time tool could put him on the fast track. Refining his glove work at catcher would make him more valuable, obviously.

Mitch Nay, 3B (.329, 6 doubles, 5 HR, 23 RBI)

The former 1st-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012, Nay was selected in last December’s Rule 5 Draft. While power was supposed to be his carrying tool, the last time he demonstrated game-time pop was in 2014 when he hit 34 doubles for the Low-A Lansing Lugnuts. He was back in Lansing after spending 109 games at High-A Dunedin in 2015, where he batted .243 with only 28 extra-base hits for the season. While Nay did hit a career-high ten homers in only 61 Low-A games in 2017, his lack of progress beyond High-A is concerning. So far in 2018, he has six doubles and five homers in 18 games, driving in twenty runs, so he’s off to a great start (.993 OPS). A hot start, say 4-6 weeks, could lead to a promotion to Double-A Pensacola, and the Reds could use a little depth at third. From April 11th-20th, Nay drove in at least one run per game in 8 of 9 games, with a single-game high of five on the 14th to accompany his two homers. He also has seven multi-hit games.

Taylor Trammell, OF (.264, 2 doubles, 3 triples, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 14 walks, 16 strikeouts)

2016’s supplemental first-round pick for Cincinnati, Trammell is projected to hit for a decent average and above-average power, but it’s his speed that carries him. His glove will have to improve if he’s to become more than just a left-field option, but he fits the leadoff-hitter profile (he swiped 41 bags, in 2017). His wRC+ of 131 in 129 games last year was set as a 19-year-old experiencing full-season baseball for the first time, and there’s little reason to suspect that he won’t continue to progress with the bat. If his speed decreases over the next few years, Trammell would likely still be ideal as a #2, with extra-base pop that should lead to ML-average HR totals and 30+ doubles, annually.

TJ Friedl, OF (.265, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 3 SB)

Speaking of speed, Friedl has it. With plus speed and above-average glovework in the outfield, Friedl’s floor puts him in the majors as a 4th outfielder who makes occasional starts vs. righties. With some work on base-stealing technique and picking his spots, Friedl should have no trouble swiping 30 bags per season. His BB% is up significantly, thus far (17.9% in 2018; 5.0% in 48 games at Daytona; 9.9% in 66 games at Dayton), boosting his wRC+ to 126 in 18 games. He did hit 20 doubles in his 66 Low-A games in 2017, but that was more attributable to his speed than any sort of power he was showing at the time.

Pitchers

Ryan Olson, RHP (4-0, 2.35 ERA, 23 IP, 22 K, 7 BB)

Olson was the Reds’ 13th-round pick in 2016 out of Cal Poly Pomona, where he began coming into his own, gaining 2-3 MPH on his fastball (sitting 91-93 with peaks of 96 reported), as well as polishing his slider, curve and changeup. The slider sits in the low-80’s and may be a better pitch going forward.

Olson has struck out 23.2% of batters faced, so far, with a K/BB ratio of 3.14. He’s coaxed a 20% infield fly-ball rate from opponents, and while last year he showed ground-ball tendencies (51.4%), he has allowed 15% of all fly balls to leave the field in 2018 (31.3% fly-ball rate).

Tony Santillan, RHP (3-0, 0.40 ERA, 22 2/3 IP, 14 H, 5 BB, 24 K)

The 2nd-rounder in 2015, Santillan has the look of a classic power pitcher and the stuff to match. With a fastball that sits around 96-97 but velocity varies wildly because of inconsistent mechanics. He also throws a promising 90 MPH slider and a change-up in the high-80’s, both of which need to be consistent to be truly effective. If he can’t manage to reach a level of command to remain in the rotation at the higher levels of pro ball, he’s a virtual shoe-in as a short reliever with just a modicum of control.

Joel Kuhnel, RHP (0.79 ERA, 11 1/3 IP, 7 H, 16 K, 0 BB)

A huge righty at 6’5”, 265 pounds, Kuhnel looks every bit the part of a short reliever. He sits mid-90’s with his fastball and he can command it to every part of the zone. The slider needs consistency, as is the case with most pitchers in the low minors, but even an average slider command could put him in the majors by the end of next year, as long as he stays off the DL. He’s a max-effort guy, and that raises concerns of its own, but he certainly bears watching going forward.

Ryan Hendrix, RHP (2.53 ERA, 7 appearances, 10 2/3 IP, 7 BB, 16 K)

Hendrix has one of the most intriguing arms in the whole system, Hunter Greene included. He sits around 96-98 comfortably and can top triple digits when he has to, but he also flashes an outstanding power curve with top-level spin. The curve will either make or break him; without even an average secondary pitch, everyone can time a fastball, even one at 100 MPH. If he can spot it consistently, it could become one of the best in the league. Right now, that’s a big “if”, but Hendrix still has a ways to go before he gets to the big leagues, and time enough to develop.

Next up is the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Double-A representative for the Reds in the Southern League.
Featured image of Taylor Trammell – Marshall Dunlap on Flickr

About Doc Riddle 5 Articles
Doc Riddle has been writing for sites such as SB Nation's Minor League Ball, Fansided's Kings of Kaufmann, The Crawfish Boxes, and Grading on The Curve, and Baseball Magazine, for the past eight years. He has been a contributing writer and photographer for various newspapers. He has also been a credentialed photographer for the Class-A Lexington Legends since 2015. His primary interest is in those stories not often told, and the lives of athletes away from the ball field. A 20+ year medical background has given him an understanding of the significance of sports-related injuries, as well as how they might affect a player's future performance.

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