The Cincinnati Reds began the year with a whole lot of prospects on a whole bunch of prospect lists. But at the midpoint of the season the Reds have graduated some of those guys into the big leagues and they are no longer eligible for prospect lists. Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, and Spencer Steer have all played in the big leagues long enough to have lost their eligibility. Andrew Abbott will lose his eligibility within the next two weeks. Abbott, though, isn’t eligible for the Baseball Prospectus Top 60 that was released today because they don’t count players currently in the big leagues, assuming they will soon graduate. Despite all of those “losses”, Cincinnati still has three players ranked on their Top 60 list. Drafted players are not eligible as none of them have officially signed yet.
The Reds top prospect according to the crew at Baseball Prospectus is now infielder Noelvi Marte. He came in at #24 on the list. Marte was the only Cincinnati prospect to play in the 2023 MLB All-Star Futures Game this past weekend. He went 0-2 with a steal and a run scored. After being acquired last year at the trade deadline when Seattle sent him and other prospects over in exchange for Luis Castillo, the Reds sent him to High-A Dayton where he finished the 2022 season.
This season the organization sent him to Double-A to play with Chattanooga to start the year. While with the Lookouts he played 50 games and hit .281/.356/.464 with 10 doubles, a triple, and eight home runs. He also went 10-for-12 in stolen base attempts. Shortly before the All-Star break he was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. The 21-year-old has only played eight games with the Bats, picking up a double and two triples so far. He’s also stolen three more bases.
While he went to the Arizona Fall League last year to work on play third base – a position he had never played prior to that point – he’s split time between shortstop and third base this season. He played in 30 games as the shortstop in Double-A. All eight of his games in Louisville had come as a third baseman.
Next on the list is right-handed pitcher Connor Phillips. Like Marte, he was acquired from the Seattle Mariners. However, he came over in spring training in 2022 in the deal that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to the Mariners. Phillips came in as the 44th rated prospect on the list.
The now 22-year-old began the season in Double-A Chattanooga where the Southern League was being used as a testing ground for a pre-tacked baseball. That seemed to both help and hurt pitchers in the league as it increased the spin rate on just about all pitches, but it also led to some more control problems for guys. Phillips, who turned 22 in May, made 14 starts for the Lookouts and posted a 3.34 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 64.2 innings and had just 27 walks.
The Reds then promoted Phillips up to Triple-A Louisville where he’s made two starts. The first one went about as poorly as possible – potentially as he adjusted from the pre-tacked Double-A baseball to the Major League Baseball that they use in Triple-A – and he walked five batted in 1.2 innings before exiting the game. In his second start things went better as he allowed two runs in 5.0 innings with two walks and six strikeouts while averaging 96 MPH with his fastball.
Just outside of the top 50 is Christian Encarnacion-Strand. He came in at #57 this time around. He missed the first three weeks of the season recovering from a back injury, but once he returned he hit the snot out of the baseball from day one. In the 65 games that Encarnacion-Strand has played in Triple-A this season he’s hitting .321/.392/.620 with 17 doubles, two triples, and 20 home runs.
Over the first month or so of his season he wasn’t walking much, but was crushing anything and everything he made contact with. Then, almost out of nowhere, he began to pile up the walks. Starting on May 26th and running through today, he’s put up an OPS of .967 while walking 27 times with just 33 strikeouts in 176 plate appearances. In the first 28 games of the year he had three walks and 36 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances. Much of his time in the field has been at first base, but he’s played 16 games at third base, and for two games last month he played in left and right field – though he hasn’t done so since.
Each of the prospects moved up the list since the preseason list was released in January. Noelvi Marte was ranked 29th when the season began. Connor Phillips made a big jump as he was ranked 96th when the year started. And Christian Encarnacion-Strand was unranked.