Fangraphs - Cincinnati Reds Top 15 Prospects (2012-13)


#1 Billy Hamilton (SS)

Hamilton is probably one of the most hyped prospects in recent memory because of his plus-plus speed and 100+ stolen base totals that he’s racked up in each of the past two minor league seasons. Some patience is required with the prospect, though, as he’s not a finished product. One thing that excites the Reds, though, is that he could develop into an impact lead-off hitter. A contact stated, “It’s hard to find guys with the mentality and desire to be a good lead-off hitter… It’s not always a glamorous spot.”
Hamilton, 22, was shifted from shortstop, his natural position, to center field late in 2012 so the coming season will be key in his defensive development. He has all the skills necessary to develop into a plus fielder — above-average range, good arm and developing reads. The contact I spoke with said the defensive move had nothing to do with the organization’s feeling that Hamilton could not handle shortstop. “It’s more about what he can do, rather than what he can’t, with this move… He’s going to be one of the best [in center field].”
Hamilton split 2012 between high-A and double-A before finishing the year off in the Arizona Fall League. The contact I spoke with said Hamilton got off to a low start in double-A when he moved up and that might have been one of the best things for his development. It might be shocking to hear, but the talent evaluator said the struggles were “good to see,” adding that it often doesn’t help prospects when their first tastes of adversity come at the big league level. “It can really crush a guy,” he added. Hamilton should open 2013 in triple-A and his defensive development will dictate when he’s ready to contribute at the big league level.
#2 Robert Stephenson (P)

Stephenson, who will turn 20 in February, has appeared in just 15 games to this point his pro career despite being drafted in 2011. The right-hander has been handled cautiously and it’s easy to understand why, given the promising arm that he has. Stephenson works in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball and can touch the upper 90s. He also has a plus curveball, good changeup and a splitter that he threw very well in high school but it was taken away from him — perhaps temporarily — when he turned pro. I’m told the organization wanted him to work on developing his changeup.
A contact I spoke with told me that Stephenson “throws very easily and has good stuff. His delivery is good, he’s a good athlete, and he’s a very intelligent kid.” With that said, he added that the California native needs to use his secondary weapons more often now that he’s facing professional hitters, as opposed to prep opponents. “With an arm that good you can pretty much throw [the fastball] past any high school hitter.” Stephenson, who has an impressive pitching frame, should return to low-A ball and could see high-A ball by the second half of the season.
#3 Tony Cingrani (P)

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Cingrani, 23, has a plus fastball for a southpaw that ranges from 89-94 mph. He also flashes an above-average-to-plus changeup. Unfortunately his breaking ball is below average. A talent evaluator I spoke with, though, is not concerned with the prospect sticking in the starting rotation. “He’s been working on his secondary pitches… and things were coming on quite quickly at the end of the year… He’s figured out what he needs to do to pitch in the big leagues.”
Signed as a college senior out of Rice University, Cingrani has been a huge steal. He reached the majors in his first full season in pro ball. Thanks to the rotation depth at the big league level, Cingrani will likely open 2013 in triple-A but he should receive a promotion before Daniel Corcino, who arguably has the higher ceiling. The southpaw has an outside shot at breaking camp in the big league bullpen as a versatile arm capable of acting as a spot starter.

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