2021 Cincinnati Reds Diamonds in the Rough

by Matt Wiener
2021 Cincinnati Reds Diamonds in the Rough

Welcome to the seventh installment of my series 2021 Diamonds in the Rough. In this article, I will breakdown two hitting and two pitching prospects from the Cincinnati Reds farm system.

Last time out, I took a look at some of the Chicago White Sox prospects.

In deep dynasty leagues, the ability to spot high-upside lower-ranked prospects before they become household names in the fantasy baseball community can make a big difference to the long-term success of your team.

To qualify as a diamond in the rough for this series, a player must be currently ranked lower than No. 15 on their team's latest MLB.com Prospect Rankings.

Check out our 2021 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings to help you dominate your leagues.

2021 Cincinnati Reds Diamonds in the Rough


Allan Cerda, OF (Unranked)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 45 Hit | 60 Power | 50 Run | 50 Field | 55 Arm
Age: 21
Highest Level: Rookie (Appalachian League)
ETA: 2024

After overspending during the 2016 international signing period, the Reds were restricted to signings of $300,000 or less in 2017. However, the Reds snagged a bargain when they signed Allan Cerda for less than six figures in 2017.

Though Cerda was born in the Bronx, New York, he moved to the Dominican Republic as a child and was signed as an international free agent, rather than drafted.

Cerda got off to a slow start in his 2018 Dominican Summer League debut. In his first 11 games, Cerda hit only .091/.333/.136 with 10 strikeouts. However, Cerda turned a corner after that point. Over 214 total plate appearances in his 2018 debut, Cerda posted a respectable .272/.402/.439 with six HR, 34 RBI, 35 R and three steals.

Despite his impressive debut, Cerda showed some signs of weakness after his 2019 promotion to the Appalachian League, where he was a year and a half younger than his average competition. Cerda hit only .220 and his strikeout rate (K%) swelled from 21% to nearly 34%. For reference, according to Fangraphs Sabermetrics Library, a K% of 21% is just below average a K% of 34% is 6.5% worse than "Awful", the worst possible rating.

However, it was not all bad for Cerda in 2019. Despite the low average, Cerda still managed to post an excellent .470 SLG and .829 OPS. In addition, Cerda blasted nine HR (three more than 2018) and only one less steal than 2018 in 39 fewer at-bats.

Cerda is a certified toolshed. He his an above-average runner who has above-average power and flashes an above-average glove and a plus arm. Notice a trend?

Though Cerda has some swing-and-miss issues, they are mitigated by his solid plate discipline. Over 379 professional plate appearances, Cerda has posted an above average 11.87% walk rate (BB%).

Cerda pairs impressive plate discipline with a powerful swing that has natural loft. For example, each of Cerda's fly ball rate (FB%) and pull rate (Pull%) exceed the MLB average by over 10%. Though Pull% is not necessarily the best predictor of home runs, in 2018, roughly 64% of all home runs were pulled. Therefore, it would stand to reason that if Cerda continues to pull the ball in the air, he will get the most out of his above-average power potential.

Moreover, a whopping 42% of Cerda's professional base hits have been extra-base hits (including 15 HR in 305 at-bats). Unbelievably, nearly 10.5% of all of Cerda's professional at-bats have gone for extra-base hits. To put in perspective how insane that is, in 2020, the Atlanta Braves led the MLB in team extra base hit percentage (Extra Base Hit %) over all of their hits with 9.8%. That's right - through 305 professional at-bats, Cerda has a higher Extra Base Hit % over all of his at-bats than most teams average over all of their hits. Wild stuff.

Though Cerda will need to decrease his K% and increase his contact rate, Cerda looks primed for a breakout in his first full season. If Cerda can maintain his speed as he fills outs his athletic 6-foot-3, 170 pound frame, he could possess an interesting power/speed combination going forward. Given Cerda's advanced plate discipline and knack for extra-base knocks, I like Cerda's chances to put it all together.

This profile has the potential for deep fantasy gold.

Mac Wainwright, OF (#30)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 45 Hit | 55 Power | 50 Run | 50 Field | 55 Arm
Age: 18
Highest Level: College
ETA: 2025

In high-school, Wainwright was a two-sport star and played wide receiver at St. Edward's High School, one of Ohio's biggest football schools. Wainwright passed up multiple Division I college football scholarship offers and committed to Ohio State for baseball. However, Wainwright eventually chose to sign with the Reds for full pick value after being drafted out of high school in the 4th round (113 overall) of the 2020 MLB draft.

When asked about his decision to play baseball over football, Wainwright has stated that he wants to be a role model for future black baseball players.

Though Wainwright missed some main stage competition after suffering a stress fracture to his tibia, Reds scouts in Ohio were able to get a better look at Wainwright than most both while he was out and when he returned to health. According to Reds director of amateur scouting Brad Meador, "[w]e feel good about [Wainwright's] makeup and know what we're getting that's going to put the work in. He's got the big engine, and we think we can hit big on him. It may take a little bit of time. It's definitely an upside play, but we think we have to take some of those."

Standing at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and only 18 years old, Wainwright has a physical frame that fits the mold of a big league ballplayer. Wainwright has a good feel for hitting and uses his big body and smooth, efficient swing to generate plus power. According to Prep Baseball Report, in the 2020 Super 60 Pro Showcase, Wainwright posted an average exit velocity of 96.24 MPH and and a blazing max exit velocity of 106.75 MPH.

Though Wainwright does not possesses elite speed, his sub-seven second 60 yard dash and football game tape show good speed for his size. Further, Wainwright's athleticism and receiver-like body control play up in the field. Wainwright has displayed solid arm strength and some scouts think that his arm could trend towards above average with development.

Like Cerda, Wainwright is tooled to the nines. Wainwright possesses exciting five-tool potential with excellent bat speed, plus raw power, and solid speed for his size. With more time dedicated exclusively to baseball, including more experience against advanced pitching and training with the Reds system, I think Wainwright has the tools to take off.

If Wainwright can continue to improve his hit tool, he may prove to be the steal of the 2020 draft. Fortunately, Wainwright is unlikely to make his debut until 2025 or 2024 the earliest, so he has time for seasoning.

The risk in Wainwright's profile is high given his relative youth and inexperience. However, given his tools and raw athleticism, I say the upside is even higher. As Wainwright will be making his professional debut in 2021, there may not be a better time to buy in deep dynasty leagues.


Luis Mey, RHP  (Unranked)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 55 FB | 40 CH | 45 SL | 40 CNTRL
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie (Arizona League)
ETA: 2024

The Reds signed the hard-throwing Dominican Luis Mey during the 2018 international signing period.

After signing in 2018, Mey struggled in about every way imaginable during his 2019 Arizona League debut. Mey started 13 of his 14 games and posted a 0-5 record with an unsightly 8.39 ERA and 2.319 WHIP. Further, opposing hitters raked .370 against Mey and he surrendered a whopping 64 hits over only 39.2 innings. To make matters even worse, Mey only compiled 28 strikeouts and walked as many batters as he struck out. Ouch.

However, there is still much room for optimism after Mey's forgettable debut. First, Mey was over two and a half years younger than his average competition in the Arizona League. Second, at only 18 years old, Mey flashed a plus fastball, topping out at 96 MPH while sitting 91-94 MPH. Third, though Mey struggled, he posted an above average 56% grounder rate, which led Reds minor league starters in 2019.

Further, Mey received rave reviews from Reds brass during the 2020 instructional league. According to Reds farm director Shawn Pender, "[Mey's] been up to 96 MPH [at instructs] when I've seen him. He's projectable and has started to throw his breaking ball for strikes and is throwing his changeup some. He slows his arm down some on his secondary stuff, but he's taken a nice step forward."

Pender also added that "Mey is probably a good two inches taller than his listed 6-foot-2." Mey has a wiry, projectable frame and at around only 170 pounds, I like his chances to bulk up and add even more velocity. In fact, reports have indicated that Mey has added significant muscle since his 2019 debut. Triple digits is not out of the question.

Though Mey has an electric fastball and a projectable frame, he has yet to refine his secondary pitches. Mey has flashed a potentially average low-mid 80s MPH slider with some bite, but he has not thrown the pitch with consistency. Moreover, as displayed by his 6.35 walks per nine innings (BB/9) in his debut, Mey's control is currently well below average. However, scouts have praised Mey's smooth and repeatable delivery that features fluid arm action and generates effortless velocity. Mey should see an improvement in control as he continues to refine his repeatable delivery.

Many scouts project May as a future bullpen piece. That is not all that surprising given Mey's current two-pitch mix, with a blazing fastball and poor control to this point. Mey will need to develop a third pitch and improve his control to avoid future relegation to the bullpen.

However, it is worth noting that Mey started 12 of 13 games during his debut and the Reds seem intent on working him as a starter. Further, per Pender, Mey has thrown his changeup more during instructs. Mey's ability to solidify his changeup as another pivot off his fastball will be crucial to his development as a starter.

Though Mey's 2019 debut put the rough in "Diamonds in the Rough" and likely left a bad taste in some mouths, I think that Mey is on the cusp of a serious breakout in 2021. Mey may be four or five years from his debut, but he will be will worth the wait. Simply put, Mey has sky-high upside. Deep dynasty managers who are willing to play the waiting game should consider scooping him up before his stock soars after an improved 2021.

Alexander Johnson, RHP  (Unranked)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 50 FB | 45 CH | 45 SL | 45 CNTRL
Age: 20
Highest Level: College
ETA: 2024

Unless you are a devout fan of the Reds or high school baseball in Buffalo, New York, you have likely never heard of the next guy I am going to discuss.

The Reds drafted Alexander Johnson out of McKinley High School in Buffalo, New York. He was drafted in the 36th round (1,074 overall) of the 2019 MLB draft.

Johnson, who was the first baseball player drafted from a city of Buffalo public school in nearly 50 years, stands at a towering 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. Though Johnson currently sits 89-91 MPH with his fastball, he touches the mid-90s on occasion. In addition, Johnson's quick arm and projectable frame are good ingredients for Johnson increasing his velocity as he develops.

Per his Prep Baseball Report profile, Johnson also possesses a low 80s changeup and a high 70s slider.

Despite Johnson's lengthy frame, he has a relatively clean and repeatable delivery for his size. Johnson's delivery features a high leg kick and great extension, which help him generate good downhill action and shrink the distance to home plate.

I think that a developing Johnson will be an absolute nightmare for minor league hitters. Though Johnson missed some time in 2019 with an injury, he flashed an above average fastball/changeup combination during 2020 Reds instructs.

Johnson is not a guy that you will read much about now. In fact, I have not been able to find him on any Reds top prospects lists, not even those that go 50 deep, so we are talking about a relative unknown here. However, I do not think that will be the case for long.

If Johnson can continue to add velocity on his fastball and develop his secondary pitches, he may rocket up prospect lists. Johnson will also need to prove that he can stay healthy with a starter's workload. Otherwise there is some bullpen risk here.

With all that being said, I really like what I have seen from Johnson on tape. I am excited to keep tabs on Johnson's progress as he makes his professional debut in 2021.

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