1/29/2013 10:00 P.M. ET
Hamilton leads three Reds among Top 100 prospects
Record-setting burner ranked No. 11, joined by righty Stephenson, lefty Cingrani
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- There is elite talent in the Reds' system working toward the Majors. According to the latest rankings from MLB.com released on Tuesday, the Reds have three prospects among the 2013 top 100 prospects in the game.
Center fielder Billy Hamilton came in ranked just outside the top 10 at No. 11, while right-hander Robert Stephenson was ranked No. 51 and left-hander Tony Cingrani came in at No. 66.
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2013.
The 22-year-old Hamilton, who moved up from being ranked 34th overall in 2012, is fresh off a buzz-making year in the Minors. Hamilton set a new professional baseball record with 155 stolen bases between Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, while he batted .311 with a .410 on-base percentage and 112 runs scored in 132 games.
A second-round pick of the Reds in 2009, Hamilton is expected to begin 2013 at Triple-A Louisville. The path has been set for a likely big league arrival on Opening Day 2014. This spring, Hamilton will be in Cincinnati's big league camp as a non-roster player.
"I'm ready to just see how my talent from the Minor Leagues does in the big leagues and if it carries over," Hamilton said last week. "I have the confidence I will be good up there. I'm looking forward to it."
In a first professional season that was spent at Rookie-level Billings and Class A Dayton, Stephenson was 3-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 15 starts. Over his 65 innings, he walked 23 and struck out 72.
A 19-year-old from Martinez, Calif., Stephenson was the Reds' first-round selection (27th overall) in the 2011 Draft. He often reaches 99 mph with his fastball and can touch triple digits on occasion.
"At the beginning of the year, I was kind of wishing I could go further in games, just because I was only going five innings," Stephenson said in December. "Since I was going every five days instead of every week like in high school, I got a little tired towards the end. I wasn't used to it. Next year should be different, now that I've gotten a taste of it."
A September callup last season, Cingrani posted a 1.80 ERA in three relief appearances for the Reds with two walks and nine strikeouts. But he is being groomed as a starter, a role in which he bloomed in 2012. In 26 games, including 25 starts for Bakersfield and Pensacola, he was a combined 10-4 with a 1.73 ERA that was lowest among all Minor League pitchers. The 23-year-old walked 52 and struck out 172 with only nine home runs allowed over 146 innings.
The Reds will have Cingrani back at Spring Training, and there is an opening for a lefty reliever. However, he is currently expected to begin the year starting for Louisville.
"He could do that, but we would prefer him to start at Triple-A," general manager Walt Jocketty said earlier this month. "We want to have starting pitching depth. He's capable of relieving, but it's not in his best long-term interests. If it becomes in the best interests of the club, maybe it's something we could look at in Spring Training."