Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You're either selling wins or you're selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team's farm system.
Of course, that doesn't mean every team has an equally good farm system -- some, as you'll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next few weeks examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define "prospects" as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2023 season, so if a young player is missing that's likely why.
These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There's also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it's fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future. You can check out our winter top 20 list by clicking here.
With that in mind, let's get to it by dissecting the Cincinnati Reds.
1. Elly De La Cruz, SS, No. 11 on the top 20 (2023 seasonal age: 21)
This will almost certainly prove to be an overrank or an underrank. De La Cruz is perhaps the most unusual prospect in the minors, and therefore the toughest to get an accurate read on. He's a 6-foot-6 switch-hitting shortstop with well-above-average power and speed who really likes to swing the bat. De La Cruz split last season between High- and Double-A, hitting .304/.359/.586 with 28 home runs and 47 steals. He also struck out in more than 30 percent of his trips to the plate because of his aggressive approach, and that percentage is likely to increase once he reaches the majors. De La Cruz has a real chance at becoming a star; there's just substantial downside, too.
2. Noelvi Marte, 3B, No. 13 on the top 20 (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Marte, the top piece the Mariners sent to Cincinnati in the Luis Castillo trade, has homered 36 times the last two seasons despite being on average two years younger than his peers. In addition to having well-above-average raw power, he's shown a feel for contact by keeping his strikeout rate in check. He has the right attributes to be an average or better defender on the left side of the infield, too, though there's reason to think that'll come at third base. Among those: the Reds, packed to the gills with shortstop prospects, had him play third exclusively during the Arizona Fall League. If Marte's performance to date against older competition is any indication, he has a real chance to become a middle-of-the-order fixture in due time.
3. Edwin Arroyo, SS (2023 seasonal age: 19)
In most organizations, Arroyo would be the crown jewel of infield prospects. In this Reds system, he's third among infielders. The Reds obtained the switch-hitting Arroyo as part of the Castillo trade, bringing in a high-quality defender who has produced more with the bat than expected thus far as a professional. Indeed, even the most optimistic scouts toward his offensive upside probably would've taken the under on the .293/.366/.480 he hit last season in A-ball -- and that's with his 27-game stint in the Florida State League weighing him down. (It should be noted that Arroyo's .684 OPS was still better than the team average.) The thing is, Arroyo doesn't have to hit a lot to be worth playing. If he can approach being a league-average hitter, that'll make him all the more valuable, be it to the Reds or some other team.