Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 23

2014 was a big year for the Billings offense as a couple of obscure foreign prospects in the Cincinnati system exploded for breakout seasons that forced them into some lists of top Reds prospects. Argenis Aldazoro overcame a weak first month of the short season with a torrid finish that left him with a .325 batting average and double digit home runs for the Mustangs.

Spots 24-23 on this countdown are “all A’s”. One was the landing spot for off-the-radar Dominican prospect Aristides Aquino and number 23 goes to his Billings teammate, Venezuelan Argenis Aldazoro. As impressive as Aquino’s 2014 campaign was, Aldazoro managed a slightly better OPS. The left-handed 1b/of’er finished with a slash line of .325 AVG/.356 OB/.575 SLG/11 HR.

Aquino didn’t have much on his resume before last season and Aldazoro came into the campaign with even less. He started out at the age of 17 with a couple of modest years in the Venezuelan League, showing some improvement in his second season. After that he moved stateside to hit .213 in the Arizona League in 2012 before injuries limit him to ten games in his second season there. Like Aquino, Cincinnati promoted him to the Pioneer League anyway and he rewarded that decision with a breakout year.

Upon further review perhaps Aquino has a case to be higher on the list, but both will have plenty of time to separate from each other as they advance. Actually, the Reds would probably prefer they continue to perform solidly and compete with each other as they move upward. The 2013 injury set Aldazoro back and he’s one year older (22) than Aquino. He’s also has a thinner frame (6’0”/160#), but on the other hand perhaps that give him more room to fill out. Defensively Aldazoro was limited to first base and outfield. Perhaps he could play in right field as well, but he probably won’t get much opportunity to prove himself there while these two are on the same roster.

One thing that stirs up excitement with Aldazoro might initially be perceived as a weakness. The first thing that comes to mind is the small AVG/OB differential. Improvement to selectivity will be important because he likely won’t sustain the gaudy batting average at higher levels. Though eleven walks in 228 plate appearances screams “I never met a pitch I didn’t like”, he showed some progress in that department over the first couple of months before reverting back to old ways over the second half of the season. Surprisingly he improved contact and dropped his K rate from 23% in 2012 all the way to 17% last year. Good contact is always an asset and though his swings were generous, he still put good wood on the ball.

Another reason to get excited about this prospect was the torrid finish he put on a season that initially could have washed him out. The short season is only about three months long and Aldazoro hit only .161 in June. His slash line is even gaudier if you look at July 1 through the remainder of the season: .354 AVG/.380 OB/.641 SLG and all eleven of his homers. Perhaps not-coincidentally that’s when his walk rate almost disappeared, but then again, when the batted balls are finding the outfield grass walking becomes less urgent.

A bloated on-base percentage from high walk frequency is a good thing, but then again, there’s nothing wrong with one pumped up by a high batting average. Selectivity is often a knock when critiquing young prospects, especially when they lack collegiate experience. Another common challenge for young left-handed hitters is facing same-side pitching and it’s a good thing for Aldazoro that most pitchers are right-handed because his on-base percentage was almost .150’ higher against them. In spite of these deficiencies and even in the modern day of SABRmetrics, spraying line drives with double digit homers is still an effective way to advance. A full season against higher level pitching the Midwest League might force additional development to plate discipline and he’s shown some glimpses that he’ll be ready. .

Of course Aldazoro will eventually need more than glimpses, either in Single A or later in the upper levels of the system. Still, Dayton fans have good reason to be excited about seeing the “Double A Duo” in the Dragons lineup come opening day. Cincinnati has long been aggressive at mining for Caribbean talent and they hit paydirt with a couple of pitchers. However, it’s been seven years since Johnny Cueto’s MLB debut and it didn’t take a genius to recognize the value in Aroldis’s Chapman’s triple digit heat. Other than that their biggest impact at the MLB level has been a single year of Shin Soo-Choo that came from trading Didi Gregorius. They’ve invested heavy signing bonuses in outfielders Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran who’ve both experienced some ups and downs. The emergence of Aldazoro and Aquino give them a couple more prospects to make a significant impact to future Reds lineups.

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