Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 22

Juan Silva is an outfield prospect in the Cincinnati system that has kept a lower profile despite consistent performance for several years. A hand injury last year cut short his most impressive season yet, but he was around long enough to show that he’s ready for a jump to AA to start 2015.

Juan Silva was a late addition to this list last year and his 2014 performance was good enough to retain a spot. He returned to Bakersfield despite doing well there in 2013, probably from a preference to promote others. It might have been a disappointment but that didn’t prevent him from improving production in the California League, slashing a line of .310 AVG/.421 OB/.437 SLG/4 HR before a thumb injury ended his season after 67 games. He also showed extreme speed on the base-paths by swiping 34 bags in 43 attempts.

Silva turned 24 last month and is preparing to enter his seventh season in the Cincinnati organization after he was selected in the eighth round of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. He spent three seasons in the rookie leagues and the repeat of high-A had him a bit old for the level, but he should be ready to prove himself at AA Pensacola this spring. There’s good reason to expect continued success because he’s finished with an on-base percentage less than .370 only once in his minor league career. All of the left-hander’s action has been in the outfield where he’s played all three positions. A big help to his cause would be mastering center where his range is surprisingly low considering his speed. His 5’11”/205# build doesn’t project a lot of power, probably in the low double digit range, which is a little below what would be preferred from a corner position. As it is, he profiles more as a fourth outfielder at the MLB level.

Still, the primary value of this prospect is the discipline he’s shown at the plate, routinely finishing with an on-base percentage more than .100’ higher than his average. He put up a gaudy OBP last season while improving contact, striking out only one more time than he walked. There’s a lot to like about this prospect that does multiple things to help his team win games.

Now he needs to continue in the Southern League. At his age, success could earn him a late season promotion to Louisville. Cincinnati has benefitted from utility outfielder Chris Heisey’s service over the past five years and Silva could fill a similar role by the end of the 2016 season. That is if he doesn’t secure more regular duty somewhere. A place can always be found for someone who knows the way to first and can swipe a base, even if he can’t crack the 20 HR level. It will be more of a challenge for Silva to sustain that success against higher level pitching, but given the track record of this long-time minor leaguer it would not be wise to bet against it.

Coming into this season there’s some uncertainty on which outfielders will secure utility outfielder jobs with the Reds. Veteran Skip Schumaker is under contract for another year and figures to get first crack, but at the age of 35 he’s coming off an injury-plagued season with declining productivity. Silva isn’t in a position to vie for that job right now, but another successful campaign at AA will put him in more conversations in the not-to-distant future.

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