Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 18

23 year-old Kyle Waldrop is coming off a breakout season that began by torching California League pitching during a return to Bakersfield. His bat didn’t slow down at Pensacola in the second half and his overall batting average was the highest in the Cincinnati organization. Now he’s on the 40-man and in a position to earn an expansion call in 2015.

Kyle Waldrop has not been one of the higher-profile prospects in the Cincinnati system since they selected him in the twelfth round of the 2010 draft, but that has not kept the outfielder from doing one thing since arriving: hitting. 2014 was his fourth season in the organization and his best one yet. It started at Bakersfield, where he’d made a decent case for promotion the previous year when he cracked 21 home runs, good enough for a spot in the California League’s top ten. He confirmed readiness upon returning last year when he raised his batting average and on-base percentage by more than .100’ and slashed .359 AVG/.409 OB/.516 SLG for the Blaze over the first half.

That punched his ticket to Pensacola where he didn’t slow down much, putting up a line of .315 AVG/.359 OB/.517 SLG with eight homers against older competition. He didn’t stop at season’s end either, but instead hit .300 in the Arizona Fall League. Even though it appears he’s mastered the AA level, he’s spent only a half season there so it’ no lock that he’ll be at Louisville come opening day. If he isn’t it should only be a matter of time and he’s now on the Reds 40-man roster which means it would be an easy move to call him up for an MLB debut at the age of 23. Right now it appears that Skip Schumaker will be the first outfielder off the bench, but if the 35 year-old struggles with injuries again Waldrop and 1b/of Donald Lutz are the only left-handers on the roster to replace him.

Waldrop stands 6’2”/216# and has spent nearly all of his minor league action in the corner outfield spots. He has played a handful of games at first, including his AFL action, and that could be an option as he advances to get his bat in the lineup. At this point in his career the more versatility he shows in the field, the better. He’s a climber in the Cincinnati prospects lists and should he get the big call to debut at the MLB level earlier than expected it will be in a utility role.

That call may come early if this prospect can sustain steam coming off his breakout season. Though he doesn’t figure to have a big impact at the MLB in 2015, Reds outfield depth is thin and there doesn’t appear to be huge resistance from Waldrop crashing the party. He’s made every stop in the system along his way to Pensacola and hasn’t appeared to be overwhelmed at any of them. Though he probably wasn’t candidate for a fast track on draft day, Waldrop’s bat has propelled him up the pipeline. International League pitching remains his final test and if he passes it could be rewarded with an expansion call.

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