This series is designed to evaluate the role prospects play in each Major League organization, looking at the short- and long-term needs of each club and illustrating how prospects fit in both scenarios.
Here's my look at the Reds:
The Reds have a fairly veteran group to start the season. The two exceptions may be the most key player on the roster and the highest-regarded pitching prospect.
If Billy Hamilton can get on base, steal second (and maybe even third) and score runs, the Reds' answer to the leadoff void created by the departure of Shin-Soo Choo will be resolved. The 6-foot, 160-pound Hamilton doesn't have much power, but he can wreak havoc on the opposition with his blinding speed.
Converted to switch-hitting, now batting from the left side batter's box will give Hamilton a quicker step towards first base. In 13 games with the Reds last season, Hamilton stole 13 bases in 13 attempts. He also made another conversion. Once a shortstop, Hamilton plays a very credible center field, chasing down anything hit near his area code.
Right-hander Robert Stephenson was selected in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He has the ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds. Likely not ready for the big leagues to start the season, Stephenson is probably the Reds' best pitching prospect.
Stephenson has a 3.06 ERA a 1.13 WHIP in parts of two Minor League seasons. He uses some effort in his delivery, but he throws his fastball consistently in the mid to upper-90s. Stephenson's repertoire also includes a very solid changeup, which alters the balance and eye level of the hitter, and a curveball.
Righty David Holmberg came to the Reds from the D-backs in a three-team deal that also involved the Rays. Holmberg spent 2013 pitching at Double-A Mobile, where he had a fine season. He made 26 starts and finished with an ERA of 2.75 and a 1.19 WHIP. Holmberg's best pitch may be his deceiving changeup that he uses in tandem with an average fastball.
I saw outfielder Yorman Rodriguez play in the recent Arizona Fall League. There were times I felt the 6-foot-3, 195-pound, right-handed hitter was a very tough out. There were other times he seemed to get himself out quite easily with a lack of contact. Rodriguez's plate discipline continues to need development, as he's still quite raw in his approach to hitting. His speed should help him steal bases.
Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin are two corner outfielders who are a couple years away. Winker hits left-handed. Ervin from the right side.
Winker is a true source of power. He has hit 21 home runs combined in his two Minor League seasons. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he makes consistent hard contact against both righties and lefties. Using the entire field, Winker has very good pitch recognition.
Ervin, Winker's counterpart from the right side of the plate, was a first-round pick in 2013. He had some injuries in 2013 but still managed to hit .331 combined for Rookie League Billings and Class A Dayton. Ervin has a nice combination of power and speed, as he stole 14 bases while hitting nine home runs. He's 5-foot-11, 190 pounds.
At one point, right-hander Daniel Corcino looked like a world beater as a right-handed starter. A couple of hiccups in his past two seasons have hurt his standing. In his stead, Carlos Contreras may be wearing the tag as a highly regarded prospect pitcher. He could surprise.
Contreras is short and stocky at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds. The right-hander has pitched six seasons in the Reds' system. Last year was clearly his best. Contreras had 26 starts between Class A Advanced and Double-A Pensacola. Combined, he threw for a 3.47 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.
A first-round selection in 2013, right-hander Michael Lorenzen is working himself up the Reds' organization. A converted outfielder, Lorenzen has a power arm that can bring his fastball to the very high 90s with little effort. He pitched last season at four classifications: Rookie ball, Class A, Class A Advanced and Double-A. Lorenzen threw to an ERA of 3.00 in his first season of professional baseball. He yielded 20 hits in 21 innings, mostly from the bullpen. Lorenzen has to work on his command and control, as he walked an average of 5.6 hitters per nine innings.
Switch-hitting Tucker Barnhart is a top "defense first" catching prospect. He has a strong, accurate arm, and hitters can't take liberties on the bases with him behind the plate. Power and speed are not part of Barnhart's game, but he profiles as an adequate backup catcher.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.