7 Reds prospects to examine closely this spring

Winker, Stephenson among those to who will vie for Major League spots

7 Reds prospects to examine closely this spring

CINCINNATI -- With the start of Spring Training only days away, this is the third in a series of stories leading up to the opening of Reds camp. Already covered were Cincinnati's bounce-back players and new faces. Today's story takes a look at some of the top prospects who could be a factor in 2016 and beyond.

Missing out on the postseason over the past couple of campaigns hasn't been fun for the Reds or their fans. Projected salaries of free agency-bound players on the small market club made it more difficult for Cincinnati's budget to compete with other teams. The decision was made last summer to rebuild by shedding some veterans and going young.

Comeback candidates | Newcomers

Via recent Drafts and the trades of Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Marlon Byrd, Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, the Reds have restocked their system. It's already paid off in the form of respect, as the organization had five players recently named to MLB.com's annual list of the Top 100 prospects. Last year, there were only two.

Mayo on prospects to the Reds

This makes for exciting times to be a Reds prospect, as some could be poised to make their Major League debuts this season. Here is a look at some of the names to watch:

OF Jesse Winker: Some view the left-handed hitter as a younger version of Jay Bruce, and his poise and personality are certainly similar to the Reds' right fielder. Ranked No. 34 overall by MLB.com, Winker has an outside shot at the vacant left-field job in Cincinnati -- but it would require him to skip the Triple-A level if he earned the spot. The 22-year-old started 2015 slowly, but rallied back and posted a .282/.390/.433 line, with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 123 games for Double-A Pensacola.

RHP Robert Stephenson: Ranked just behind Winker at No. 35 overall, Stephenson will be in camp vying for one of the three vacancies in the Reds' big league rotation. The 2011 first-round Draft pick, who turns 23 on Feb. 24, is on the 40-man roster for the first time. The organization felt a move up to Triple-A Louisville last season both challenged and invigorated Stephenson. In 25 starts combined for Pensacola and Louisville, he was 8-11 with a 3.83 ERA and led the entire organization with 140 strikeouts.

Top Prospects: Stephenson, CIN

LHP Cody Reed: The No. 66-ranked prospect in baseball, Reed was one of three left-handed pitchers acquired from the Royals in July's trade for Cueto. At the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels last season, Reed was 13-9 with a 2.41 ERA over a combined 26 games. Following the trade, he had a 2.17 ERA in eight starts and his 60 strikeouts for Pensacola were the most in Minor League Baseball over that stretch. Reed, who turns 23 on April 15, is a contender for a rotation spot, but has never pitched in Triple-A.

LHP Amir Garrett: Since giving up college basketball to focus on baseball two years ago, Garrett's progress on the mound has gotten a turbo boost. Ranked No. 69 overall, he was named to the Sirius-XM All-Star Futures Game and was also the Reds' Minor League Pitcher of the Year, after he was 9-7 with a 2.44 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 26 starts for Class A Advanced Daytona. It's unlikely Garrett will reach the Majors this season, but at his current trajectory, things are looking very good.

2B Jose Peraza: Acquired from the Dodgers in the three-team trade that sent Frazier to the White Sox, Peraza is one of the more intriguing players entering camp. He appears to be ready for the Majors, but lacks a place to play after incumbent second baseman Brandon Phillips invoked his veto rights over being traded during the offseason. Peraza, who is ranked No. 71 overall, is known for having a plus glove and can also play shortstop and center field. Last season at Triple-A, he registered a .293/.316/.378 line, with four homers, 42 RBIs and 33 steals. He also played in seven big league games for the Dodgers. Turning 22 on April 30, Peraza could get regular at-bats at Louisville if there isn't a spot in the big leagues.

Top Prospects: Peraza, CIN

RHP Nick Travieso: The Reds' first-round pick in the 2012 Draft, Travieso is 22 and posted good numbers in '15 before suffering a fractured right wrist that kept him out for six weeks. In 19 starts for Daytona, he was 6-6 with a 2.70 ERA. This will be his second time in big league camp.

OF Phillip Ervin: This will be the first time at Major League Spring Training for the Reds' 2013 first-round Draft pick. Ervin, 23, split last season between Daytona and Pensacola and hit a combined 14 homers with 71 RBIs. He played in the Arizona Fall League after the season.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.