View Full Version : USA Today on the Cincy farm system

12-04-2007, 09:47 PM
Couldn't find this posted anywhere. It's from last week. Mods, delete if it has already been posted.

Baker hiring gives Reds credibility

The Reds have changed managers before — 10 times since their last World Series appearance in 1990 — and ended up with little to show for it. But this time is different. For the first time since that 1990 Series championship season, Cincinnati has gone outside the organization to bring in a manager, and it happens to be one of the most respected names available.
Dusty Baker can bring a winning attitude and experience similar to what the club got when it hired Lou Piniella and won the '90 Series in his first season managing the Reds. Baker has 1,162 wins and a .527 winning percentage in 14 years as a major league manager (10 with the San Francisco Giants and four with the Chicago Cubs). He has made four playoff appearances and got to Game 7 of the 2002 World Series with San Francisco. He also had a long career as a star player with four teams. But his last three seasons managing the Cubs were difficult and ended with a 66-96 showing in 2006.

After a year as an ESPN analyst, Baker is as hungry as Reds fans are for a return to the playoffs (they haven't been there since 1995), as well as his first Series title as a manager.

"Hopefully we can all come together for the same goal of winning, and we can have that championship ticker-tape parade, which is what I really, really need. I need that badly. You just don't know how bad I do need that," Baker said at his introductory news conference.

Baker brings instant credibility to the job among fans, team management and — perhaps most importantly — Reds players.

"He's going to help this organization top to bottom," Ken Griffey Jr. told The Cincinnati Post. "He's going to have an influence on the front office, the minor leagues and the entire Cincinnati Reds organization. It's going to be good for the city of Cincinnati to see what can happen with a big-name manager."

Baker could fit in well with a team that has a healthy mix of veterans like Griffey and young, emerging players such as starting pitcher Homer Bailey and first baseman Joey Votto.

Giants and Cubs players often spoke of their loyalty to Baker, something that could attract free agents to Cincinnati.

"The more you talk to people that have been around him more than I have, he just commands that respect. Players want to play for Dusty Baker," general manager Wayne Krivsky said when Baker was hired last month.

But owner Robert Castellini said he didn't hire Baker based on his name recognition among players.

"He's a proven winner, a proven leader, experienced in winning," Castellini said. "When he has all those attributes, he's naturally going to be a high-profile manager. But we didn't go out to find some rock star."

Castellini, a Cincinnati businessman who took over the team in 2006, plans at least a modest increase in spending from the team's 20th-ranked $69 million payroll in 2007. That brings the possibility of committing the kind of money more free-spending teams give to players, as Castellini did when he picked up a $13 million option on left fielder Adam Dunn. That keeps him the highest-paid player on the team. The Reds have enough outfield talent at or on the verge of the major league level that retaining Dunn was not a guarantee.

The Reds also might be ready to move forward on a larger deal for a top free agent. Closer Francisco Cordero is close to signing with Cincinnati for $46 million over four years, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The Reds wouldn't confirm the report, which won't be complete until after Cordero passes a physical. Cordero has 177 career saves, including 44 in 2007.

The club has also picked up options on first baseman Scott Hatteberg and backup catcher Javier Valentin, meaning the Reds' opening-day offense should look similar to the 2007 lineup that scored 783 runs (seventh in National League) and hit 204 home runs (third in the NL).

Even if the reported Cordero deal comes to fruition, the Reds' biggest area with room for continued improvement either through trades or in the free agent market is still pitching. The team's ERA (4.94) tied it with Florida for the worst in the NL, though starter Aaron Harang and veteran reliever David Weathers were the two bright spots on the staff.

Although they have several pitching prospects close to being major league-ready, the Reds likely need one or two other experienced starters and at least one bullpen arm to become a serious contender in 2008. They aren't the kind of team that will be able to outbid the Yankees or Red Sox, but multiple smaller moves could give them a deep enough pitching staff while they wait for Bailey and Johnny Cueto to be big-league-ready.

However, the roster shakes out, the Reds will be focused on an overall ability to stay consistent.

"When I asked my son (Darren), 'What do you think of the Cincinnati Reds?' he says, 'Dad, they always start off good and end up in last place.' " Baker said when he took the job. "I said 'No, Dad is here to change that.' "


Prospect report: Young pitchers won't be rushed

The Reds' starting pitching prospects should form a strong core for many years, though most of them won't be ready for the major leagues by opening day 2008.

With the big club in need of relief pitchers and consistent hitting, there could be a temptation to rush prospects to Cincinnati. But the team has shown patience with young players in the recent past and has no desire to throw anyone into the intense pressure of the big leagues before he's ready.

The Reds could find itself themselves flush with outfielders in the majors. The presence of Jay Bruce could make Josh Hamilton or even Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. candidates to be traded.

Here's a look at some of the Reds' top prospects:

•RHP Homer Bailey: Bailey was perhaps the Reds' top prospect entering the 2007 season. He made his major league debut in June at age 21, but he had a 2-2 record with a 6.99 ERA when a groin injury sidelined him in July. Upon his return to the big-league rotation in September, he went 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts.

Over the course of his 330-inning minor league career, he has struck out 356 batters and has a 3.46 ERA. His inconsistency in the majors in 2007 might mean the club will want to keep him at Louisville to begin the 2008 season, but Bailey will be a strong candidate for the fifth-starter's spot in spring training.

•OF Jay Bruce: At age 20, Bruce has already worked his way from Class A to Class AAA in the span of a single season. He hit .319 with 26 home runs and 89 RBI while playing for high-A Sarasota (Fla.), Class AA Chattanooga (Tenn.) and Class AAA Louisville.

He will get a chance to compete for a roster spot on the big-league club, but a return to Louisville is most likely. He'll still be younger than most of his Class AAA peers.

•RHP Johnny Cueto: Like Bruce, Cueto played at three levels in 2007. At age 21, he had a 2.05 ERA at Louisville. His 3.07 ERA and 170 strikeouts (in 161⅓ innings) over the three levels led the organization. Cueto is pitching in the Dominican winter league — where he faces a mix of major and minor league hitters and pitches under intense pressure — this offseason, which should help harden him for the majors. He's a long-shot to make the majors out of spring training, but, like Homer Bailey in 2007, he could find himself in the rotation by midseason.

•1B Joey Votto: Votto is a complete hitter who can hit for power and average while using the entire field. He had a strong season at Louisville and earned a 24-game cameo in Cincinnati in 2007.

With Scott Hatteberg returning at first base, the club can afford to let Votto, 24, season even longer in the minors. But a strong spring training could earn him a spot with the big-league club.

•SS Paul Janish: Janish, 25, is the closest to the majors among a group of middle infield talent in the system. He took a step backward offensively in 2007, hitting just .235 between Chattanooga and Louisville. He is adequate with the glove, so he could find a spot as a defensive replacement on the major league club.

One sign of his potential as a hitter was his .329 on-base percentage. That suggests he will be a selective hitter when he reaches the majors, possibly developing into a good leadoff hitter.

•LHP Matt Maloney: Acquired in the Kyle Lohse trade with Philadelphia last July, Maloney had a 3.64 ERA as a starter in Class AA and Class AAA in 2007. The 23-year-old is right on target for a full season at Louisville and has the chance to be called up if the club needs another starter during the season.

Facing minor leaguers, Maloney is a strikeout pitcher, averaging more than one per inning over his career. Major leaguers might be able to adapt to his pitches more readily because he doesn't have an overpowering fastball.

•RHP Josh Roenicke: Perhaps the Reds' biggest weakness at the major league level in 2007 was the bullpen. If they have similar problems in 2008, they could be tempted to fast-track Roenicke, 25, who had a 2.31 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 46⅔ innings between high-A and Class AA in 2007.

•C Devin Mesoraco: Mesoraco, a first-round pick this year, is the most promising catcher at a position where many clubs lack depth. He is several years away from being a major league player, having hit .219 in 40 games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season. Mesoraco had Tommy John surgery as a high schooler but recovered by the time he signed with the Reds.

'07 minor league wrap-up

Class AAA: Louisville Bats, 74-70, second place in the International League West.

Class AA: Chattanooga (Tenn.) Lookouts, 67-73, third place in the Southern League North.

High-A: Sarasota (Fla.) Reds, 81-59, first-half winner of the Florida State League West, lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Low-A: Dayton (Ohio) Dragons, 78-62, first-half winner of the Midwest League East, lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Rookie: Gulf Coast (Sarasota) Reds, 15-41, fifth place in the Gulf Coast League South.

Rookie: Billings (Mont.) Mustangs, 37-38, third place in the Pioneer League North.


Where the Reds stand at each position:


David Ross had a disappointing 2007 but kept his starting job. His .203 batting average was below the club's expectations, but the Reds don't have a better option right now. Javier Valentin works best as a pinch-hitter and part-timer. The team's best catching prospect, Devin Mesoraco, is in the low minors.

First base

The Reds picked up Scott Hatteberg's $1.65 million option, which is a great bargain for a player who hit better than .300 with a high on-base percentage (.394) last season. Still, he could take a back seat to Joey Votto, a power-hitting product of the Reds' system. Although Votto's playing time could be affected by new manager Dusty Baker's preference for veterans, he should work his way into the full-time job sometime in 2008.

Second base

Brandon Phillips remains a great success story as the Reds have helped him salvage his career years after he emerged on the scene as a prospect with Cleveland. In 2007, Phillips became just the second second baseman to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. (Alfonso Soriano is the other.) He is eligible for arbitration this offseason and should be a part of the Reds for several more years.

Third base

Edwin Encarnacion (137 games at third) and Ryan Freel (19 games) shared time at third in 2007. Using Freel was an attempt to make up for Encarnacion's defensive deficiencies and a way to get Josh Hamilton into the lineup in center field, another of Freel's positions.


Alex Gonzalez's offensive output in his first year with Cincinnati was comparable to how he has performed during his best offensive years. His primary value, though, is in his excellent defense. Juan Castro is a backup at second, third and shortstop, with Jeff Keppinger likely to compete for another backup spot at those positions.

Left field

The team picked up a $13 million option on Adam Dunn. His 166 home runs over the last four years are impossible to replace through free agency, so retaining him made sense even with his high strikeout rate.

Center field

Josh Hamilton, a Rule 5 pick formerly with Tampa Bay, was a nice story last season. Free of drug-related issues, the former top prospect resurrected his baseball career with a .292 batting average and 19 home runs in 90 games. Hamilton shared time in center with Freel and Norris Hopper. Hopper should provide one of the team's main bats off the bench in 2008. Jay Bruce, a top hitter in the farm system, is likely to spend another year in the minors.

Right field

Ken Griffey Jr. played a mostly injury-free season in his first year as a full-time right fielder. His 623 plate appearances were his most since 2000, his first season with the Reds. Hopper serves as Griffey's primary backup.


Right-hander Aaron Harang got a second-place vote and seven third-place votes for the 2007 NL Cy Young award. He returns as the team's ace, backed up by veteran Bronson Arroyo. Matt Belisle and left-hander Bobby Livingston should also make the opening-day rotation. The fifth starter's spot is likely to go to Homer Bailey, one of the Reds' top minor league pitchers. Tom Shearn and lefty Phil Dumatrait could also compete. Lefty Matt Maloney, acquired from the Phillies for Kyle Lohse last July, could find a spot in the rotation or bullpen.


The Reds' bullpen had an NL-worst 5.10 ERA last season and blew 28 saves in 62 opportunities. Left-hander Mike Stanton, 40, returns in 2008. The rest of the bullpen is younger and less proven. Righties Brad Salmon, Gary Majewski and Dumatrait are likely to have spots going into spring training while lefties Bill Bray, Jon Coutlangus and righty Marcus McBeth could find spots on the big-league staff.


David Weathers was perhaps the Reds' most reliable reliever last season, accounting for 33 of the team's 34 saves. The Reds also may have ex-Brewers closer Francisco Cordero, who is close to signing with them, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.


Reds' top salaries

Adam Dunn surpassed Ken Griffey Jr. atop the list, and the Reds could weigh trading Junior this year. They hold a $16.5 million club option on Griffey for 2009, with a $4 million buyout.

Player, Salary

Adam Dunn, $13M

Ken Griffey Jr., $12.5M

Aaron Harang, $6.75M

Arbitration eligible

Brandon Phillips will get his first big payday. Will Jorge Cantu's 27-game audition, during which he batted .298, merit a 2008 contract offer?

Player, 2007 salary

Jorge Cantu, $410,000

Brandon Phillips, $407,500

Matt Belisle, $390,000


Division power rankings

The lightly regarded Central features three of the National League's four lowest-rated teams.

NL Central rank, League

1. Chicago Cubs 7th

2. Milwaukee Brewers 9th

3. St. Louis Cardinals 11th

4. Houston Astros 13th

5. Cincinnati Reds 14th

6. Pittsburgh Pirates 16th


12-04-2007, 10:41 PM
I think the writer is misreading the Hatteberg extension. I think the 1st base job is Votto's to lose (hence I don't think it's being given to him). He also seems to buy into the vet love rap on Baker. I don't buy it. He's played younger players before and extensively.

I think they extended Hatteberg because he's a valuable player at that price - his a good chip for moving and not a bad back up (and mentor) for Votto, if that ends up the case.

12-04-2007, 11:27 PM
The guy had me with him until he started in on the major league roster. The Hatteberg/Votto thing has been mentioned. Phil Dumatrait is no longer here and if he was how could he be in the rotation and the bullpen (swingman, I guess) but when he's pitching in the pen apparently he is RH. :confused::D

Hopper as Jr's caddey in RF huh!!??

And where in the world is Burton?

Guys should really try to get all there info from someone locally, instead of reaching from afar.

12-05-2007, 03:37 PM
The guy had me with him until he started in on the major league roster. The Hatteberg/Votto thing has been mentioned. Phil Dumatrait is no longer here and if he was how could he be in the rotation and the bullpen (swingman, I guess) but when he's pitching in the pen apparently he is RH. :confused::D

Hopper as Jr's caddey in RF huh!!??

And where in the world is Burton?

Guys should really try to get all there info from someone locally, instead of reaching from afar.

Exactly what I was thinking. I'm sure someone from this board would have been willing to do this for free and it would have been much more accurate...

12-05-2007, 06:02 PM
I was also interested to read that:

left-hander Bobby Livingston should also make the opening-day rotation

12-05-2007, 06:57 PM
ESPN had a Projected 2008 rotation of: Harang, Arroyo, Livingston, Belisle, and Bailey.

I laughed when I saw that, they also had Hatteberg the starting 1st basemen which I think will be Votto's.

12-13-2007, 06:56 PM
Exactly what I was thinking. I'm sure someone from this board would have been willing to do this for free and it would have been much more accurate...

Not only that we would have charged them a tad less...;)

12-13-2007, 07:17 PM
Didn't Livingston have TJ surgery late last season? How would he be ready for opening day?

12-13-2007, 07:22 PM
He did. I don't know how he would be ready, maybe he will pull an eddie guardado

12-13-2007, 07:57 PM
Didn't Livingston have TJ surgery late last season? How would he be ready for opening day?

No, he had shoulder surgery. I have no clue how he would be ready for OD.

12-13-2007, 08:10 PM
No, he had shoulder surgery. I have no clue how he would be ready for OD.

Yup. That's a for sure one. He won't be ready. And what a bad break for him and the Reds. He looked like a real legit #4 type.

12-13-2007, 08:43 PM
Omitting Jared Burton (and Todd Coffey for that matter) was an obvious oversite, while listing Phil Dumatrait as a probable member of the pen gave me a nasty shudder because it would entail reacquiring him.