View Full Version : Reds 2008 Organizational Preview from milb.com

02-27-2008, 08:24 PM
Top prospects are arriving in Cincinnati
New manager Dusty Baker, Reds will mix youth with experience
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com

The future success of every Major League team lies in its Minor League system. With that in mind, each preseason, MLB.com takes a top-to-bottom look at all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent draft picks.

Few farm systems can boast a stronger "Fab Four" than the Reds' nearly-ready-for-primetime quartet of center fielder Jay Bruce, first baseman Joey Votto and right-handers Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto.

Cincinnati is, however, far from just a four-trick pony. Its farm system has steadily improved thanks to impressive depth, in both quality and quantity, across the board.

Despite the parent club's 72-90 finish in 2007 and a 12-year playoff drought, don't rule the Reds out in this year's wide-open NL Central. They will need big seasons from their prospects, but it isn't out of the question.

10 Spot
Ten prospects to watch out for in 2008:

Jay Bruce, OF
We could easily categorize Bruce as an "on the verge" candidate but for now, as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, we'll try to keep from rushing him too much. However, the offseason trade of Josh Hamilton to Texas may have been the signal that it is very close to being "Bruce Time" in the Queen City.

MiLB.com's top-ranked prospect, the 2005 first-rounder (12th overall) is a legitimate five-tool player who brings the work ethic of a guy who needs to fight to get to every level.

The left-handed Bruce, who will turn 21 on Minor League Opening Day (April 3), combined to bat .319 with 26 homers and 89 RBIs along with 46 doubles in a 2007 season split between Class A Advanced Sarasota, Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville, where he homered in his first at-bat and blasted 11 home runs in just 187 at-bats.

"He just needs to go in and do all the things he's done so far in his career," said Reds farm director Terry Reynolds on Bruce's chances of breaking camp as the big league center fielder. "His ability will dictate where he plays, but the other part is there has to be opportunity and that's up to the manager."
Video: Interview with Jay Bruce
Audio: Bruce smacks an RBI double
Audio: Bruce jacks a solo homer

Johnny Cueto, RHP
Cueto, like Bruce, could make our "On the Verge" list as he is a long-shot candidate to make the Cincinnati rotation, but with just five Triple-A starts under his belt, we'll keep the non-roster invitee in the Minor League section of this preview -- for now.

While not generating the same buzz as Homer Bailey, the 5-foot-10 Cueto has roared up the prospect charts in the two years since emerging as the system's first true prospect from its Dominican Republic operation. He ranks 47th on MiLB.com's Top Prospects list.

Throwing a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s and a great slider, both with excellent control, Cueto will likely start the season as the ace at Louisville. In 2007, he started the year at Sarasota, posting a 3.33 ERA in 78 innings, improved to 3.10 at Chattanooga and finished up with a 2.05 in four starts with the Bats, walking two while striking out 21 in 22 innings. Overall he fanned 170 in 161 1/3 innings.
Audio: Cueto notches sixth strikeout in Triple-A debut

Chris Dickerson, OF
At 25, Dickerson is something of a sleeper pick for this list, but 2008 could be a breakthrough season as he gets a shot at the big leagues. Originally a 16th-round pick in 2003 out of Nevada, the cousin of NFL great Eric Dickerson has many things going for him, including speed and tremendous athleticism.

He led the organization in 2007 with 30 steals at Chattanooga and Louisville, adding 14 homers. The main knock on him has been his high strikeout rate.

"He's on the 40-man roster and will get a good look in camp," said Reynolds. "He's done everything to put himself in position to win a big league job."
Video: Dickerson launches homer
Audio: Dickerson hits for cycle

Juan Francisco, 3B
One of Reynolds' own sleeper picks to enjoy a breakthrough season last year, the 20-year-old emerged as one of the top power prospects in the Reds system. He led the Midwest League in homers with 25 while hitting .268 with 90 RBIs and 12 steals at Class A Dayton.

The club will be looking for him to improve his eye and restrain his free-swinging ways just a bit, but they know that comes with the territory with a power hitter.

"He's a free swinger to the point of swinging at some real bad balls, and so that's the thing he has to work on -- to not swing at balls out of the strike zone," Reynolds said. "He had a great year at Dayton and there's no reason to think that won't continue."
Audio: Francisco belts three homers

Todd Frazier, SS
One of two 2007 draftees to make our 10 Spot list, the younger brother of Minor Leaguers Jeff (Mariners) and Charles (formerly with the Marlins) followed in his siblings' footsteps through Rutgers University and into pro ball as the Reds' supplemental first-round pick.

As the top prospect in the Pioneer League last year, he hit .319 with five homers and 25 RBIs with Billings before moving up to Dayton, where he batted .318 with two homers and five RBIs in a week's play.

The spotlight is not new to the 22-year-old, who starred for the Toms River Little League team that won the 1998 Little League World Series. Even then he showed the plus raw power that has made him such a hot commodity, homering in the last three games of that tournament.

"He is exactly what the scouts told us he'd be, a tough hard-nosed great-makeup player who plays with a smile and loves being out there," Reynolds said. "He should move up fairly rapidly."
Audio: Frazier's game-winning single

Matt Maloney, LHP
Acquired mid-season from Philadelphia in the deal for pitcher Kyle Lohse, this quintessential crafty lefty could reach the big leagues soon as a back-of-the-rotation guy. A third-round pick out of Mississippi in 2005, he earned South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year honors in his first full season, going 16-9 with a 2.09 ERA and 180 strikeouts at Lakewood.

He started 2007 by skipping a level to Double-A Reading before being dealt to Cincinnati, which sent him to Chattanooga before he finished the year at Louisville. In his two stops with the Reds, he struck out 62 batters in 45 innings over seven starts with a 2.80 ERA. He throws a fastball that just touches 90, a plus changeup and solid slider.
Audio: Maloney hits solo home run

Devin Mesoraco, C
The Reds' top pick in 2007 out of high school in Punxsutawney, Pa. may not be able to tell you if there will be six more weeks of winter in February, but he should be calling much bigger things before long as one of the rare five-tool catching prospects in the game.

Just 19, he is a good-hitting catcher whose arm seems fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2006. He hit just .219 in 137 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League in his debut but the Reds feel confident that that was not indicative of his talent.

"He was pretty beat up and I've got to give him credit, he just hung in there and played hurt the whole season," Reynolds said. "He went home, rested and had a great instructional league. He has great makeup and all the tools for the position."

Josh Roenicke, RHP
Another prospect with great bloodlines, this closer is the son of former big leaguer Gary and the nephew of Ron. Still something of a raw pitching prospect, having converted not only from outfield to the mound but from football to baseball at UCLA, the 10th-rounder from 2006 had a terrific first full season.

His 24 saves led the organization, and he posted a 3.25 ERA at Sarasota and a 0.95 at Double-A Chattanooga, combining for 56 strikeouts in 47 innings. He throws a fastball consistently in the mid 90s with late life and a good cutter.

At age 25, the Reds don't have to baby him, and he has good mechanics though he's still learning about pitching fundamentals.

"He's been as pleasant a surprise as anyone in the system in the last four years," said Reynolds. "He jumped in and dominated at closer at every level."
Audio: Roenicke gets a strikeout for the save

Drew Stubbs, OF
The Reds' top pick in 2006 out of Texas was slowed in his first full season by a nagging case of turf toe that ultimately required surgery this past winter. Considered perhaps the best defensive outfielder in the system, the injury hampered his plus speed.

A 23-year-old with College World Series experience, Stubbs could move up quickly if he remains healthy. He has plus power and a strong arm that was good for 15 outfield assists at Dayton in '07, where he hit .270 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs. Despite the injury, his 23 steals were third most in the Reds organization.
Audio: Stubbs goes yard
Audio: Stubbs smacks a double
Video: Interview with Drew Stubbs

Pedro Viola, LHP
The 24-year-old Viola is relatively new to pitching, having originally signed as an outfielder with the Giants organization. In his first full season stateside he combined for a 1.42 ERA in relief at three levels (Dayton, Sarasota and Chattanooga) with 94 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings.

"A lefty like that with a good arm isn't easy to find and he did well at every level," Reynolds said. "I don't think there is an issue to rush him but we're all excited about him."
Audio: Viola posts third strikeout in save

Under the Radar

Daniel Dorn, OF
A 32nd-round pick in 2006, Dorn has moved up just as quickly as a top-round pick. After hitting .354 at Billings and winning the Pioneer League batting crown in '06, he jumped to Sarasota to start 2007 and finished at Chattanooga. He hit a combined .287 with 20 homers and 87 RBIs last year, including.311 at Chattanooga in nearly a month of play.

Dorn should start back with the Lookouts but could easily see time at Louisville this year. Coming off an operation on his non-throwing shoulder, Dorn played hurt virtually all of '07.

"He's swung the bat well since the day we got him," Reynolds said. "So we'll keep moving him until he doesn't do that and so far it hasn't happened."
Audio: Dorn goes yard

Carlos Fisher, RHP
Keep an eye on this Lewis-Clark State product this year as he moves from the rotation to the bullpen. He began the '07 campaign at Sarasota, going 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in seven starts before moving up to Chattanooga, where he was 5-9 with a 4.29 ERA in 21 games.

His bread-and-butter pitch, a heavy sinker, should be more effective in the late innings and that's where the 2005 11th-rounder should see the most time, either at Chattanooga or Louisville.

"He's a good guy with good makeup and good stuff and we feel he's gotten the innings he needed as a young pitcher, so now is the time for the move to the pen," said Reynolds. "With his stuff he could be a real good relief pitcher."
Audio: Fisher fans his fourth straight

Chris Heisey, OF
This 17th-rounder out of Messiah College in Pennsylvania in 2006 combined to hit .295 with 10 homers, 51 RBIs and 22 steals at Dayton and Sarasota in his first full season. He finished fourth in the system among full-season hitters and base stealers and is very highly regarded in the organization.

"He's probably as good a pick as you could make for a guy 'under the radar,'" Reynolds said. "He has tremendous tools, plays the game the right way and will find a way to play in the big leagues sooner rather than later."
Audio: Heisey's 12th-inning homer breaks tie

Daryl Thompson, RHP
Originally taken out of high school in Maryland by the Expos in the eighth round of the 2003 Draft, Thompson missed half of 2005 and most of 2006 with a torn labrum but was still a key cog in a multi-player deal with the Reds last summer. He made his Reds debut in 2007, and though still not yet 100 percent as the season began, he put up fine numbers.

The 22-year-old Thompson combined to go 14-5 with a 3.18 ERA at Dayton (5-0, 0.96 in five starts) and Sarasota (9-5, 3.77). His fastball is not back to its pre-surgery blaze, but it was still sitting in the low 90s and helping him lead the Reds organization in wins, finish second in ERA and fifth in strikeouts.
Audio: Thompson notches sixth strikeout

2007 Draft Recap

RHP Kyle Lotzkar (1S), a high school draftee from Canada, posted a 3.86 ERA in seven starts in the Gulf Coast League, striking out 24 in 21 innings. ... SS Zack Cozart (2) out of Mississippi was considered the top defensive college shortstop in the draft and went straight to Dayton, where he hit .239 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 53 games. ... SS Neftali Soto (3) was drafted out of high school in Puerto Rico and batted .303 with 28 RBIs in the Gulf Coast League. ... 3B Brandon Waring (7), out of Wofford College, was one of the Reds' most pleasant surprises, showing big time power. He added 20 homers at Billings to his 27 college bombs in 2007 and also hit .311 with a .614 slugging percentage. ... Another sleeper pick was 3B Brett Bartles (30) whose .322 average at Billings led the organization.


Organizational Player of the Year: Todd Frazier
He showed great potential in his brief time at both Billings and Dayton. Similar numbers on a similar pace in '08 would be very nice indeed.

Organizational Pitcher of the Year: Josh Roenicke
He's had significant success in a short time as the Reds' top closer prospect and will likely start the year in that role at Chattanooga. Look for him to pile up the stats between there and Louisville as he preps for his Cincinnati arrival.

Comeback Player of the Year: Paul Janish
As last year began, many felt that Janish was just a call away from the big leagues, based on his outstanding defensive capabilities at shortstop. Unfortunately, he backslid badly at the plate in 2007, hitting a combined .235 at Chattanooga and Louisville. Looking over his shoulder at Frazier, Cozart and 2006 draftee Chris Valaika could put a boost back in his bat.
Audio: Janish launches grand slam
Audio: Janish roundtripper

Top Candidate for NL Rookie of the Year: Jay Bruce
With stiff competition from Homer Bailey.


"For me, [Joey Votto] proved in September that he's ready to play there and now it's the manager's decision whether he thinks he's the right guy to do the job. His bat appears ready, he's improved defensively and he got some time in left field so he has that versatility. To me, he doesn't have much left to prove at Triple-A."

-- Terry Reynolds on prospect Joey Votto's chances of winning the first-base job over veteran Scott Hatteberg.


02-27-2008, 08:27 PM
Interesting tidbit about Fisher in that he's moving to the bullpen this year. If that's the case then I hope he starts in Louisville. I like his arm a whole lot, enough to think he could help the Reds bullpen at some point this season.

More from milb.com:

Here are a few players on the brink of breaking into the Major Leagues:

• Homer Bailey, RHP -- Limited to 45 big league innings because of a groin strain late in 2007, the 2004 first-rounder has ace-type stuff with a mid-90s fastball, plus curve and cutter. He begins Spring Training as MiLB.com's No. 9 prospect and has a good shot at one of the open rotation spots.

• Joey Votto, 1B -- A second-round pick out of high school in Toronto in 2002, Votto earned International League Rookie of the Year laurels at Louisville in 2007, hitting .294 with 22 homers, 92 RBIs and 17 steals. He made his big league debut in September, hitting .321 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 84 at-bats, and ranks 34th on MiLB.com's Top Prospects list. With the Reds resigning veteran Scott Hatteberg, new manager Dusty Baker may face a tough decision at first base.

• Marcus McBeth, RHP -- Originally drafted by the A's in the fourth round of 2001, the converted outfielder combined for 17 saves at Triple-A Sacramento and Louisville last year in between Major League stints in the early summer and September. Though he struggled in June, he posted a 4.00 ERA in 11 games down the stretch. He could factor into the bullpen from the get-go this spring with his outstanding changeup, solid fastball, and great makeup.


02-27-2008, 08:29 PM
And just one more thing: Reds

Lisa Winston's Reds preview is up now on MiLB.com. They've got some serious talent, particularly with the "Fab Four" Lisa wrote about. Here's her first entry for our "And just one more thing" feature:

With what now seems to be a perennial though ever-changing glut of middle infielders, twoCvalaika favorites of mine did not make the cut so I want to give them some love here: Chris Valaika and Justin Turner. Both enjoyed solid first full seasons coming off killer debuts, but the future for both remains a bit murky as they probably project more as utility infielders. Valaika, who has played at shortstop both of his pro seasons, saw time at second base during Hawaii Winter League this year and that could be his eventual position. A third-round pick out of UC-Santa Barbara in 2006, he was Pioneer League MVP that year, hitting .324 with eight homers and 60 RBIs. He hit well at Dayton to start this season, batting .307 with 10 homers and 56 RBIs in 79 games but saw his numbers dip with his mid-season promotion to Sarasota, hitting .253-2-23 in 57 games there. (It’s interesting that all of last year’s shortstop triumvirate fell off the list this year, Jturnerwith Paul Janish struggling woefully at the plate at Chattanooga and Louisville and Milton Loo hitting the voluntarily retired list as he returned home to Hawaii Turner, a seventh-round pick in ’06 out of Cal State Fullerton, is another guy we love, a real scrappy gym rat who loves to play. After hitting .338 with six homers, 41 RBIs and 12 steals at Billings in his debut, he batted .311 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs at Dayton in his debut. A second baseman, he also probably projects as a utility guy. Both of these players would have made the list in many organizations and it’s really just the Reds’ newfound depth that saw them just miss making the cut.


02-27-2008, 08:51 PM
I like that move they're making with Fisher.

02-28-2008, 08:52 PM
I like the article, but after the four that are breaking down the door, how does our organization's depth compare to that of other systems?

02-28-2008, 09:14 PM
It's still amazing to me how different this farm system feels compared to 2004 when I first started following the teams. You know you're doing ok when you have a guy who hit 47 combined HR's last year (Waring) that's barely mentioned and someone like Travis Wood isn't talked about at all.

02-28-2008, 09:18 PM
I like the article, but after the four that are breaking down the door, how does our organization's depth compare to that of other systems?


02-28-2008, 09:23 PM
I like the article, but after the four that are breaking down the door, how does our organization's depth compare to that of other systems?

Obviously the farm system is going to take a hit when four prospects the caliber of Bailey, Bruce, Cueto, and Votto graduate to the major leagues, plus Matt Maloney and Josh Roenicke could graduate sometime this summer. But after there are still some nice looking kids behind them.

Todd Frazier is one. He is a very polished hitter, I look for him to have a big year and possibly be the Reds number one prospect at this time next season. Drew Stubbs is also very talented, if he carries over his second half play into this year then he will be very highly rated on the top 100 lists next year. Brandon Waring, Nefi Soto, and Devin Mesoraco are also guys with the ability to have big years.

On the pitching front - Kyle Lotzkar is a guy to keep a close eye on. It wouldn't surprise me to see him step up and become a big time pitching prospect in the class of Bailey and Cueto. His stuff is very, very good. Travis Wood is also a very good prospect when healthy. Hopefully his arm problems are a thing of the past. Hopefully the farm can stay well stocked with another solid draft in 2008 and some help from the Dominican academy.

02-28-2008, 11:21 PM
Wow for Fisher. Kind of a surprise after a pretty good year as a starter, but it sounds like his delivery wasn't cut out for starting and that's probably why his numbers fell off so much later in the year. I was a big fan of him as a future middle rotation type guy, but I could see him pushing his way onto the scene this year as a reliever. You've also got the possibility that the transition could juice his already good sinker into the mid 90's giving him plenty of potential in a late inning role. This bullpen with Cordero, Roenicke, Burton, and Fisher could be pretty dirty in the near future. Makes you wonder if they have the same plan for Sean Watson though.

02-29-2008, 04:45 PM
Chris Heisey, OF
This 17th-rounder out of Messiah College in Pennsylvania in 2006 combined to hit .295 with 10 homers, 51 RBIs and 22 steals at Dayton and Sarasota in his first full season. He finished fourth in the system among full-season hitters and base stealers and is very highly regarded in the organization.

"He's probably as good a pick as you could make for a guy 'under the radar,'" Reynolds said. "He has tremendous tools, plays the game the right way and will find a way to play in the big leagues sooner rather than later."

Toolsy Terry picks his Denorfia-equivalent.

03-02-2008, 06:23 PM
I think Dorn is a light year or so ahead of the, "so much Love" for Stubbs. They were teammates in '06 at Billings, Stubbs went to Dayton, and the Reds sensing Dorn and his Pioneer League Batting Title, was better than that, jumped him to High A Sarasota. He ended up at AA Chatanooga, and was stellar.

03-02-2008, 08:48 PM
I think Dorn is a light year or so ahead of the, "so much Love" for Stubbs. They were teammates in '06 at Billings, Stubbs went to Dayton, and the Reds sensing Dorn and his Pioneer League Batting Title, was better than that, jumped him to High A Sarasota. He ended up at AA Chatanooga, and was stellar.

I still think Danny Dorn may go down as one of the better draft picks made this century so far (for the Reds especially). While he may look to be a platoon guy, he has done nothing but destroy the baseball everywhere he has been. For a 32nd round guy who likely signed for less than $5000, thats a steal and a half.

03-02-2008, 08:51 PM
Dorn reminds me somewhat of Brad Hawpe. Similar body type, left handed hitters who struggle against lefties and absolutely destroy right handed pitchers. If Dorn becomes 2/3 the player Hawpe is then the Reds have themselves a major steal.