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03-12-2009, 02:23 PM
10 Reds prospects to watch
Bumper crop of middle infielders maturing on the farm

By Lisa Winston / MLB.com

With the 2009 season quickly approaching, MLB.com takes a look at 10 of the Reds' most intriguing prospects that you should keep an eye on.

Yonder Alonso, 1B: The seventh overall pick in 2008 out of Miami, the left-handed hitter signed at the deadline but showed right away why he was worth the money and big league contract. He hit .316 in a brief stint at Class A Advanced Sarasota before heading to Hawaii Winter Baseball, where he batted .308 with a .419 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage. Alonso, who turns 22 on Minor League Opening Day, came to the United States from Cuba as a child and batted .370 with 24 homers and 72 RBIs in his final year with the Hurricanes. He hits for power and average and has great makeup. His presence at first base means that he or sophomore Joey Votto eventually will move to the outfield.

Juan Francisco, 3B: One of the top power prospects in the organization, the 21-year-old has made strides each year, though he is still raw when it comes to things like plate discipline (19 walks vs. 123 strikeouts in '08). But the left-handed hitter has a great arm and puts on a show during batting practice. He batted .277 with 23 homers and 92 RBIs at Sarasota last year, leading the system in homers and RBIs and earning a spot in the All-Star Futures Game.

Todd Frazier, SS: One of a handful of great middle infield prospects in the organization, Frazier is third in a line of New Jersey brothers who have played pro ball, and he's the best of the trio. An '07 supplemental first-round pick out of Rutgers, he combined to hit .291 with 19 homers and 74 RBIs between Class A Dayton and Sarasota last summer, finishing fifth in the system in average and homers and fourth in RBIs. A shortstop, he's also seen time at both corners and the outfield. The 23-year-old has great makeup and projects for plus power, especially if he stays in the middle infield.

Kyle Lotzkar, RHP: The possessor of the best curveball in the system, the 19-year-old Canadian was taken in the supplemental first round in '07 out of high school. He throws a lively fastball in the low- to mid-90s as well as a curve and changeup and is working on consistency on all three. He had a 3.58 in 10 starts at Dayton and had been limiting Midwest League foes to a .215 average over 37 2/3 innings before a stress fracture in his elbow ended his season in early August. But he pitched in instructional league, is healthy now and is expected to break camp on time.

Devin Mesoraco, C: A native of the same town as the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney, Pa., the club's top '07 pick out of high school has been opening a lot of eyes in his first big league Spring Training as he works tirelessly catching bullpen to improve his defense. Already known for his great makeup, the 20-year-old hit .261 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in 83 games at Dayton after joining the team in May. He has a plus arm (after undergoing Tommy John surgery while in high school).

Neftali Soto, 3B: An '07 third-round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico, the then-shortstop broke pretty much every national high school power record set by Juan Gonzalez, then hit .303 in his Gulf Coast League debut that summer. Moved over to third base, he started '08 at Billings, batting .388 with four homers and 11 RBIs in his first 15 games before an injury to (since-traded) Dayton third baseman Brandon Waring prompted his recall. Soto went on to hit .326 with seven homers and 36 RBIs in 52 Midwest League games. Just turned 20, he is known for his power, but also can hit for average and has a plus arm.

Zachary Stewart, RHP: The club's third-round pick last spring, Stewart was, at different times, the closer and ace starter at Texas Tech and could be a very quick mover. With a fastball in the mid-90s and a plus slider, he combined to post a microscopic 1.09 ERA between Dayton and Sarasota in his pro debut, collecting five saves and fanning 36 over 33 innings while limiting opponents to a .220 average.

Drew Stubbs, OF: The Reds' top pick, eighth overall, in '06 out of the University of Texas, Stubbs' ascent has been slowed somewhat by injuries, but he rose through three levels last season while hitting .277 with seven homers, 57 RBIs and an organization-best 33 steals. The 24-year-old is a great defensive center fielder with a plus arm, good bat speed and power potential that has not clicked quite yet in terms of home run production.

Daryl Thompson, RHP: Acquired from the Nationals in '06 in the multi-player deal involving Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, Thompson may have been viewed as a throw-in since he was shut down at the time with shoulder trouble. But he could be the best of the bunch picked up by the Reds. He led the system with a 2.70 ERA last season and pitched at five levels (making his big league debut as well as a rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League). His Minor League totals were 99 strikeouts against only 32 walks over 126 2/3 innings. He made his Major League debut in style with six shutout innings against the Yankees, but shoulder soreness shut him down for awhile shortly thereafter. He has good command of his fastball and has three other pitches to keep hitters off stride.

Chris Valaika, SS: The Reds' 2008 batting champion as he combined to hit .317 between Sarasota and Chattanooga. Selected in the third round in 2006 out of UC-Santa Barbara, he is known not for any one outstanding on-field tool but for the whole toolbox, which includes makeup and leadership. He has good power for a shortstop, having hit 18 homers, while his 81 RBIs ranked second in the organization. He has great instincts and probably could play anywhere in the infield if called upon. The MVP of the Pioneer League in his pro debut, he had a team-record 32-game hitting streak that summer at Billings, then batted .284 with 12 homers and 79 RBIs the following year between Dayton and Sarasota.


03-12-2009, 02:37 PM
I just want to officially add Dallas Buck to this list.

03-12-2009, 02:39 PM
Reds farm shifts from few to many
Cincinnati boasts depth across the board in the Minors

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.

When it comes to looking at the state of the farm for the Cincinnati Reds in 2009, the names may not be as big as last year, but the pool is deeper.

Coming into '08, the Reds had a promising homegrown "big four" on the horizon with pitchers Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, first baseman Joey Votto and outfielder Jay Bruce. (That group didn't even include youngster Edinson Volquez because he was neither a rookie nor a homegrown farmhand).

This year, while there may not be a Votto or Bruce waiting to emerge in the immediate future, the organization is understandably pleased when it looks at its ranks and sees its depth, especially on the offensive side.

And that offense is especially strong around the infield. So much so that the club could afford to trade away second baseman Justin Turner and power-hitting third baseman Brandon Waring to pick up catcher Ramon Hernandez and still be loaded.

Of the club's 2008 organization leaders, three of the top four RBI producers, three of the top five home run hitters and four of the top five in average were all infielders.

Though the big league Reds were shut out of the playoffs for the 13th year in a row, three of their Minor League squads made it to the postseason, including their Triple-A affiliate at Louisville.

Coming Soon

Chris Dickerson, OF
The 2003 16th-round pick currently tops the depth chart in the race for the starting left field job, having made a good impression with a .304 average, six homers and 15 RBIs in 31 games with Cincinnati before injuring his ankle. He hit .287 in 97 games at Louisville, where his 26 steals ranked third in the system.

Ryan Hanigan, C:
The 28-year-old batted .271 in 31 games in Cincinnati last year and has been making a big impression in camp in his quest for the backup spot to veteran Ramon Hernandez. He hit .324 at Louisville prior to his callup.

More team spotlights:

Josh Roenicke, RHP
The closer prospect with the blazing fastball was a 2006 10th-round pick out of UCLA, where he was a football player before changing sports. The son of former big leaguer Gary and nephew of Ron, he split the 2008 campaign between Double-A Chattanooga and Louisville before making his big league debut.

Under the Radar

Carlos Fisher, RHP
Fisher moved from starter to reliever last year and posted a 3.73 ERA over 50 2/3 innings at Chattanooga before moving up to Louisville, where he was 5-0 with a 1.04 ERA.

Chris Heisey, OF:
Drafted in the 17th round in 2006 out of Messiah College in Pennsylvania, he's been a hit with the system for his hard-nosed, all-out style. He batted .291 with nine homers and 61 RBIs, mostly at Advanced Class A Sarasota, and his 32 steals ranked second in the system.

Robert Manuel, RHP:
MLB.com's Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year was a non-drafted free agent acquired from the Mets in '06 for southpaw Dave Williams. He posted a 1.25 ERA as a setup and middle man at Sarasota, Chattanooga and Louisville, combining for 103 strikeouts over 86 2/3 innings and a .174 opponents' average.

Jordan Smith, RHP:
A 2006 sixth-round pick out of community college in Nevada, Smith was 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA at Sarasota and 2-6 with a 5.40 ERA at Chattanooga in '08 but played the second half of the season with a sore knee that required surgery. The 23-year-old with the sinking fastball and plus slider could be in the big leagues this year.


Top Picks

2008: Yonder Alonso, 1B:
The seventh overall pick out of Miami, he signed late but went right to Sarasota and hit .316 in six games. He followed that up with a .308 average, .419 on-base percentage and .510 slugging percentage in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Alonso, who turns 22 on Opening Day in the Minors, is a left-handed hitter with great plate discipline and should be a quick mover.

2007: Devin Mesoraco, C:
The 20-year-old native of Punxsutawney, Pa., hit .261 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in 83 games at Class A Dayton last summer. The 15th overall pick, he has a plus arm and great makeup.

2006: Drew Stubbs, OF:
Stubbs was the eighth overall selection out of the University of Texas and, though injuries have slowed him a bit, he moved through three levels in '08 and led the system with 33 steals. He also has a plus arm and a quick bat. He hit a combined .277 with seven homers and 57 RBIs.

2008 Draft Recap

RHP Zachary Stewart (3), a closer at Texas Tech, throws a fastball and slider and was impressive in his pro debut with an 0.55 ERA and three saves at Dayton and a 1.62 ERA over 16 2/3 innings at Sarasota. ... SS Alexander Buchholz (6) hit .396 with 26 RBIs in 34 games at short-season Billings after signing out of Delaware. ... OF David Sappelt (9) signed out of Coastal Carolina and hit .299, third in the organization, with seven homers and 35 RBIs at Billings. He is an outstanding defensive outfielder. ... OF Theodis Bowe (21), a Delaware high school product, makes it home to first in under 4.0 seconds and stole six bases in a brief stint in the Gulf Coast League. The 18-year-old left-handed batter stands 5-foot-9. ... RHP Juan Carlos Sulbaran (30), a Curacao native signed out of American Heritage High School in Florida, will be making his pro debut this summer but lost "sleeper" status when he struck out Ivan Rodriguez on three pitches in the Netherlands' loss to Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He has great stuff and, though only 19, may break camp with Dayton, thanks to his international experience.


Hitter of the Year -- 3B Neftali Soto
The 2007 third-round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico broke all of Juan Gonzalez's power records there. He combined to hit .340 with 11 homers and 47 RBIs in only 67 games between Billings and Dayton last season.

Pitcher of the Year -- RHP Juan Carlos Sulbaran
Maybe it's just having watched this kid pitch against Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, but not only will he make his pro debut with Class A Dayton at age 19, he will dominate Midwest League hitters.

Notes of Note

The Reds have several young future stars who will be making their stateside debuts in '09, including the aforementioned Sulbaran. Another exciting international signee is 16-year-old Venezuelan OF Yorman Rodriguez, a five-tool talent who likely will make his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League later this season. Another one to watch is OF Juan Duran, a 6-foot-6 Dominican 17-year-old whose arrival to the field this summer will be delayed by knee surgery. ... The Reds will have a new Double-A home this summer, moving from Chattanooga to Carolina in the Southern League. And this may be their last year in the Advanced Class A Florida State League with Sarasota as Cincinnati will be leaving that spring complex in 2010 for Goodyear in Arizona.


"I think the strength at this point, compared to where we were four years ago, is depth. We've got some pretty good players throughout the system, and that's always nice. If someone moves up, you always have someone to replace them with."

--Terry Reynolds, Reds director of player development