I posted this at my site www.redsdaily.com
(hopefully you don't mind the small plug), and thought I'd see if it would generate any discussion over here.
This list is going to be updated at my site from time to time, as trades happen, and as the games get played. I'm thinking right now that there'll be a midseason and end of season update every year.
My rules for eligibility are the same as MLB's rules for the Rookie of the Year award: 130 at bats or 50 innings pitched. My methodology is hard to pin down, but here are the things I was looking at when I created my list:
Statistically, for hitters, I was looking at a player's ability to get on base, their power, and, to a much lesser degree, any speed they might possess. For pitchers I looked primarily at their ERA, hits allowed per 9/IP, their strikeouts, and their walks allowed.
I also looked very carefully at the age of the player and the level they had reached. Obviously a 20 year old putting up good numbers at AA Chattanooga is much more impressive than a 26 year old putting up the same stats at the same level. The age given next to the player's name is the age they will be on June 1, 2005.
3. Any Scouting Reports I Could Find
I tried to do as much research as I could to find out what these guys actually look like on the field. With some players I was more successful than others, but the effort was made with everyone.
As far as position goes, I downgraded relief pitchers a bit. Otherwise I just looked at the above three criteria.
Before I start I should mention that Joe Valentine wasn't included and he probably should have been. I didn't realize he still qualified under my criteria until I was done with the list. Here's the list.
40. RP Alexander Farfan - Age 22
You look at the numbers, and you can't help but think "Geez, Farfan kind of sucks". But scouting reports say otherwise, and they're primarily the reason why Alex snuck onto the list. Here's what Baseball America had to say about Farfan last November:
You'd probably have to see righthander Alex Farfan's electric arm to appreciate it, because he's far from polished
And here is what Team One Baseball had to say about Farfan last June:
Alexander Farfan, 21, added the necessary upper-body strength that he lacked in previous seasons, likely giving him the best velocity in the organization. He pitches aggressively with a 90-95 MPH fastball that maintains its plane through the strike zone, though that is the only pitch that is effective for him.
Farfan's only pitch is his devastating fastball, and if he can be taught something else then he could eventually be an effective big league reliever. He'd also have to learn how to throw another pitch effectively. He's a long shot, but the tools are there.
39. C Craig Tatum - Age 22
Tatum was drafted out of Mississippi State this year, in the third round. Here is his player page from MSU.
Craig is said to be a whiz with the glove and with pitching staffs, but he's not too great with the stick. Thus, he sounds like most every catcher in the Reds system. Here's what BA had to say about him, after his first season in the Pioneer League:
He is well above-average defensively and that fact helped his cause greatly when we evaluated the league. His swing is long but it's not out of the question that he could hit .250 in the big leagues. While that's not going to blow you away, mix in his catching skills and the impressive way he handles staffs and you have yourself a serviceable backstop.
Tatum will more than likely catch in the big leagues eventually, as most defensive minded catchers do, but how valuable he'll be when he gets there is anyone's guess. Since he was drafted out of college he'll probably be jumping a level or two this year, and we'll know a lot more about him after 2005.
38. SS Jeff Bannon - Age 26
Bannon had a relatively solid 2004 at Chattanooga, and could probably end up a utility guy in the major leagues eventually. Jeff was an 18th round pick in 2001, out of UC-Santa Barbara, and he's moved up in the organization pretty consistently, going up a level every year. He's a good bet to be in Louisville in 2005, and if he performs adequately there then he'll have a shot at being a backup for a few years in the bigs.
37. 3B Mark Schramek - Age 24
Time's running out for Schramek. After the Reds drafted him as a supplemental first round pick in 2002, Mark actually cracked the BA Top 10 for the Reds, but was pretty overmatched when he started playing minor league ball. Schramek held out after being drafted, and was out of organized ball for a year. It seems to have hurt him, and he's getting pretty old for high-A ball. He's said to have a cannon arm, maybe a move to the mound could salvage his career?
36. C Miguel Perez - Age 21
Perez was just added to the 40 man roster, meaning the Reds value him dearly as a prospect. Why they felt the need to protect him from the Rule 5 draft is puzzling, since it's unlikely a team would want to carry a 21 year old catcher who hit .237 in low-A ball last year, but Dan O'Brien does work in mysterious ways. I've read several times that Perez is ready for the big leagues defensively right now, but he's got a long way to go with his bat. I'm thinking at this point that Miguel is on the Mike Matheny track, but I'd also say that it's a near certainty that Perez will play in a Reds uniform one day, although it'll likely be as a backup unless he learns to hit. Perez'll probably be higher rated on other Reds prospect lists, but I just don't put enough emphasis on defense behind the plate to justify placing him any higher.
35. RP David Shafer - Age 23
Shafer has done nothing but perform, and he's on track to make an appearance in the Reds bullpen come 2007 or so. He's probably going to be Sarasota's (high-A) closer next season, and I'll be surprised if he doesn't close out the year in Chattanooga. His K/9IP ratio is something to get excited about, and he's extremely stingy with the bases on balls to boot.
There's really nothing not to like here, so far at least, and the future looks pretty bright for David.
34. OF Chris Dickerson - Age 23
Dickerson put up great numbers at Dayton last year, getting on base at a .410 clip, but struggled in his short stint at Potomac. He's a hoss, standing 6'4 and weighing 210, so there's a good chance that he'll develop power at some point. He's apparently already got speed, as he stole 27 bases at Dayton last year, and if he does add that power then he'll become a lot more interesting. Chris'll get another whack at high-A in 2005, and he's still got a good bit of time to improve.
33. OF Chris Denorfia - Age 24
The light switch was apparently flipped on for Chris Denorfia between 2003 and 2004. Chris tore up Potomac in 2004 after a fairly miserable 2003 at the same level. He also looked pretty solid in his promotion to AA Chattanooga. The downside is that he was a little old for high-A ball in 2004, but he's got a nice skill set, including a good mix of speed and power, and he should reach the major leagues in a couple of years.
32. SP Phil Dumatrait - Age 23
Dumatrait missed the entire 2004 season with a torn rotator cuff, but was a pretty solid prospect before the injury. He was the Red Sox first round pick in 2000, and has never put up poor numbers. It's worth noting that he hasn't advanced beyond high-A ball though, and losing the year to injury hasn't helped. Phillip makes this list based on his pre-injury performances, but it's certainly possible that his career might not advance much more.
2005 will be a huge year for Dumatrait, and it'll be interesting to see how well he bounces back from his injury.
31. SP Tyler Pelland - Age 21
Pelland is a lefty who put up great strikeout numbers at Billings in 2004. He struggled mightily at Dayton, but he throws 95 according to Baseball America, and throwing that hard as a lefthander is a beautiful thing. He's years and years away, but he's got the stuff to be a very solid major league pitcher.
30. RP Brian Shackelford - Age 28
Brian Shackelford has had a long strange road to being a relief pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization. He was a starting pitcher and outfielder for the University of Oklahoma and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals as an outfielder. He spent the first four and a half years of his pro career playing in the outfield, before going back to pitching in 2002. Brian was then traded to the Reds for Alan Moye and Damaso Espino in a spring training deal prior to the 2003 season.
That trade is looking like a real winner for the Reds now, as Moye and Espino haven't done much in the Royals organization, and Shackelford has pitched quite well at the AAA level. Here's what Baseball America has to say about his arsenal:
He does a good job of mixing four pitches, including an 88-92 mph fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
Shackelford needs to cut down on his walks, but in 2004 he compensated for his wildness by only allowing 7.15 hits per 9/IP. If he could just drop his walks down to 4 or so BB/9 he'd be in great shape, and there's reason to believe he can do that, since his walk total dropped dramatically from his 2002 season to his 2004 season.
Brian was added to the 40 man roster on October 13th, and he's a lock to wear a Reds uniform at some point in 2005.
29. OF Steve Smitherman - Age 27
It's kind of easy to forget that Smitherman was the Reds minor league player of the year for 2003. Steve is getting up there in years, and he needs to do better with the stick than he managed in 2004 if he wants to regain what prospect status he had.
Smitherman was a 23rd round draft pick in 2000, and I can't imagine the Reds expected much out of the guy since he was drafted that low, but he managed to put up solid numbers at every level before his breakout 2003 season at AA Chattanooga.
After being called up by the Reds briefly in 2003, Smitherman has really struggled. Steve had pretty good power prior to the callup, but it's been absent since. His 2004 season wasn't horrible, but he's probably going to have to do a little better if he wants to have a major league career.
I said after the 2003 season that Smitherman probably needed to be traded to realize whatever potential he may possess, and that still remains true today. There's not going to be room in the Reds outfield for Steve anytime soon, and his prime years have now arrived. Let's hope for his sake that he suits up for another team in 2005.
28. RP Daylan Childress - Age 26
Childress is getting a little old to be playing at the AA level, and he'll probably start 2005 at AAA Louisville.
Drafted in the fifth round in 2001, Daylan has advanced a full level every year since. He should spend most of the year in AAA, but he'll probably be a Red at some point in 2005 unless the Cincinnati bullpen has miraculous health and pitches extremely well. Since the former is unlikely and the latter is only slightly more probable, I think Childress will get his first taste of the bigs this year. Daylan is a new addition to the 40 man roster, which signals that he's at least somewhat valued by the Reds organization.
27. SP DJ Mattox - Age 25
After being plucked from the Mets in the 2003 Rule 5 draft, Mattox missed the entire 2004 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right arm. DJ was a pretty highly regarded prospect before the injury and Baseball America had this to say about him:
A converted infielder in college, Mattox didn't have much mileage on his arm when the Mets originally drafted him out of Anderson (S.C.) College in the 11th round in 2001. He looks like a polished pitcher, though, as he operates with four quality pitches, including a low-90s fastball and a plus changeup, and command.
If it weren't for the injury DJ would probably be ranked quite a bit higher in the Reds system, but I'm a little bearish on him for now. If he comes back strong in 2005 then he'll move up this list quite a bit, and he'll also have a shot at appearing on the big league club at some point.
26. SP Matt Belisle - Age 24
Trading for Braves pitching prospects is usually a crap shoot, since the Braves are pretty good at knowing who to keep. Belisle certainly didn't cost much (a soon to be a free agent Kent Mercker), but he hasn't turned out like the Reds expected either.
After being acquired from the Braves in 2003, Matt actually had a short stint for the Reds. It didn't go too well, but the future still seemed to look pretty bright for the right hander, as he was only 23 years old. But for some reason Belisle went downhill terribly in 2004, putting up awful numbers at AAA Louisville. We can take comfort in the fact that it was his first full year at that level, but Belisle was seriously hittable, giving up over 10 hits per 9IP.
Belisle is blessed with great control, but he's starting to look like a soft tossing finesse type, and the Reds are overloaded with those. Hopefully he'll get his K rate up, and help the Reds out in the next couple of years.
25. C Dane Sardinha - Age 26
Sardinha started to develop some power in 2004, but his ability to get on base was abysmal. Ten walks in 324 at bats simply won't cut it, and someone needs to tell him that ASAP.
Right now Dane is the number three catcher in the Reds system, and he'll see time with the Reds in 2004 if Javier Valentin or Jason LaRue get injured at any point. Sardinha is simply awful at the plate, but his defensive skills are reportedly impressive. Dane was drafted out of high school in 1997 by the Kansas City Royals as a second rounder, but wanted more money than the Royals were willing to give. He was then drafted by the Reds in 2000 (as a second rounder) and has steadily progressed through the system since. Jim Bowden gave Dane a ridiculous contract that stipulated that he'd have to be in the major leagues by 2005, but the Reds managed to get him through waivers to avoid that requirement.
24. SP Ty Howington - Age 24
It feels like Howington has been in the Reds system forever, but he's still only 24. Drafted by the Reds way back in 1999, Ty has pitched pretty well in the lower levels of the minors, but hasn't been able to make the jump to AA. He missed all of 2004 with yet another arm injury, but he'll be back to give things another go in 2005. Howington is a power lefty, and if he can stay healthy then he should still have a future ahead of him.
23. OF Tony Blanco - Age 23
Blanco is probably the best power prospect in the organization at this point, and led the minor leagues in home runs with 29 last season. A former top Red Sox prospect, Tony is a converted third baseman who now plays int he outfield. He's only 23, and played well in his late season call up to Chattanooga. It's possible I've underrated Blanco, especially considering how thin the Reds organization is when it comes to hitting prospects.
Tony should spend all of 2005 at AA, and hopefully will improve his patience at the plate.
22. 1B Jesse Gutierrez - Age 26
Gutierrez just finished a pretty outstanding campaign in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .296/.367/.467 in 105 at bats. Not a bad follow up to what was a very solid season at AA Chattanooga.
Drafted in the 20th round of the 2001 draft, Jesse has spent nearly a full season at every level, and that will probably continue to be true in 2005, as he'll more than likely spend the entire year at AAA Louisville. The Reds recent signing of 1B AJ Zapp complicates things however, and if Zapp doesn't make the major league team then Gutierrez may end up back in Chattanooga, at least to start the season.
21. C Brian Peterson - Age 26
Brian Peterson is ranked this high for one simple reason: he's the only catcher in the entire system besides LaRue that can hit. And I can't even be positive about that, because Peterson had never put up the kind of numbers he put up in 2004. It'll be very intriguing to see if Brian's 2004 was a fluke, or if he can continue to build on the progress he's made.
Like Jesse Gutierrez, Brian played in the Arizona Fall League this year, and he did extremely well, hitting .379/.463/.534 in 58 at bats. Peterson is blocked by Dane Sardinha right now, so he'll be at Chattanooga again in 2005. If he continues to hit then I imagine it won't take long for the Reds to jettison Sardinha and move Brian up to AAA.
20. SS Jose Ronda - Age 19
Jose "Help, Help Me" Ronda is a 19 year old second baseman, drafted out of Puerto Rico in the third round of the 2003 draft. Baseball America had this to say about him a year ago:
They view him as an offensive second baseman. He has some juice from both sides, but has work to do defensively and needs to improve his swing from the right side of the plate. He should take the slow track.
He certainly has taken the slow track, but it seems to be suiting him so far, as he hit pretty well at Billings in 2004. He's years away, but I like what I've seen so far. Middle infielders with some pop are rare, so Jose's a valuable commodity.
19. RP Jose Guevara - Age 23
14.29 K/9IP. Sure it was at a pretty low level, but that really has to take your breath away. That K ratio was good enough for fifth among all minor league relievers at all levels.
Guevara was a seventh rounder in 2003, and he looks like a great pick at this point. He doesn't walk an excessive amount of hitters, he gets loads of strikeouts ... he's pretty much exactly what you want in a relief pitching prospect. He should be moving up to Sarasota in 2005, and if Jose continues pitching the way he did in 2004 then he'll see Chattanooga as well in '05.
18. SP Ben Kozlowski - Age 24
Kozlowski was recently picked up by the Reds as a six year minor league free agent out of the Rangers system. He was originally drafted by the Braves in 1999.
Ben's now a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and should be a threat to make the Reds roster at some point in 2005, especially since he's on the 40 man. Kozlowski has already had a brief taste of major league life, getting called up by the Rangers for a brief stint in 2002 at the age of 22. He was also the Rangers Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2002 and then their number three overall prospect prior to the 2003 season according to Baseball America. Here's what they had to say about him on that list:
Strengths: Start with a strong left arm attached to a big frame, then add the poise to handle a rapid rise through the system. Kozlowski deals low-90s fastballs and has good arm speed on his changeup, one of the systemís best. He uses his size to get depth on his curve, which can be a real hammer at times. Weaknesses: Innings and experience will help Kozlowski repeat his mechanics and improve his fastball and changeup command. Heíll have to become more consistent with his curve as well.
This was a great low risk pick up by Dan O'Brien.
17. OF BJ Szymanski - Age 22
A two way sports star at Princeton, Szymanski looks like a 2004 draft day steal for the Reds. Some analysts had BJ in the top ten prior to draft day, but the Reds picked him up in the second round with the 48th overall pick.
Szymanski stands 6'5 and weighs 205, so he's certainly got the frame to develop power. He's a switch hitter and has the speed (he runs a 4.5 40) to play center field. And since he played at Princeton one has to assume that Szymanski has the mental capability to adjust well to professional baseball.
There's really nothing to dislike about Szymanski, and I think he's going to rocket through the Reds system.
16. 1B AJ Zapp - Age 27
He'll be 27 years old next April. Which is pretty freaking old to be on a top prospect list, especially this high, but I feel like there are mitigating circumstances. Those circumstances are 100 percent related to Zapp's whiffing. AJ puts Adam Dunn to shame.
Zapp set the Pacific Coast League record for homeruns last season and has always had tremendous power. He's also always hit for a pretty solid average and gotten on base at a pretty good clip. The only bad thing he's done is strikeout at a tremendous rate, and I think that's why he's yet to get a shot at the big league level. Here's what Zapp had to say about his strikeouts:
Iím going to strike-out, thatís a given. It just means that I have to put extraordinary numbers up in other categories so that they over look that strike out category.
Hopefully the Reds will continue to not worry too much about Ks (a la Adam Dunn in '04) and give Zapp a bench spot this season. I think he can contribute in that kind of a role, and the Reds can certainly use some left handed power off of the bench.
15. OF Junior Ruiz - Age 24
More walks than strikeouts at every minor league level. Hear that sound? That's me, drooling.
Ruiz probably isn't good enough to be a major league regular, but I think he's going to be a great utility guy one day. He's left handed, gets on base well, and even steals a base here and there. He'll be 25 this season, and should spend it at AA Chattanooga.
14. OF Javon Moran - Age 22
Probably the biggest stolen base threat in the organization after stealing 50 bases in 2004. He came over from the Phillies in the Cory Lidle deal and proceeded to tear the cover off the ball at Dayton.
At the moment Javon doesn't really hit for enough power, but he's still only 22, and his age is one of his biggest advantages right now. A great year will put him in Chattanooga by the end of the season, but he'll more than likely spend the entire year at Sarasota.
13. 2B Kevin Howard - Age 23
Kevin Howard is moving through the organization slowly but steadily after being drafted out of the University of Miami as a fifth rounder in 2002. He followed his solid 2004 with a stint in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .373/.406/.525 in 59 at bats. It would be nice if he could develop just a tad bit more power, but he's already got pretty decent strength for a 23 year old middle infielder. He'll be in Chattanooga this year, and if he can put up roughly the same numbers there that he did in Dayton and Potomac then he'll only be another year away from the majors.
12. SP Elizardo Ramirez - Age 22
This is what happens when you jerk around a prospect too much.
I'm not sure why the Phillies felt the need to bring him up to the big league club in 2004 as a 21 year old, but then again, it is Philadelphia we're talking about. They just gave a ton of money to Cory Lidle, which kind of says it all.
Ramirez isn't a power guy, but he has excellent command and has pitched very well at a high level for his age. He was recently added to the 40 man and will probably make an appearance with the Reds in the next two years, barring any difficulties. It's possible I've got him rated a little high since he doesn't strike out too many hitters, but I just love the command and the fact that he pitched well last season in AA as a 21 year old.
11. RP Todd Coffey - Age 24
Lots of strikeouts, hardly any walks, and doesn't give up too many hits. I can't find anything not to like about Todd Coffey, and if I were the Reds GM he'd be on the Opening Day roster. Coffey pitched in the Arizona Fall League this year with pretty good results putting up a 4.43 ERA in 22.1 IP. His ERA was a bit deceptive however, as he was around 2.00 for most of the season.
There's no reason to think that Coffey isn't ready to be a Cincinnati Red, and with the bullpen in shambles he probably will be fairly soon. I'm excited to see the guy pitch in a Reds uniform.
10. SP Bubba Nelson - Age 23
I said previously (in regards to Matt Belisle) that trading for Braves prospects is akin to shooting craps. You just can't be sure of coming out ahead. That certainly holds true when it comes to Bubba Nelson, who slid backwards significantly in 2004.
Nelson was a second round draft pick for the Braves in 2000, and did very well in their minor league system before being traded to the Reds, along with Jung Bong, for Chris Reitsma. Once a member of the Reds organization he started going downhill, struggling badly at AAA Louisville before being demoted to Chattanooga. He fared better there, and should get another crack at Louisville in 2005. He's only 23 so there's still plenty of time for him to get things back on track.
9. SP Thomas Pauly Age - 23
Like B.J. Szymanski, Pauly was a second round pick out of Princeton University. He's advanced one full level each year he's played, and if he continues that trend he'll be at AA Chattanooga in 2005, where things will really start to get interesting for him. I love the low walk totals he's put up, and also how he overpowered hitters in 2004, striking out 10.01 batters per 9/IP. Here's what Baseball America had to say about Thomas last year:
The Reds are very excited about Pauly. A converted reliever, he has shown the stuff and command to start, and the Reds plan on developing him as a starter. His fastball gets up to 95 and his slider is a true put-away pitch, while he has developed a nice cambio.
Could be in a Reds uniform by 2006, and should be a productive major league pitcher by 2007, assuming no bumps along the road.
8. SP Homer Bailey - Age 19
Bailey was the highest rated high school pitcher available in the 2004 draft and was raved about by scouts. Here's Baseball America's take on him:
The undisputed class among the nation's high school crop, Bailey was 12-1, 0.39 on the season with 10 walks and 168 strikeouts in 72 innings. He has the best fastball (92-96 mph), the best righthanded breaking ball (a hard downer curveball), the best command and the most polish among high schoolers in the draft. He still has plenty of room for projection, and Bailey will need to improve his changeup and get stronger, but that's true of almost every prep pitcher.
I know most of us were upset that Dan'O's first ever draft pick was a high school pitcher ... but I have to admit that I still hope the guy turns into Nolan Ryan. That'd be an awful lot of fun wouldn't it?
7. SP Steve Kelly - Age 25
Kelly is probably the most underrated prospect in the Reds organization right now. For whatever reason, scouts don't seem to love Steve, but if he keeps putting up results like he has the past two years then he'll get his shot in due time. He'll spend his age 25 season at Louisville and if he posts an under-3.00 ERA there, then expect him to don a Reds uniform in a hurry.
6. 2B William Bergolla - Age 22
Bergolla put up solid numbers at AA Chattanooga last season in his age 21 season, and that's pretty impressive given that most of the pitchers he faced were quite a bit older. He's not ever going to be a big power hitter since he sports such a slender build, but he gets on base pretty decently and has shown impressive speed. If he can develop more plate discipline then look out because he'll become a real game disrupter and a great guy to have at the top of your lineup. Baseball America named him the number 17 overall prospect in the Southern League last year. The Reds think highly enough of Bergolla to have named him to their 40 man roster. Right now I'd say that Bergolla is looking at a 2006 arrival with the Reds, and will probably be spending 2005 in Louisville.
5. SS Anderson Machado - Age 24
I'll be the first to admit it. Machado's numbers haven't always been pretty. However, I've read countless times that the one thing that's really difficult to teach is plate discipline, and Anderson has that in spades. It's pretty incredible that someone could post a .360 OBP and only hit .196, but that's what Machado did in 2003 at AA Reading. His fielding is suspect, but if he can just hit for a little better average than his on base percentage will be a sight to behold. He performed very well for the Reds towards the end of last season, and he should be on the Opening Day roster this coming year.
4. SP Dustin Moseley - Age 23
Kind of a rich man's Steve Kelly when you think about it.
Moseley has been aggressively promoted, and it caught up with him a bit in 2004, as he struggled at AAA Louisville. He did much better earlier in the season at Chattanooga, and pitched wonderfully in the Arizona Fall League, putting up a 1.69 ERA in six starts.
Dan O'Brien is on the record as saying that Moseley will be given a chance to win a spot in the rotation come next spring training, but I have to think he's just being nice. Moseley needs to put up a good year at AAA before he gets the call up, nad I think he'll do that in 2005 as long as he's not rushed.
3. SP Richie Gardner - Age 23
Richie Gardner might be the most exciting Reds pitching prospect to come along in the past ten years. Gardner was the ninth best prospect in the Carolina League according to Baseball America, despite only pitching there for half the season. ESPN's John Sickels had this to say about Gardner:
Gardner throws a 92-mph sinking fastball. His changeup is very good, and he made big strides improving his curveball this year. He throws strikes, keeps people off balance, and was basically a big success in his first pro season. I'd rate him as a Grade B+ prospect at this point, one of the most promising RHP around and someone who is often overlooked when prospects are discussed.
In a few years the Reds should have prodcued three solid starters in Moseley, Pauly, and Gardner, and that may signal the beginning of a major turn around.
2. 1B Joey Votto - Age 21
Here's what Baseball America had to say about Votto:
Background: Votto was a surprise second-rounder in 2002, in part because he signed for a below-market $600,000, but Cincinnati brass also fell in love with him after he put on an impressive power display at Cinergy Field. Drafted as a catcher, he primarily played third base in high school and now has moved to first base to expedite his development. He was one of several Reds prospects who had to be demoted after initially struggling in 2003. Strengths: Reds scouts envision Votto as a middle-of-the-lineup force. Heís short and direct to the ball with natural loft in his swing, which will lend itself to big-time power potential as he matures. A dead-pull hitter in 2002, he moved closer to the plate and started driving the ball to left field this season. Weaknesses: Votto draws lots of walks but is often too patient at the plate, putting himself into poor hitting counts by taking a lot of borderline pitches. Defense will never be his strong suit. The Future: A coachís dream, Votto is a baseball rat who studies the art of hitting.
Power and a great ability to get on base are rare things, and Votto is blessed with both at a young age. Votto should be Sean Casey's successor, and when the day comes for Casey to hand over the reigns Cincinnati won't skip a beat. I have complete confidence that Votto is going to be a solid major leaguer, and he's got star potential.
1. 3B Edwin Encarnacion - Age 22
The great hope at third base, Encarnacion probably deserves a shot at the Reds starting lineup right now, as he's one of the best third base prospects in the game. Here's what BA had to say about Edwin last year:
Encarnacion has special bat speed and plus-plus power potential. Heís advanced at recognizing pitches early. He still shows middle-of-the-diamond actions, along with above-average strength.
If you're thinking that Encarnacion's stats look pretty good, but not earth shattering, try to keep in mind the age that he's been at every stop along the way. He's only now 22, and that's after an extremely solid season at AA. He's been playing against older competition for his entire professional career, and he's more than held his own. I feel very confident calling Edwin the best overall prospect in the Reds system, and I think he's got the potential to be a very special player.