Well, the Baseball America's Prospect Handbook arrived today in the mail - and as a little spring training primer, I've brought a taste here for everyone to enjoy.
Although I do recommend picking up the book if you are a fan of the minor leagues or are a fantasy baseball player who plays in keeper leagues. I've found it invaluable and reference it often since I bought my first one three years ago.
Anyway, on with the goods - You may recognize the first 10 from earlier in the winter when BA came out with the Reds Top 10. I've typed in a few of the 11-30 ranked Reds prospects, mostly for future reference here on the boards. I'lll add a couple of others in the next few days, but essentially - if you want to read all the rest go buy the book.
Baseball America Ranks the Top 30 players in Each organization, along with a full rundown of they consider to be the depth chart for the team from top to bottom.
First up, System Report Card
Strength: Outfield. Unfortunately, that's also the team's strength in Cincy.
Weakness: Infield. None of the Reds' infielders projects as an above average regular.
Next the Draft Report Card
2004 - B - Homer Bailey and BJ Syzmanski are two of the few bright spots in one of baseball's worst systems, and even they haven't done much. The Reds also have high hopes for Rafael Gonzalez, Paul Janish and Philippe Valiquette.
2003 - D - This group looked promising a year ago. But then RHPs Ryan Wagner, Thomas Pauly and Richie Gardner all got hurt in 2005, leaving OF Chris Dickerson as the best healthy prospect.
2002 - D - Both first round picks Chris Gruler and Mark Schramek aren't going to make it, with injuries playing a role in Gruler's demise. Joey Votto went backward in 05, so Chris Denorfia might be as good as it gets. Failing to sign Nick Markakis was a blunder.
2001 - F - The Reds spent their first rounder on Jeremy Sowers and made no attempts to sign him. Bobby Basham is the best signee, and his stuff has slipped.
The depth chart
Starters - RHP
Relievers - RHP
Starters - LHP
Relievers - LHP
Top 30 Prospects
1. Homer Bailey - RHP
Bailey has been pitching in pressure games since before he started shaving. He outdueled Ryan Wagner in the Texas 3-A state championship game as a freshman, and capped his high school career with a second state title as a senior. He ranked No. 1 on this list a year ago after signing for a $2.3 million bonus as the seventh overall pick in 2004, when he was also named BAís High School Player of the Year. The Reds are exercising extreme caution with him, hoping he can avoid the injury bug that has claimed so many of their best pitching prospects in recent years. He pitched just 12 innings after signing in 2004, and was limited by a tandem-starter system with a strict 75-pitch limit in 2005. He worked six innings in a start only once all season and went as many as five innings in just five other outings, yet still managed to claim the title of top pitching prospect in the low Class A Midwest League. He was sidelined for a couple of weeks in April as he worked back from minor knee surgery, a problem that had nagged him since high school. While his first full season was unremarkable statistically, he showed glimpses of his promise in the final month with a pair of scoreless five-inning outings, including an 11-strikeout two-hitter. Bailey has front-of-the-rotation stuff. Heís armed with two plus pitchesóa 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96-97 with good life, and a hard 12-to-6 curveball with potential to be a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He pounds the bottom of the strike zone and usually hits his spots. His control will be another plus. Though he did issue more than his share of walks in 2005, the Reds attribute that to their insistence that he work on his secondary pitches. A former basketball player, Bailey is a natural athlete with an effortless arm action and clean delivery that bode well for future projection. He should get stronger, as thereís room to pack more weight on his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. Baileyís changeup always will lag behind his two knockout pitches. Itís presently a below-average pitch with just a little sink. He did make it a point to throw the changeup more in 2005, and he did a better job of delivering it with the same arm speed he uses with his fastball. Bailey doesnít always stay on top of his curveball. He also needs to improve his consistency and show that he can pitch effectively on nights where he doesnít have his best stuff. Like many dominant high school starters, he didnít have to work on such nuances as holding runners and quickening his move to the plate. He has made steady improvement in both areas, and he has addressed his rhythm and tempo on the mound. Bailey has admitted that baseball is more of a job than a passion. To achieve his potential as an ace, heíll have to stay focused as he moves up the ladder. While the Reds have yet to turn Bailey loose, they may challenge him with a jump to Double-A Chattanooga in 2006. Though heís not on the 40-man roster, he has been invited to big league camp to get a taste of what awaits him. He could be poised for a breakthrough season.
2. Jay Bruce - OF
Bruce went from unknown to prospect during the summer of 2004, and his surge continued last spring as he emerged as the cream of a quality crop of Texas high school outfielders. He went No. 12 to the Reds and signed for $1.8 million. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in his debut. Bruce draws comparisons to Larry Walker and Jeremy Hermida for his sweet stroke, above-average arm and athleticism. He profiles as a power-hitting right fielder, but the Reds intend to keep him in center until he grows out of the position. He can turn on a fastball, but he also has shown the ability to use the entire field with good bat speed. He has plus speed and good overall instincts. Like many young players, Bruce needs to work on the finer aspects of the game, such as reading pitchers and honing his basestealing technique. He occasionally gets antsy at the plate instead of sitting back and waiting on pitches to drive. Bruce will make his full-season debut at low Class A Dayton. A five-tool talent, his bat will dictate how rapidly he advances.
3. Travis Wood - LHP
Background: Wood is the highest-drafted Arkansas high school pitcher since the Reds took Dustin Moseley in 1999ís supplemental first round. Wood intrigued teams by reaching 95 mph with his fastball as the draft approached, and he dominated two Rookie leagues after signing for $600,000. Woodís changeup drops off the table and already rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He fools hitters by repeating the same arm speed and motion as when he throws his fastball. He regularly hit 93-94 mph and threw to both sides of the plate with good life during the summer. He also features a cutter. Woodís curveball isnít as developed as his other pitches. The Reds have made refining his curve a point of emphasis, and they promoted him to Rookie-level Billings to work with curveball specialist Butch Henry. Wood has some effort in his delivery. Wood aced his introduction to pro ball and seems more than ready for low Class A. He has considerable upside, though coming up with a reliable breaking ball will be crucial.
4. B.J. Szymanski - OF
A two-sport star at Princeton, Szymanski was the football teamís leading receiver and led the baseball team to the Ivy League title as a junior in 2003-04. Already lacking experience thanks to his dual-sport commitment, he has been hampered by injuries as a pro. A quadriceps injury shortened his 2004 debut, and he missed time in 2005 because of arthroscopic knee surgery and a broken hand. When healthy, Szymanski showcases three impact tools, including explosive raw power from both sides of the plate. He has 30-homer potential in the majors. A chiseled athlete, he can fly around the bases and cover the gaps in center field. His arm is average. Szymanskiís swing gets long, and strikeouts and a lower batting average will be a tradeoff for his power. Heís still raw and must improve in the fine points of the game, such as getting jumps and running the bases. Injuries have limited him to just 272 pro at-bats. Coming into 2005, Szymanski looked poised for a breakout season. Ticketed for high Class A Sarasota, heís again a prime candidate if he can stay in the lineup.
5. Chris Denorfia - OF
With his September callup, Denorfia ensured his title as the top male athlete in Wheaton (Mass.) College history. He earned Division III all-America honors in 2002, when he batted .467. He doesnít have overwhelming tools, but Denorfia has surprised scouts with his improved hitting and power the last two seasons. He displays a good feel for the strike zone and works counts in his favor. Heís a solid runner with enough range to play center field. Heís average defensively in center field and he has enough arm strength to play right. Denorfia doesnít have many glaring weaknesses. He doesnít have exceptional bat speed and his swing doesnít naturally produce loft power. Heís already getting everything out of his ability, so there isnít much projection left to him. Denorfia is ready to contribute in Cincinnati after a strong Arizona Fall League performance. He may not be more than a fourth outfielder, especially with the Redsí position depth.
6. Rafael Gonzalez - RHP
Gonzalez signed with the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic in 2003, but that deal was voided because he was a U.S. citizen who had played at Manhattanís George Washington High before moving to the Dominican as a junior. After signing for $315,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2004, he disappointed the Reds by showing up out of shape for spring training, leaving him unprepared to handle low Class A. His stuff is just a tick behind Homer Baileyís for the best in the system. Gonzalez throws 92-94 mph and peaks at 97, and he also shows a plus curveball and an average changeup at times. Gonzalez has a soft, thick lower half and struggles to keep his weight under control. His stamina and stuff suffered in 2005 until he dedicated more time to cardiovascular work. His secondary pitches and control are very inconsistent. The Reds hope Gonzalez learned his lesson and will be better equipped to succeed in low Class A in 2006. He flashes top-of-the-rotation stuff but must dedicate himself to realize his potential.
7. Miguel Perez - C
Though he has hit just .240 above Rookie ball, Perez made his big league debut before he turned 22 in September. His defensive ability has helped him land jobs in the Venezuela Winter League the past two offseasons. Perez is the organizationís best defensive catcher, with well above-average throwing and receiving skills. He erased 44 percent of basestealers in 2005 and likes to pick off runners with snap throws to first base. He handles pitchers well and runs well for a catcher. Perezí bat hasnít caught up with his catch-and-throw skills and may relegate him to a backup role. He has limited power (nine homers in five pro seasons) and plate discipline, though the Reds think he could hit 10-15 homers annually. When he keeps his hands back, he does a better job of driving the ball. After his short September audition, Perez will go to Double-A in 2006. With the productive tandem of Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin, the Reds donít need to rush Perez.
8. Tyler Pelland - LHP
Background: Cincinnati acquired lefties Phil Dumatrait and Pelland from the Red Sox for Scott Williamson at the July 2003 trade deadline. While Dumatrait has been waylaid by Tommy John surgery, Pelland quickly emerged as the top lefty in the Reds system. After posting an 8.66 ERA in low Class A in 2004, he made a successful transition to full-season ball, jumping to high Class A, in 2005. Pelland throws his four-seam fastball at 92-93 mph and can dial it up to 95 at times, and he also has a lively two-seamer. He commands his fastball well, and shows the ability to spin a plus curveball. Heís a good athlete who has dominated in spurts. Pellandís curve is inconsistent. When itís not on, hitters can sit on his fastball because his circle changeup is below average and hasnít developed as expected. At 22, heís still far from a refined product, as his control numbers suggest, although as a Northeastern pitcher, he doesnít have many innings on his arm. Pelland has a fresh arm, but needs to take a significant step forward as he approaches Double-A. If he canít improve his secondary pitches, a future in the bullpen awaits him.
9. Joey Votto - 1B
The Reds tried to cut costs in the 2002 draft with disastrous results, as Denorfia and Votto are the lone bright spots from that crop. After establishing himself as the systemís best power prospect, he had a disappointing 2005 and continued to struggle in the Arizona Fall League. Votto can launch balls out of sight in batting practice. He drew 90 walks in 2004, showing a disciplined, mature approach. For a big man and former catcher, Votto runs the bases well, and he has grown into a solid defensive first baseman with an above-average arm for the position. Votto lacks plus bat speed and his swing lengthened in 2005. Perhaps too passive in the past, he seemed to start guessing, finding himself behind fastballs and ahead of offspeed offerings. He especially struggled against lefties, hitting .193 with a .315 slugging percentage. Vottoís prospect stock has taken a hit, though heís still the top first-base prospect in the system. He needs to rediscover his short stroke and trust his natural hitting instincts in Double-A in 2006.
10. Travis Chick - RHP
Background: Four years into his pro career, Chick has played for three organizations. A little-known Marlins prospect when he was traded for Ismael Valdez in 2004, he quickly blossomed for the Padres and was one of the surprises of spring training in 2005. After he stalled in Double-A, San Diego sent him and Justin Germano to Cincinnati for Joe Randa last July. Though Chickís velocity was down in 2005, he still had a 91-92 mph fastball that touched 94. His hard slider has good bite and is an average pitch with above-average potential. Chick has a solid pitcherís frame. After dominating low Class A in 2004, Chick couldnít handle jumping to Double-A. He was a victim of big innings all season, unable to get out of jams. His slider was inconsistent, while his changeup remained below-average. Heís more of a thrower than a pitcher. Chick has to hone his slider and maintain his mechanics to get back on track. Heíll probably repeat Double-A in 2006. Unless his changeup develops, he projects as a power middle reliever.
11. William Bergolla - 2B
12. Philip Dumatrait - LHP
13. Zach Ward - RHP
Ward hardly attracted a second look coming out of high school, but jumped from a mid 80s project as an incoming freshman to a mid-90s fireballer in the course of one year after Gardner-Webb coaches worked on developing his arm strength. He dominated the Cape Code league in 2004 and became Gardner-Webb's highest drafted player ever as a third rounder in 2005. After being used heavily in the spring, Ward didn't pitch in the minors after signing for $420k. When he did take the mound during instructional league, the Reds were impressed with his 93-94 mph fastball and his plus slider, which sits around 86-87 mph. His changeup has a long way to go, though it could become a usable third pitch. The concerns about Ward stem from his mechanics. Ward has a "bow-and-arrow" delivery in which he simply rears back and fires. He also short arms the ball, reminding some scouts of Red Sox reliever Keith Foulke. Despite that, Ward was durable in college and has a strong frame. The Reds plan to see if he can develop into a middle of the rotation starter. If that doesn't work, his fastball/slider combo could make him a closer or late inning setup man. He'll probably make his pro debut in low Class A.
14. Paul Janish - SS
15. Adam Rosales - SS
Rosales was the Reds first-day find of the 2005 draft. Area scout Rick Sellers was adamant that the Western Michigan senior was being sold short, and Cincinnati was able to take Rosales in the 12th round. Rosales made Sellers look wise, batting .325 with 14 homers and a system best .946OPS in his pro debut after hitting .309 with six homers as a college senior. Some area scouts questioned whether Rosales would hit with wood bats, but he showed the ability to center the ball and hit for power. He has solid bat speed and his swing is compact, but it isn't pretty. He swings on a downward plane, yet is able to loft the ball when needed. He also has average speed and plus arm strength. Rosales' range at SS could be a question as he gets older and bigger, but he has good hands and currently covers enough ground. He far exceeded expectations in his first pro year, which should earn him a promotion to high Class A.
16. Richie Gardner - RHP
17. Thomas Pauly - RHP
18. Brandon Roberts - OF
19. Chris Dickerson - OF
20. Philippe Valiquette - LHP
21. Justin Germano - RHP
22. James Avery - RHP
23. Sam LeCure - RHP
24. Bobby Basham - RHP
Among the several Cincinnati pitching prospects who have been hampered by injuries, Basham has had the quickest rise and fall. After his dominating performance in low Class A in 2002, several Reds officials considered him the system's top pitching prospect. But his velocity and his once-dominating slider disappeared in 2003. An MRI found no damage, though eventually he was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his shoulder. He had surgery to repair that tear and to remove bone spurs, sidelining him for the entire 2004 season. When he returned to the mound last year, the former Richmond backup QB showed steady progress. He built up arm strength, working at 87-90 mph for most of the season and touching 92-93 mph in his later starts. He had a 90-93 mph fastball before he got hurt. His slider wasn't as nasty as it once was, but it was showing signs of being at least an average pitch. His changeup is usable, and he threw strikes with his usual ease. Basham pitched well in Double-A in the 2nd half, earning his first shot at AAA in 2006.
25. Javon Moran - OF
26. David Shafer - RHP
Shafer pitched with Oakland's Rich Harden at Central Arizona Junior College in 2001, then was a part of a junior college World Series Championship in 2002 before signing as a draft and follow. He got off to a quick start last year, not allowing a run in 10 high Class A outings to earn a promotion to AA, where he held his own. He was effective as a part-time closer, but his 88-92 mph fastball, average slider and improving changeup mean that he profiles as a setup man or middle releiver. Shafer keeps the ball down and did a good job of throwing strikes before he got to AA. He has a resilient arm that has stood up well to the rigors of bullpen work. Shafer doesn't have a high ceiling, but the Reds need relief help and he could contribute in the near future.
27. Mike Burns - RHP
28. Calvin Medlock - RHP
Few pitchers in the system made more strides in 2005 than Medlock. In his first taste of high Class A the year before, he struggled to keep the ball down and showed little feel for his curveball. In his return trip, he dominated batters with a live 88-92 mph fastball that seemed to jump on hitters. He showed added arm speed and tweaked his arm angle. That allowed him to get more downward plane on his fastball, always a challenge for the 5-10 righthander. His curveball returned to effectiveness, his changeup improved and he threw more strikes than ever. Used mostly as a starter, Medlock better fits the profile of a middle reliever. But he has earned the right to remain in the rotation as he advances to AA.
29. Tonys Gutierrez - 1B
30. Elizardo Ramirez - RHP
Ramirez is one of the rare pitchers who may throw too many strikes. Picked up with Javon Moran and Joe Wilson from the Phillies in the Cory Lidle deal, he has earned short stints in the majors during each of the past two seasons. The results haven't been pretty, primarily because big leaguers have discovered that he's always around the plate with hittable stuff. He currently lacks an out pitch, and he doesn't do a good job of expanding the zone to get batters to chase pitches. He especially has troubles against lefties, who hit .386 off him in the majors and .303 in AAA in 2005. But Ramirez does have three very usable pitches: an 88-92 mph fastball, an average curveball and an average changeup. He throws all of them with a loose and easy motion and nearly flawless mechanics. He's working on adding a cutter or developing some sink to his fastball. He'll work on refining his stuff in AAA to begin the season.