Reds farm system has some budding star prospects
By Brian Bennett
With about one-third of the minor-league season complete, the Louisville Bats remain stuck near the bottom of the International League standings. But elsewhere on the Cincinnati Reds farm, there is plenty of good news to report.
Many of the Reds' top prospects have put up big numbers, providing hope to one of the lowest-rated farm systems in baseball. Unfortunately for Bats fans, most of those prospects are at the lower levels, though current Louisville players William Bergolla, Ray Olmedo and Chris Denorfia have drawn rave reviews from Reds farm director Johnny Almaraz.
Here's a look at how some of those youngsters are doing at other levels:
As one of the Reds' few positional prospects above A-ball, first baseman Joey Votto has responded well to his first taste of Double-A with the Chattanooga Lookouts. The 22-year-old was hitting .293 with six home runs and a .377 on-base percentage through 46 games.
"He's making great strides defensively," Almaraz said. "He takes a lot of pride in his hitting and his at-bats, but even there he has room to improve."
Left-hander Phil Dumatrait looks ready for a mid-summer promotion. The 24-year-old is 3-3 with a 3.27 ERA.
"He's very consistent," Almaraz said. "He's getting ahead of hitters and not walking as many guys. It's only a matter of time before deserves a chance at Triple-A."
Another interesting pitcher at Chattanooga is 24-year-old reliever Carlos Guevara. He doesn't throw particularly hard but has a tricky screwball that has helped him compile a 2.54 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.
Sarasota is home to the Reds' great hope for a future ace, 20-year-old fireballer Homer Bailey. The right-hander has thrown two six-inning no-hitters this season, but some other outings haven't been as sharp. He owns a 3.48 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings.
"He's down there so he can establish a consistent routine and have consistent starts time after time," Almaraz said. "He's something special. If he keeps doing what he needs to do, hopefully we can challenge him at the next level."
Shortstop Paul Janish was recently promoted to Sarasota from Low-A Dayton, where he hit .398 in 26 games. The 23-year-old missed much of last season with Tommy John surgery.
"He developed a lot of confidence mentally, made all the plays defensively and was a real leader of that club," Almaraz said. "He deserved a promotion."
Probably no prospect has emerged more for the Reds this year than 20-year-old Johnny Cueto. The right-hander has a 2.49 ERA, 59 strikeouts and only 25 hits allowed in 47 innings at Dayton.
"He has an electric fastball that's anywhere from 91 to 96 (mph.)
," Almaraz said, "and (former Bats pitching coach) Mario Soto taught him a really good changeup."
Dayton also boasts the Reds' top positional prospect in outfielder Jay Bruce (.260, nine home runs and 32 RBIs) and second-best pitching prospect in right-hander Travis Wood (4-0, 3.74 ERA).
The Reds have experienced surprising success at the big-league level this season. But they know that the future depends on the pipeline continuing to produce results.
"Our entire development staff, from our coordinators to our managers to our hitting and pitching coaches, are working extremely hard," Almaraz said. "It's a tribute to them that these kids are flourishing."