Rather than focus on the present, which is god awful and about to get broomed by the Brewers, I thought it might be less painful (note that I did not say painless) to look at what the Reds have got in the pipeline.
Guys whose contracts come up after this season won't be discussed since they're soon to join other franchises. So, here goes.
Jason LaRue - He's been banged up all year and he's never going to win a batting title like he did (twice) in the minors. Yet he's also turned himself into a decent offensive player thanks to a sweet .304 secondary average. He should be affordable for what he does for at least another season.
Corky Miller - I relayed this story earlier this season, but it's worth repeating. Caught a Paw Sox-Riverbats contest and Corky was having himself a fine night. You could tell he was getting gassed near the end of the game. So before his last at-bat, he walks out on deck and takes a knee, never swings once, just watches what the pitcher's throwing. Then he comes to the plate and lashes a single on the first pitch. He plays caveman baseball, plus his AAA numbers are nearly a mirror image of what LaRue's doing in the majors. They'd make a great blood-and-guts tandem.
Dane Sardinha - No power though, miraculously, he just managed to nudge his OB over .300 for the first time in minor league ball. He's Alejandro Diaz behind the plate. Should he make the Reds 40-man roster take it as a sign of the team's pending apocalypse.
Jesse Gutierrez - He's neither young, nor much of catcher. Yet Gutierrez is a guy who could hit .260+ with 35 doubles and 20 HR if he stays on track. That's great for a catcher and lousy for a 1B (Jesse's other position). He's only a prospect when he's got a mask and chest protector on. So what do the Reds do? They promote him from Potomac where he's been the bedrock of the team's lineup to Chattanooga (good idea) and play him at 1B for 21 of his first 22 games. Do the Reds' player development folks hit themselves with hammers on a regular basis or do they just live in areas where falling hammers are a common hazard?
Bryan Prince - A 10th round pick out of Ga. Tech in 2001, good catch and throw guy. Had himself a .795 OPS in high A this season before he got injured.
Miguel Perez - One of many players who couldn't hit in Dayton this season, but looked fab in Billings (.333 BA, .412 OB). Yet he hasn't managed to hit a single HR in 248 ABs this season. He's young enough, 19, that his power has plenty of time to develop. The most promising catching prospect in the system, but likely not a factor until the 2008 season.
Sean Casey - For those who had hoped for the day when Sean would be the main man on the team, here it is. Whoever the next GM is, he should be graded on how well he unloads Sean Casey.
Russ Branyan - With an OPS 99 points higher than Casey, he sure looks like a competent replacement to me. Some people consider him a 3B. I usually chalk that up to those folks not believing that defense exists (forget about playing it well or poorly, I'm talking about denying that defense is a requirement in the game of baseball - but I digress). Branyan's a bit redundant with Adam Dunn around (low BA, high secondary average), yet why quibble over a stopgap?
Dernell Stenson and Guye Senjem - Minor league DHs. I suppose there's some who've fallen in love with Stenson because he came up and hit 2 HR in his first 27 ABs. My take is that it's like taking your sister to the prom. Sure she's pretty, but what you're feeling is WRONG.
Tony Blanco - I'll give the Gormingo some credit, he's drawing some walks this season. Problem is that he's not going to hit for average and his power isn't anything special (8 HR in 224 ABs). I like 1Bs who kill the ball, Tony's got an .801 OPS. Perhaps if his throwing arm recovers a bit (which was his one defensive tool) he could go to RF and make a go of it there. Me, I'd teach him how to pitch if his arm heals.
Joey Votto - Drafted as a catcher last year, toyed with 3B during 2002, but he's become a 1B in short order. Great eye at the plate, even in Dayton where he struggled. He's 19 with a .313 BA, .454 OB and .472 SLG in rookie ball. The entire 2002 draft may boil down to Votto. If he transitions well to A ball next year, expect him to be on the accelerated track.
Travis Wong - Looked like a prospect, but it turns out that line of thinking was wong, howwibwy wong.
Tonys Gutierrez - Aside from a problem with pluralization, he put together a nice season in rookie ball. Probably stuck in the instructional league and/or Billings until Votto moves up.
D'Angelo Jiminez - Can't complain about the way he's hit for the Reds. Not much of a glove man, but as long as his OB is .365, the Reds are in no position to complain. Arbitration eligible after this season, which means he's not likely to be around after 2005.
Ryan Freel - Do you, do, Freel like I do? Love him as a 24th, 25th man.
Juan Castro - Having a career year and his OB is .281. Should change his middle name to "Sunk Cost."
William Bergolla - Hitting .274 with 51 swipes as a 19-year-old in high A. No power, so he needs to learn to take a walk (29 in 508 ABs). If he does, he could real exciting. ETA 2006, assuming he develops some modicum of an eye.
Kevin Howard - Incredibly dull player. Plays with all the flair of a Jeff Treadway. Not a great fielder, no speed to speak of, no power, doesn't hit for a great average. Booooring.
Habelito Hernandez - A 22-year-old who crushed the ball in Billings. Won't know until next if that was a fluke, doesn't walk - 1 BB in 117 ABs.
Rainer Olmedo - A plus defender though he hasn't shown it much in the majors, who's been improving as a hitter over the years. Finally started to draw some walks. Ought to run more. Only 22 and he's up a year too early at the moment. Handling it fairly well given the circumstances.
Felipe Lopez - More talent than Olmedo, but a whole lot more problematic too. He's got a lot to fix if he wants to be a productive ML SS. Reminds me of Pokey in that he's tightly wound and lets his problems snowball. Personally I think his future, if he has one, is at 2B.
Barry Larkin - If only he could round the bases and not pull a muscle. His defense and hitting have been fine. Only listing him because the Reds may bring him back and because, if they do, he may once again be the best SS option.
Hector Tiburcio - Oh what a difference a year makes. Last year he was one of the top 20 prospects. Now he's an oldish guy in low A with a Judy bat and in desperate of a map which details the secret location of first base.
Luis Bolivar - Another guy who didn't hit in Dayton, but has whomped up on Pioneer League pitchers. He hit well in the GCL last year. He's 22, which is on the old side of things, but if his bat (.303, .412, .609 in Billings) stays hot, that won't be held against him.
Jose Ronda - BA said he isn't a pure SS prior to the draft. Since then I've read conflicting reports. If he's got a glove, his bat looks intrguing - a .301, .353, .401 switch hitter in rookie ball. It's a little early to call him a primo prospect, but he's giving us a nice teaser.
Brandon Larson - Fool's gold if you ask me. He'll be back next year, I just hope the Reds make sure he's got plenty of competition for the job. 89 ABs, .358 OPS this season. You'd have to invent a new word to describe how bad that is. Here's my best effort, pulchrifecal.
Edwin Encarnacion - For the season he's hitting .292, .364, .429. with 15 SB. He's in AA and he's only 20. #1 prospect in the system. Probably won't be ready until 2005, but I wouldn't be shocked if he takes the job next spring if the team lacks a compelling option.
Mark Schramek - Not nearly as polished as we were led to believe. Looked fine in Dayton, but he's stunk up the joint in Chattanooga and Potomac. Likely to join Kevin Howard in Dullsville.
Walter Olmstead - Has power, that's it. Unless something else develops there's no reason to consider him a better prospect than Samone Peters was. Hey, weren't the Reds supposedly deep at 3B?
Adam Dunn - One of the few reasons to pay any attention to this team. Hopefully he comes back in September, finishes strong and helps the team become something other than a complete suckfest.
Austin Kearns - Not to belabor the point, but a slimmer, more athletic Austin Kearns probably isn't under Ray King when he falls. Could be great, has been significantly injured three years in row. It's easy to see the good in him, but he's less durable than Eric Davis to date.
Wily Mo Pena - Trying not to choke as I write this: The Reds desperately need Wily Mo to be a superstar and fast. Yes, I know how sad that is. But he's got his post All-Star OPS up to .505. Yessirree, the future's so bright it makes you want to build a bomb shelter.
Ken Griffey Jr. - Make sure to wake me from my state of apopleptic shock if he's in a Reds uniform next season. Best of luck Jr., hope you enjoy Baltimore, sorry it didn't work out for you in Cincinnati.
Steve Smitherman - He hits. If nothing else, he and Dunn could moonlight as a tag team for Ohio Valley Wrestling. I wouldn't be shocked to see Kearns play a lot of CF with Smitherman in RF next year.
Emil Brown - Fine, he probably won't be back with the Reds next year, but they could do worse. Should play a lot in September. Got himself a respectably .818 OPS in Louisville.
Brad Correll - Having a solid season between high and low A ball. Hasn't done anything outstanding, but he's put together a solid first year in pro ball.
Junior Ruiz - Gets on base, runs a bit, plays some IF too (though hasn't this season). No power. Probably on his way to a long AAA career.
Chris Denorfia - Another guy who can walk and run. Looked like he might hit for average too earlier this season. Hasn't happened.
Chris Williamson - Banish this name from your mind. His only hope of seeing The Show is if he buys a ticket.
Michael Bassett - Wish he'd stay healthy because he certainly can hit.
Chris Dickerson and Ben Himes - Nice showings in Billings, which doesn't tell you all that much. Tune in next year and see if they adjust to A ball.
Kenny Lewis - 37 SB and a .345 OB in rookie ball. Has what I like to call brute speed. Hopefully he forms a quality OF in Dayton with Dickerson and Himes next season.
Danny Graves - His contract will keep him in town and in the rotation. Given his lack of experience as a starter, it would be reasonable to expect better from him next year. If he can improve to a 4.50 ERA and chew up 200 IP, he'll serve a purpose.
Paul Wilson - Having pretty much the same season as Graves. Hopefully had and Danny can eat lots of innings next year. Actually, hopefully he gets red-hot and fetches the Reds a quality prospect near the 2004 trading deadline.
Jimmy Haynes - I think Jimmy's best when he's like the leader of an international cabal bent on world domination -- mysterious and unseen. Here's the thing, say the Reds actually find some compelling young or free agent pitching talent. Will they punt Haynes to make room for those guys?
Brandon Claussen - Left-handed with lots of Ks. Make sure to perform the necessary PR discount given to all Yankees prospects, but he should be pitching for the Reds next year and is the guy most likely to become an ace from the team's current choices.
Dustin Moseley - Too easy to hit and lacks a K pitch for my tastes. Perhaps that will change with maturity. Promote him at his own peril.
Matt Beslisle - Got to be a favorite to make the rotation next year. Done well this season between AA and AAA. I'd like to see him K more batters in AAA.
Aaron Harang - Had a good season in Sacramento and he's tall. Works high in the zone and doesn't throw all that hard, which could be trouble in the GAB.
Josh Hall - About time to get to the core problem here. With the exception of Claussen, no one's got dominant stuff. What we're looking at is a conga line of finesse pitchers. Yahoo. Hall's had good numbers the past three years. He's technically on track for a 2005 arrival. Expect him to show up earlier and for the last step to be the hardest, largely because he rarely touches 90 with his heater.
Jose Acevedo - Went from bullpen leftover to darling of the rotation back in July. Should have a great Strat card if he doesn't return. Deserves a shot at next year's rotation, but anyone who considers him a given has an awful short memory.
Seth Etherton - The more he pitches, the worse your team gets.
Steve Kelly - Pitching better in AA than he did in high A. Another guy in search of a mondo K pitch. If he shows up before 2006, it's probably too early.
Bobby Basham - Better luck next year. Came from nowhere and returned to it at warp speed.
Ty Howington - I've got a mole in Chattanooga and the mole says Howington's problem is that his fastball is all funky delivery without much in the way of speed, placement and often movement. AA hitters haven't been fooled. He keeps getting injured too. princeton long ago theorized Ty was destined for life in the pen. I haven't seen a reason to disagree.
Ryan Mottl - 25 years-old in AA, but he throws a little harder than most in the system. Probably another bullpen conversion in the making.
Phil Dumtrait - Another guy on the 2006 plan. At least he's a lefty. His big test comes next year in AA.
Charlie Manning - Pitching well since landing in the Reds' organization. He'd better keep it up because he's 24 and still in A ball.
Eddy Valdes - He's only 20 and just got promoted to high A, where he's pitching well. Fairly mediocre in Dayton. Gives up the longball a bit too easily.
Jan Granado - Another 20-year-old who's made it to high A. Like Valdes, he should start in Potomac next season. A tad on the small side, but I read somewhere that he generates good arm speed.
Juan Frias - 24 and in low A. If he doesn't have a great 2004, he's headed to the pen.
Ricardo Aramboles - Three years lost to injury by age 22 and in desperate of a consult from that Jared guy at Subway. He'll get plenty of chances thanks to the rave reviews from the past, but he's never been more than an instructional league phenom who's never put it into practice.
Chris Gruler - No real point in giving him a lot of thought until he returns. Until then what he's throwing and how well it fools hitters will be a mystery.
Justin Gillman - Back from surgery and not really doing much in Dayton. He'll start there again next year, hopefully at 100%.
Jose Guevara - Great start in Billings and he's been K happy in Dayton as well. Possibly the most electric pitcher in the system this year, though he just went on the DL. Great debut.
Thomas Pauly - Throws hard, hasn't done much in low A in 11 starts. Like most of the pitchers at the bottom of the list, his real test comes next year.
O.J. King - Hasn't been healthy enough to show his stuff.
Josh Thigpen - Pitcher most likely to get lost in the shuffle.
Derek Hawk, James Paduch, Justin Knoff, Camilio Vazquez - Some of the best seasons put up by Billings pitchers I can remember. The Dayton rotation next year should be fascinating.
Trey Rice, Rainer Feliz, Omar Segovia, Tyler Pelland, Louis Noriega - And there's a group from the GCL that was slightly less impressive, but still solid. You may not see these guys again until June 2004, but they're in the pipeline. If one of them becomes a major leaguer in six years that's all you can ask.
Ryan Wagner - Sure, he may be a starter in a few years, but he's a reliever today and probably will be next year. Hopefully he'll be a middle reliever so that he can boost his inning count. Superior stuff.
Chris Reitsma - He's been real good in the pen, though he still doesn't strike anyone out. Looks like he's the nominal closer for the near future, cut from the Danny Graves mold.
John Rielding - With a 5.23 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP, I'm not too sure Mr. Riedling's got a long future with this club. I'd put his job up for grabs.
John Bale - Don't let his current status in the rotation fool you. His future is in the pen.
Brian Reith - Nice rebound year, but he's coming apart at the seams of late. He needs to get himself righted and then make another gigantic leap forward if he wants to be a good pitcher for the long haul.
Joe Valentine - Throws hard, sometimes even in the direction of home plate. A walking example of the difference between being a hard thrower and a good pitcher.
Phil Norton - If he's on the staff next year, you have every reason to worry.
Nate Cotton - Soft-tossing K pitcher who had a great start to the season, slumped mightily and seems to have righted himself. He'll be in AA next year.
Damian Ursin - Don't know if he'll be a reliever next year or if he's been working in that capacity because he threw a lot of innings in college. Throws hard, headed back to Dayton to start 2004.
Alexander Farfan - Fastest fastball in the system. Yet he's only got 42 Ks in 77 IP. Beware supposed power pitchers who can't strike anyone out.
Kyle Edens - A 4.91 ERA in Potomac prior to his demotion. Good fastball, but gets lit up. Looks like a real bad draft pick.
Chris Booker - The Reds put him on last winter's 40-man roster. He posted an 8.49 ERA in the GCL. Hope he enjoys life in the indy leagues.
SO WHAT'S THIS ALL MEAN?
Like I know. What it says to mean is that the following is the team the Reds are headed toward in a few years:
C - Miller
1B - Votto
2B - Bergolla/Lopez
SS - Olmedo
3B - Encarnacion
RF - Kearns
CF - Pena
LF - Dunn
Obviously it won't pan out exactly like that, but that's the current target team. My guesstimate is that said club wouldn't be any good until 2006 at the earliest.
That doesn't even address the pitching situation, which remains a shambles.
The real excitement for the system may come next year in Dayton, when the bulk of the 2003 draft should start playing as a team along with Votto, Gillman and possibly Gruler.