Just to take everyone's minds off the stinkhole into which the Reds have descended, here's a diversion, my short-list of the seven 1B prospects/pickups we might want to target for acquisition to join Phillips, Lopez and Encarnacion in our infield. While the tandem of Hatteberg-Aurilia has performed above expectations, these two vets are stopgaps, not a long-term answer at 1B. Before pouncing, all Votto fans should know -- I'm aware of his potential, but I don't see him wearing a Reds uniform anytime in '06 or perhaps not in '07. By contrast, these guys appear battle-ready, just waiting for the green light and the right opportunity to arise. Would like to hear what you all think of the selections, who you prefer and whether you have other worthy contenders/pretenders I've overlooked.
1. Ryan Shealy, Colorado Springs Sky Sox. 26-year-old right-hander with awesome power and plate discipline. Hitting .289/.360/.644 with 4 HR after late start this season owing to DL stint and unsuccessful effort to convert him into an OF. Hit .330/.413/.473 in limited action (91 AB) for the Colorado Rockies in '05. Hails from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Blocked by Todd Helton. Possible Rockies needs: C, MI. Fox Sports report: The Rockies were hoping that Shealy would be in their outfield mix this season, but a spring elbow injury snuffed out those plans. He's still sidelined and will likely return to first base once he's healthy. Shealy is a career .324 AVG/.417 OBP/.594 SLG hitter in the minors. Those are highly impressive numbers, but keep in mind the generally hitter-friendly Rockies system. Shealy will crush fastballs in the majors, but it's not certain how he'll handle advanced breaking stuff. Also, note the age.
2. Larry Broadway, New Orleans Zephyrs. 25-year-old lefty. Hails from Miami, Fla. Blocked by Nick Johnson. Injury-plagued in '05, but hit .429/.543/.714 in 28 AB tryout with the parent Washington Nationals. Rebounding nicely this season, posting .336/.371/.516 stats with four HR for New Orleans. One drawback: 100-plus KO candidate. But unlike Brandon Larson, he can hit for average. Possible Washington needs: OF, SP.
3. Justin Huber, Omaha Royals/KC Royals. 23-year-old righty from Melbourne, Australia. Hitting .286 in very limited 7 AB stint since being called up May 3. Must be getting the tough love treatment from Buddy Bell. First month of season, hit .301/.427/.603 with 7 HR in 73 AB for Omaha. Baseball America choice for best minor league 1B for 2005. Possible KC needs: SP, OF, 3B. Fox Sports report: Huber went Royals-ward as part of the Kris Benson three-way swap of 2004, and he's emerged as an excellent power prospect. His career SLG in the minors is .493, and those numbers have been even better in recent seasons. Huber also boasts good plate discipline; last season between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A Omaha he drew 64 unintentional walks against 348 at bats. In the majors, once he settles in he should be good for 20-25 homers and a .370-plus OBP on an annual basis.
4. Ryan Garko, Buffalo Bisons. 27-year-old righty from Pittsburgh. Currently tied for 1st in International League with 24 RBI. Hitting .282/.404/.435 with 4 HR. High KO rate, but also draws walks. Pressing Ben Broussard for the right to man 1B for parent Cleveland Indians, meaning if he's not available, Broussard might be. Cleveland needs: SP, RP. Fox Sports report: Garko's a career .310 hitter in the minor leagues who also shows good pop (an extra-base hit every 9.6 at bats last season at Triple-A Buffalo). On the downside, Garko's always been a little older than his peer group at each stop, and he's not a good defender at catcher or first. His future is likely as a backup at both positions and as a "pinch hitter of first resort." That means he's going to be valuable.
5. Casey Kotchman, Los Angeles Angels. 23-year-old lefty from St. Petersburg, Fla. Currently on the DL with viral symptoms, initially feared to be mononucleosis. Hit an anemic .152 in 79 AB before being shut down. However, hit .278/.352/.484 with 7 HR in a fairly extensive 128 AB tryout with the Angels in '05. Was perfect in fielding percentage, and drew walks to complement his power. Could be lost in the shuffle or available cheaply with the Angels seemingly infatuated by the idea of trying out Kendry Morales at 1B or DH in 2007. Angels needs: C, LH Pitching, DH.
6. Casey Rogowski, Charlotte Knights. 25-year-old lefty from Livonia, Michigan. Blocked by Paul Konerko. Slow to develop, and not nearly as much of a power threat as these other candidates. Still, he has speed and ability to spray the ball, collecting lots of doubles. Currently hitting .288/.361/.458 for Charlotte, with 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts. Mentioned here for 3 reasons: He was among the rumored players the Reds sought in last year's aborted Griffey deal, he would cost us less trade stock and perhaps he might come packaged with someone from the White Sox' extremely deep and rich pool of minor league pitchers. White Sox needs: Contention cogs and insurance, as in someone like the versatile Ryan Freel or perhaps, if the ship hasn't already sailed, KGJ.
7. Ben Broussard, Cleveland Indians. See above. 29-year-old lefty from Beaumont, Texas. Hitting .394/.435/.606 with 5 HR for Cleveland this season. Reportedly on the wire as the season began, but undoubtedly has dispelled that idle talk with his fast start out of the gate. Question marks: Would the Reds swallow their pride and pay to reacquire a player they previously had in the fold, but let go? Has Broussard's $2.5 million salary and the likely bump-up he'll get for 2007 moved him out of our range? Is he worth all that much, when measured against the other, younger alternatives outlined above.