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Thread: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

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    Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Dominant Cueto poised for stardom
    Dominican righty wowing Class A teammates, Major Leaguers
    By William S. Hupp / MLB.com

    DAYTON -- The sun had barely risen on a sleepy morning in San Pedro de Marcoris, Dominican Republic, when Johnny Cueto toed the rubber, hoping to impress a man that could change his life.

    That man was Johnny Almaraz, then the head of international scouting for the Cincinnati Reds, who had a 9:40 a.m. plane to catch back to the States. He had received a call a day earlier from a good friend who gushed about Cueto. Almaraz made the drive to Cueto's hometown to take a look at the young pitcher before rushing back to catch his flight.

    So, Cueto arose early and pitched at 7 a.m. in a pickup game. Almaraz was impressed enough by what he saw after seven batters to sign Cueto at the local baseball academy on Feb. 8, 2004.

    Says Almaraz of Cueto: "He's a young player with a lot of talent."

    That tremendous upside of Cueto's was on full display this season against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on May 13.

    And even though his effort came in a rain-shortened, 6-0 win, his pitching was no less dazzling in throwing the first no-hitter in the history of the Class A Dayton Dragons franchise.

    "I was throwing all my pitches [for strikes]," Cueto recalled through his interpreter, Dragons OF/DH Gerardo Cabrera. "I was [just] trying to locate, hit all my spots."

    As if that performance wasn't enough, the 20-year-old Dominican followed it up with a one-hitter in his next outing on May 18, against the Fort Wayne Wizards. Those two starts were part of a streak of 19 straight scoreless innings by the diminutive right-hander.

    Cueto uses a four-pitch repertoire, which includes a fastball, slider, a new and improved changeup and a sinker. His fastball, which tops out at 96 mph, is his best pitch.

    But a big component of Cueto's arsenal this season has been that changeup, which he learned from former Reds great Mario Soto in Spring Training. Soto taught him how to throw the offspeed pitch, and gave the young righty some critical lessons on the mental side of pitching.

    "The biggest key to his success has been Soto teaching him a changeup," Almaraz said. "Not only how to throw it, but commanding it, as well."

    In only his first full season in professional baseball, Cueto has been dominant, and he has the statistics to prove it.

    He is 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 13 starts. He has thrown two complete-game shutouts, and Midwest League opponents are hitting a measly .191 against him. He has struck out 76 batters and walked 14.

    Those staggering numbers are what earned him Reds Minor League Pitcher of the Month honors for April and May.

    "He came into the league more as a thrower," said Dragons manager Billy Gardner Jr. of Cueto. "But I think the biggest thing is [that] he is learning how to pitch."

    Though he stands 6 feet tall and barely weighs 180 pounds, he has wowed both teammates and Major Leaguers.

    "I was impressed," said Reds reliever Matt Belisle, who saw Cueto pitch when he was on a rehabilitation assignment in Dayton. "He's not a real big guy, but he's got a great arm, good stuff around the plate and [he] mixed it up."

    Cueto hasn't lost since April 10, a run of 10 straight decisions in which he has gone 7-0.

    "I work hard every day," Cueto said. "I try to make the best pitch with the best location."

    "He has a very lively arm," said Dragons manager Billy Gardner Jr. "He's certainly improved his slider and changeup to go along with his overpowering fastball."

    There is no doubt that Cueto has the physical tools to move up. And that should be coming soon, as he has indicated he is ready to try to move to the next level. A promotion to high Class A Sarasota would likely be his next destination.

    But, as with any young player, there is room for improvement.

    "The mental part," said Almaraz. "He needs to work on maintaining [his] poise -- not rushing. He can't relax in the late innings ... he's got to pitch for the entire game."

    Cueto has been in the country for just over a year now. He's taking classes to improve his English, but his quiet, focused nature has suited him well in Dayton.

    "His English classes are helping him a great deal," Gardner said. "Once he gets settled in and feels more comfortable with the language, he'll be more acclimated with [his] environment."

    One thing that Cueto doesn't need acclimation to is Midwest League hitters, who are quickly finding out why many in the Reds organization believe he could be the ace of the future.

    "His pitching speaks volumes," Gardner said. "When he's out there, whatever language it is, he's certainly been dominant for us here."

    William S. Hupp is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

    http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/NASAp...=.jsp&c_id=cin
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Worst Behavior. reds44's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    I have a question

    What did Homer do to earn a promotion from High A to AA that Cueto hasn't done to be promoted from A to high A.

    Is it just because Homer is Homer?
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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Again I say, the Reds need to hang on to Cueto unless they get a young No. 1 or 2 starter in return. Cueto may be a bit small in stature, but there is nothing small about his stuff. I've heard announcers from other teams comment on his great his stuff and command is, plus I got to see him pitch an inning in the Midwest League ASG. While his final statline from that game wasn't his best, you could just see the potential in him.

    One other thing, please Mr. Almarez, keep him in Dayton all season. No need to rush the kid. Let him continue to dominate the Midwest League hitters and gain more confidence going into next year. Promote Ward, keep Cueto where he is.
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Lover of Trivialities Doc. Scott's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Quote Originally Posted by reds44
    I have a question

    What did Homer do to earn a promotion from High A to AA that Cueto hasn't done to be promoted from A to high A.

    Is it just because Homer is Homer?
    Yeah, basically.

    Follow the output of the Reds' farm charges for a while, and you'll quickly see the players grouped into two main categories. The ones that Almaraz & Co. think have big-league potential are basically guaranteed spots in the starting lineup or rotation unless their results are just embarrassing, while the others are fighting over what's left. That second group moves up or down based primarily on what spaces are open- spaces are not created for them very often.

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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    What's the word on Johnny Cueto? Apparently, he has been blowing away low Class A hitters in the Midwest League with Dayton. Will he be joining Homer Bailey in the high Class A Sarasota rotation anytime soon? Also, why hasn't he been mentioned as one of the Reds' top pitching prospects? -- Kyle E., Fort Myers, Fla.

    This question was sent a few weeks back (before Bailey was moved up to Double-A), but it was a good time to dust it off. We have a feature about Cueto that ran on the same day as this mailbag -- so be sure to check it out here.

    Cueto has been dominant for the Dragons this season, and I've been told that a promotion to Sarasota could be forthcoming soon if he continues performing well.

    http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/NASAp...=.jsp&c_id=cin
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Worst Behavior. reds44's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Quote Originally Posted by OnBaseMachine
    What's the word on Johnny Cueto? Apparently, he has been blowing away low Class A hitters in the Midwest League with Dayton. Will he be joining Homer Bailey in the high Class A Sarasota rotation anytime soon? Also, why hasn't he been mentioned as one of the Reds' top pitching prospects? -- Kyle E., Fort Myers, Fla.

    This question was sent a few weeks back (before Bailey was moved up to Double-A), but it was a good time to dust it off. We have a feature about Cueto that ran on the same day as this mailbag -- so be sure to check it out here.

    Cueto has been dominant for the Dragons this season, and I've been told that a promotion to Sarasota could be forthcoming soon if he continues performing well.

    http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/NASAp...=.jsp&c_id=cin
    Thanks OBM! Hopefully he hits Sarasota by the end of the year.

    Man IF Cueto and Homer pan out, and Elizardo keeps up his good work, we could have 3 very good good pitchers for years to come.
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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Cueto is the first fruit plucked from the O'brien era 'overhaul' with JA on International scouting.

    Though Krivsky doesn't seem to like short pitchers, at least in his first draft as GM. That may work against Cueto.

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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Hmm... how old is Cueto? 96 MPH!? Niiiice

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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Cueto is 20

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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc. Scott
    Yeah, basically.

    Follow the output of the Reds' farm charges for a while, and you'll quickly see the players grouped into two main categories. The ones that Almaraz & Co. think have big-league potential are basically guaranteed spots in the starting lineup or rotation unless their results are just embarrassing, while the others are fighting over what's left. That second group moves up or down based primarily on what spaces are open- spaces are not created for them very often.
    Cueto is a young guy, from the dominican, who probably doesn't speak english very well, etc. He needs time to get used to the american culture, etc. Players from these leagues are usually given a bit more time to get accimilated in their new way of life, and are treated more cautiously in general. I dont think its because Homer is Homer and Cueto is Cueto.
    "I hate to advocate chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone... But they've always worked for me."

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    Member icehole3's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Mario Soto should be locked up long term. Whatever theyre paying him double it today. Mario should be working with every pitcher in our system with a 90 plus fastball.

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    Re: Dominant Cueto poised for stardom

    Whenever I see "Reds," "minor league," "pitcher," and "potential" I think "major arm injury."

    Also, is it true that Soto has returned to his native soil for the rest of the season? I believe I heard that and I feel I may be way behind.
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