So I let this slip last season because, frankly, it seemed rather pointless to assess the end-of-season status of a Dan O’Brien-led franchise.
Yet Wayne Krivsky’s on the scene, mixing brilliance and catastrophe inside a bowl of constant activity. I find him fascinating. I’ll rate each position on a 1-10 scale. A 10 would entail having the position filled in the majors by a very good player and having two, count 'em two, viable prospects in the pipeline. A 1 would entail a major league cipher with no viable prospect in sight.
Jason LaRue – Listed first because he’s owed the most money. He had a truly awful season, though it should be noted that his secondary average was .298. So what you might ask. So if he can hit .250 or .260 next season with that sort of secondary average he’s right back to where he was in 2005. And his .194 batting average this season was a glaring case of buzzard’s luck. Anyway, he had a good season behind the plate and he’s in a contract year. The Reds may discard him, but he’s a prime bounce-back candidate.
Dave Ross – Out of nowhere he came and now the question is whether he’s the .932 OPS monster you saw this season or the spottier player he was before this season. Basically, he’s the new Javier Valentin. Chances are what he’ll be moving forward is a guy who mashes southpaws and hits for power and a low OB against RHPs. That has its uses, but he might be incredibly valuable as a trading chit coming off of his big season.
Javier Valentin – Shocking I know, but he tailed off a lot from his 2005 flourish. He’s not particularly young, though he’s a switch hitter who does his primary damage vs. RHPs, which might make him a good pairing with Ross if those are the two guys who stick around next (because only two of these three guys will be sticking around for next season).
Dane Sardinha – Do you have any idea how hard it is to post a .231 OB with a matching .231 SLG? Do you? Dane’s a special player.
Miguel Perez – Wants to be just like Dane Sardinha when he grows up. Good news: he’s well on his way.
Craig Tatum – Did all right in his second pass at a great hitter’s park in low A (.344 OB, .408 SLG). If he could do that every year (as opposed to the two guys listed above him who’ve never been anywhere near that good), it would make him a serious player given his behind-the-plate skills. Though it’s likely we just saw his career year.
FIRST BASEThe Reds have options in the majors, which is nice. If Ross and Valentin show anything, it’s that you can mine for catchers with some success. That’s good news because the organization’s got nothing in the minors. The Reds have been addicted to catch and throw guys who can’t hit a lick for what seems like forever. It would be nice to see them draft just one kid who can hit when he’s not squatting behind the plate. Rating -4
Scott Hatteberg – When your “career year” involves an .825 OPS it’s officially time to fear a return to the norm. He’d make a nice bench player, but we’ve seen what happens when he gets overexposed.
Jesse Gutierrez – He’s made a habit out of carrying his teams. His stats are never gaudy, but he always gets the job done in the middle of the lineup. He’s like a mini version of Tony Perez. I doubt he’ll ever have much impact in the majors (he’s now in his late 20s), but if ever a guy deserved a chance to surprise the hell out of everyone in the majors, it’s Gutierrez.
Joey Votto – His career is now taking Broussardian swings. If he continues that pattern that will mean he’ll struggle a bit next season. It would be great if he’d charge through AAA and take over the 1B job from a flagging Hatteberg next season, though I remain unconvinced the course of events will run that smoothly. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past six seasons it’s that the world doesn’t operate to fit your convenience.
Tonys Gutierrez – A hand injury sapped his power this season, though admittedly he’s never really flashed much in the way of power. Dude can hit for average and work a count though. He’s supposedly got a good glove as well. He just turned 23 so he’s still got time to find a power stroke. Probably the main sleeper in the organization.
Logan Parker – Local guy (University of Cincinnati) who went to Billings and hit (.949 OPS). That’s good, because if you can’t hit there, you likely can’t hit anywhere (more on that later).
SECOND BASEVotto’s potential is enticing, but no one knows how soon that’s going to intersect Hatteberg’s reality. If Adam Dunn doesn’t get moved over here, the Reds likely are going to be looking at needing some transitional help in 2007 and possibly 2008. Rating – 4
Brandon Phillips – It’s no sure bet that he’s staying at 2B, but I’m invoking Pokey Reese Theory here. Yeah, you may want him to play SS, but his performance this season would seem to indicate that 2B is where his comfort level lies. There’s nothing wrong with being a 2B with a good glove, some pop and good speed who can hit .270+.
Brendan Harris – He might be a useful bench player in the immediate future. He’s got a .295/.363/.469 statline in the minors.
William Bergolla – Seems to be getting slower every year, not good for a guy whose main attribute was speed.
Matt Kata – Another wannabe bench player, might have a place on a major league roster if he’d ever bother to master the strike zone.
Drew Anderson – He just sort of there, but it’s better than being completely invisible.
Michael Griffin and Michael DeJesus – Mix Griffin’s tools with DeJesus’ eye at the plate and game sense and you’ve yourself a premium player. These guys make a clear and compelling case for genetic engineering.
Justin Turner – Another guy who came in without much fanfare and hit the ball well in Billings (.921 OPS).
SHORTSTOPIt’s really a question of whether Phillips will remain here and keep the hole plugged. As you can see, there really isn’t much in the pipeline behind him (and it’s not the first nor the last time you’ll hear that lament in this depth chart). Rating – 5
Juan Castro – He’s every bit as bad at defending the position as Felipe Lopez and he’s a thoroughly awful hitter. I bet he’s a great softball player though.
Ray Olmedo – There isn’t a stitch of doubt in my mind that he’s a better option than Castro. Mind you, that doesn’t make him an appealing option. Seems to leave his glove behind when he gets a major league callup.
Paul Janish – Played at three levels in 2006 with his stick getting worse with every promotion. He’ll need to hit in AA next year to establish himself as someone worth pinning a hope upon, but it’s encouraging that he held his own in the FSL. Like Tatum, he plays enough defense that a pedestrian offense is all he needs to be a viable player.
Adam Rosales – The meteor he was riding in 2005 crashed to earth when he couldn’t swing the jump to high A and Janish leapt past him on the organizational depth chart. Never really recovered down in low A either, but he’s ahead of where Janish was last year so we’ll see if he can resurrect himself in 2007.
Chris Valaika – Won the Pioneer League MVP award and rated as the 11th best prospect in the league. Looks to have some solid BA skills. Lacks range, which probably means he’s headed to 3B or 2B at some point in the future. But it’s always nice to see kids go to Billings and put a hurt on it. I like him because I always think of the Beatles' "Back in the USSR" when I hear his name: "Let me hear your Chris Valaika ringing out, come and keep your comrade warm."
Angel Cabrera – One of the two best players on the Reds’ GCL club. Is he a true SS? Does he have the skills to progress in the future? Damned if I know. Probably won’t be able to give you a yes on that until some time in 2008.
THIRD BASEIt’s an ugly situation here. You might wonder why you don’t see Rich Aurilia or Royce Clayton’s names here. That’s because it’s no sure bet either will be back in 2007. Honestly, I wouldn’t want either back as a SS in 2007. Phillips could slide over here, but that just blows a hole in 2B and there’s no guarantee the rigors of SS won’t send the rest of his game into a spiral. Basically what the Reds need is to acquire a young guy to take this job. Rating – 1
Edwin Encarnacion – He’s 23 and a talented all-around hitter (understands situational hitting as well) with tools. Yet the Reds always seem to want to ignore him. It’s like having a good, young player is somehow an inconvenience to them
Aaron Herr – If he makes the team next year, the outlook is grim. If he ever winds up starting a decent chunk of games (due to injury) it’s China Syndrome time.
Milton Loo – That’s right, you’ve got to go all the way down to the GCL before you can find another guy worth mentioning among the 3B ranks. Loo hit .372 in 43 ABs this season and is a good bet to jump up to Dayton to start next season.
OUTFIELDThere might be nothing more important to the Reds’ prospects of building a consistent contended than Edwin Encarnacion’s health. He’s an oasis inside a desert of despair. Rating – 5
Adam Dunn – Anybody unhappy about Dunn’s wretched finish is perfectly within their rights as a fan to feel that way. Horrible, chaotic management surely screwed him up, but at the end of the day his game should be well past a slump of those proportions. He should have been building on his 2004 and 2005 campaigns, not backsliding. I often find myself thinking that (name a coach or coaching staff you respect) would get Dunn right in no time.
Ken Griffey Jr. – The Reds say they care about defense and yet for the past five seasons Jr. has been allowed to patrol CF. He’s still a dangerous hitter for 100 or so games a year (though he’s getting awfully impatient at the plate). A change of scenery would probably help both him and the team. Perhaps Krivsky, who clearly has the ability to make things happen, can get that done. If not, then a position change and lineup demotion need to be executed.
Ryan Freel – He’s a fine leadoff hitter and when the Reds have been at their most dangerous in recent years, it’s been Freel setting the pace. I don’t by into the notion that he can’t play everyday (though, like most everybody, he’d be more effective on a per game basis with more limited duty), but I’d like to see the Reds make some moves which put him on the bench.
Chris Denorfia – He’s got across the board second tier tools. That won’t make you a superstar, but it will make you a good ballplayer to have around. I remain convinced that if the Reds gave him the CF job, he’d fill it admirably.
Todd Hollandsworth – Is he a free agent? I don’t know, but the Reds are going to need LH bats now and in the future. Mind you, Hollandsworth wouldn’t exactly be my first, second, third, fourth or fiftieth pick when it came to LH sticks.
Dewayne Wise – A decent enough AAA disaster option.
Norris Hopper – Be honest, nothing would make you happier than if a guy with a name as great as Norris Hopper managed to be a consistent contributor for the Reds.
Chris Dickerson and Javon Moran – Dickerson hit .242 and Moran hit .320, but both had a .355 OB. Dickerson has more power and plays better defense. Both are fast. Once again, just a little gene splicing and you’d have a heck of a player.
Noochie Varner – In the Reds minor great name pantheon right next to Motorboat Jones and Skeeter Barnes.
Cody Strait – He’d be a superstar if only someone could reveal to him the secret location of first base.
Jay Garthwaite – Hit for power in the FSL, which isn’t easy. Doesn’t really do anything other than occasionally hit a big fly though.
Jay Bruce – He’s the real deal. If everything goes right we might be seeing him sometime in 2009.
B.J. Szymanksi – Currently staring into a mirror to see if the word “bust” has appeared yet on his forehead.
Drew Stubbs – Off to a Szymansi-esque start to his pro career.
Danny Dorn – Obliterated Pioneer League pitching (1.030 OPS). His offense was so excessive you could even call it Dornographic.
Chris Hensley – Put up pretty identical numbers to Stubbs on the same team.
STARTING PITCHINGThe Reds have talent here, but it doesn’t fit together all that well. For instance, Dunn and Jr. in the corners probably isn’t what you’d optimally want. Freel and Denorfia in CF and RF probably doesn’t give you enough pop. Bruce is the most exciting position player prospect the organization has come up with since Dunn and Kearns. Rating – 6
Aaron Harang – Two years in a row he’s throw 200+ IP with a sub-4.00 ERA. He also led the league in Ks. We haven’t seen anything like that since the heyday of Jose Rijo.
Bronson Arroyo – Yeah, I think he worked out all right.
Eric Milton – For the life of me I can’t figure out what would make a person think you could hand Eric Milton a baseball every fifth game and have it work out well in the end.
Kyle Lohse – Not a good pitcher by any means, but probably worth keeping around if you can dump Milton and find someone better to join Harang and Arroyo at the front of the rotation.
Brandon Claussen – Is he a good pitcher if he gets healthy? Is it realistic to think he’s ever going to be all that healthy? In an ideal world some other organization would have to worry about those answers.
Elizardo Ramirez – Could wind up listed alongside luminaries like Roger Salkeld and Lance Davis in Reds lore.
Chris Michalak – The amount of trouble your team is in increases exponentially with each game Chris Michalak starts.
Sun-Woo Kim – A typical Reds pitcher in that it’s easy to argue he’s no worse than any number of the team’s other options.
Steve Kelly – Had a solid season in the upper minors (13-11, 2.97 ERA, 151.1 IP, 109 Ks). Easy guy to root for, hard to imagine he’ll amount to anything in the majors.
Phil Dumatrait – Unraveled in AAA. Three years later the Scott Williamson trade still hasn’t yielded a thing.
Mike Gosling – Never going to get back what he had back in the early part of the decade.
Tom Shearn – He’s a AAA swingman. You’d do better falling in love with a traveling jazz musician.
Homer Bailey – The kid went supernova once he got called up to AA. He might be the top pitching prospect in the minors. Here’s the question. Do you want to bank on it or do you want to trade that in for a little piece of today. It’s easy to lapse into thinking Homer will show up next year and become the ace in front of Harang and Arroyo. Why? Because it’s convenient. Once again I hasten to remind you that the world does not operate on the principle that our convenience must be satisfied. I’ll also add that objects in the minors usually appear closer than they really are. Making the right call on Bailey (keep him, trade him) is probably the most critical decision Wayne Krivsky has to make over the next year.
Tyler Pelland – Still can’t find the plate consistently. Needs a bullpen conversion something fierce.
Josh Hall – Yep, he’s still around.
Edward Valdez – He just kind of lurks in the minors, never doing anything to stand out.
Camilo Vazquez – Just turned 23 yesterday. Can’t say he pitched well last season (4.13 ERA), but he’s got some stuff and he’s a lefty.
Johnny Cueto – Nice to see a guy come out of nowhere and become a serious prospect. When’s the last time the Reds had that happen? I’m drawing a blank.
Sam Lecure – Solid start in the minors for him. Needs to make people miss more often.
Travis Wood – Lost some velocity this year, but that might have been due to the team asking him to decrease the effort in his delivery. Still a good looking pitching prospect. If he, Bailey and Cueto continue to progress and stay healthy the Reds will have something worth getting goofy about.
Carlos Fisher – First Dayton Dragon to lead the MWL in ERA since Josh Hall in 2001.
Brandon Rice and Luis Montano – Had decent debuts down in the GCL. None of the Pioneer League guys did anything worth mentioning, including the increasingly uninteresting Rafael Gonzalez.
Wirfin Obispo, Pedro Viola and Enerio Del Rosario – Three guys who threw awfully well down in the Dominican League. Cueto’s the vanguard of Johnny Almaraz’s renewed efforts down there. We’ll see if any of these three can follow in his footsteps. One thing to like about them is each one had at least 10 hit batters this season. No one else in the Reds’ system had more than nine. Methinks these kids aren’t afraid to bust you inside.
RELIEVERSIt’s been ages since the Reds had a twosome like Harang and Arroyo. It’s also heartening to see three legitimate pitching prospects in the system. I put more stock in the former than the latter. The Reds could be a serious contender if they can add a meaningful arm or two to Harang and Arroyo for the next two years. It’s not the only thing the team has to do, but it would lay the foundation for a serious push at 90+ wins. Rating – 5
Todd Coffey – He’s the team’s best reliever at the moment, but the club could use three guys better than him.
Bill Bray – The salvage operation for the Kearns/Lopez debacle involves Bray becoming at least at quality LH setup man.
Gary Majewski – You were warned. When he’s on, he’s a #5 guy in a good bullpen.
Rheal Cormier – Didn’t acquit himself well at the end of the season, but he used to be a lumberjack. He knows how to do a springboard chop and that’s got to count for something.
Scott Schoeneweis – The league will catch up with him if he returns next season.
Matt Belisle – Whoever called him Chris Reitsma redux wasn’t far off. Though Reitsma was better.
Ryan Franklin – Ideally, the Reds won’t need this guy next season.
Jason Standridge – Looks like he should be able to pitch. Yet he repeatedly proves he can’t.
Brian Shackelford – Isn’t a very good pitcher. I could deal with him being skeevy if he was a better pitcher.
Scott Chiasson – No worse than most of the guys the Reds tried in the majors.
Brad Salmon – Conceivably better than most of the guys the Reds tried in the majors.
David Shafer – Looking like a legit closing prospect. Probably needs a year in AAA before he’s ready for the majors.
Calvin Medlock – Why he’s in the bullpen and Tyler Pelland is in the rotation eludes me, but, unsurprisingly, Medlock continued to pitch well.
Jonathan Coutlangus – He really licked the competition down in Chattanooga this year.
Carlos Guevara – Had a down season, but still whiffs a ton of hitters. Louisville’s going to have a hell of a pen next season.
Carlos Alvarado – And yet another guy who mowed ‘em down in AA.
Jan Granado – Came back to the organization and looked real good as the closer down in Sarasota. Finally turned that arm speed into whiffs. He’s only 24.
Abe Woody – He’s tall. I wonder if he’s honest.
Grant Balfour – We’ll find out next year if his arm’s back. If it is, then the Reds have themselves a closer candidate.
Carlos Bohorquez – The Edward Valdez of Reds minor league relievers.
Jose A. Rojas – He’s 23 and spent years doing nothing in the Dodgers system, but he absolutely torched the MWL this season.
Sean Watson – As a second round reliever pick, he’d better move fast and he’d better be good.
Terrell Young – After two totally lost seasons, he seemed to find himself in the bullpen.
Nicholas Wandless – It’s a dubious distinction being a really good GCL reliever. I mean, is that a good thing? Or is just a portent of futility to come?
There’s a glut of reliever talent working its way through the high minors and it’s a decent bet that two of those guys will turn into decent major league pitchers. Unfortunately the Reds’ need in the pen is more immediate than the kids can likely deliver. I didn’t list Eddie Guardado and David Weathers because there’s no particular reason to think either will be with the Reds next season. Anyway, the team needs multiple guys to step up at the major league level. Rating – 4