Cincinnati Reds Prospect Guide
“State of the Farm”
The Reds haven’t been in the post season since 1995 when they were swept by the Atlanta Braves in four straight games in the National League Championship Series. The Reds haven’t even had a winning season since 2000. If they have any hopes to make it to the post season this year, they’ll most likely have to plug the holes on the roster with players from outside the system. Describe as a weak system at best with the exception of a couple of potential stars like RHP Homer Bailey and OF Jay Bruce, there doesn’t appear to be any players in the organization that will be contributing at the Major League level before 2008.
The Reds problems on the farm are not likely to improve anytime soon. Player development director and the director of international operations, Johnny Almaraz resigned recently after spending 17 years in the organization as a player, scout and executive. Almaraz departure followed that of longtime special assistant to the GM, Larry Barton Jr., who retired abruptly this fall after 38 years with the club lamenting problems with dealing with Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky.
There is some hope that the Reds can quickly turn things around, time will tell.
“Pitching Rules the Farm”
A recall could be in order as to who rules the farm, with pitching winning here by the slimmest of margin.
The Reds top prospect RHP Homer Bailey, 21, will get a chance to compete for the Reds rotation in spring training. The Reds’ first-round pick in 2004, Bailey is considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Even if he fails to make the team out of spring training Bailey is likely he see some action in Cincy next year. Regardless of what happens in 2007 Bailey will be in the Reds rotation by 2008.
Besides Bailey, the Reds are hoping RHP Johnny Cueto, 20, will be develop into a star. Cueto is an intriguing long-term prospect that has perhaps the best arm in the system next to the can’t miss Bailey.
Cueto signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2004 has a 92-95 MPH fastball that can hit 97 at times to go with a plus slider with good breaking motion. He finished the 2006 campaign with a combined record of 15-3 with a 3.00 ERA and three complete game shutouts, splitting playing time between Daytona (Low-A) and Sarasota (High-A)
From the left hand side, LHP Travis Wood, 19, has a considerable upside with a fast ball that has been clocked at 95 MPH and an excellent changeup that rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
RHP Sean Watson drafted in the second round last season out of the University of Tennessee is considered one of the Reds’ top three pitching prospects. He dominated hitters at Billings before being promoted to Daytona, where he posted a less than impressive 1-2 record with a 8.59 ERA in 10 starts.
Watson is an exciting and raw prospect. Even though the second half of the season wasn’t encouraging, at just 19 years old, there is still plenty of time for him to develop.
Other pitchers to keep an eye on include left handers; Jon Coutlangus, Tyler Pelland, and Jamie Arneson. Among the right handers keep a look out for ; Josh Raven, Calvin Medlock, Brad Salmon, David Schafer and Sam LeCure, who is probably the closest to the majors than anyone other than Bailey.
The farm system has a better track record of developing hitters than pitchers. Drafting major league players like SS Barry Larkin (1986), 3B Aaron Boone (1997), OF Austin Kearns (2002) and trading for Wily Mo Pena (2001) and Edwin Encarnacion (2001). They have a couple of bats in the pipeline that could breakthrough the majors soon.
OF Jay Bruce, 19, is the cream of the crop. Drafted out of high school in Texas, the 12th pick overall in 2005 draft, has the potential to be a major league star. The youngest player at the 2006 Midwest League All-Star game, Bruce’s three hits overall to include a home run, was named the MVP of the game. A five tool player Bruce is profiled as a power-hitting right fielder.
Double-A Southern League’s MVP, 1B Joey Votto, 23, is perhaps the best power hitter in the organization. Votto led the Southern League in batting average (.313), on-base percentage (.402) and slugging percentage(.539). He continues to impress everyone with his raw power. He hit 22 home runs last season for Double-A Chattanooga and he could potentially break through in 2007. Thirty home runs a season is not out of the realm of possibility for Votto.
OF Drew Stubbs, 22, the Reds’ first-round draft pick (eight overall) last season, signed with the team in June, agreeing to a $2 million signing bonus. Stubbs hit .252/.368/.400 in 56 games for the rookie league Billings Mustangs. He show some good speed, but he struck out more than once per game and he hit only one home run for every 35 times at bat.
Everyone agrees that Stubbs has all the tools to be a major league star, but significant doubts have been raised about his bat after his disappointing rookie season.
Others bats to watch are outfielders, B.J. Szymanski, Chris Dickerson, Danny Dorn, Norris Hopper and Justin Reed.
I’m not sure you can call the 25-year-old outfielder Josh Hamilton a sleeper. The #1 pick in the 1999 amateur draft, Hamilton spent the 2003-05 seasons on the restricted list because of repeated drug use. Reinstated this past summer, Hamilton played minor league ball last season for the first time since 2002.
The Reds acquired Hamilton from the Chicago Cubs after they selected him off of Triple-A Durham's roster with the third pick in the Rule 5 draft during this year’s winter meetings. So if Hamilton makes the club, then someone in the Devil Rays’ front office was sleeping..
Hamilton must remain on the Reds' 25-man roster throughout the 2007 season or be offered back to the Rays for $25,000.
Other than Hamilton, you can look at 22-year-old RHP Sam LeCure. He’s a better pitcher than his won-loss record of 5-10 last season would suggest. There is some concern about his stamina and is inability to go deep into a game. The Reds will monitor that closely this season. Look for LeCure to move up in the rankings in 2007.
“On the Horizon”
LHP Travis Wood is likely to take over the mantel as the top pitching prospect when Homer Bailey moves into the Reds rotation. Early scouting reports had Wood’s fastball peaking at 95 MPH before he was drafted. He has lost a couple of mph off his fastball, giving the Reds some reason for concern. Wood’s makeup still includes a fastball that is in the low 90s, as well as a very good changeup, cutter and a curveball that he is still working on.
Drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2005, Woods potentially could be a middle-of-the-rotation lefthander. He played very well last season for Daytona, posting a 10-5 record with a 3.66 ERA in 27 starts. Woods would likely start the season at Sarasota and is one of the full bright spots in a very thin farm system.
OF Chris Dickerson is the best athlete and defensive outfielder in the organization. Last season Dickerson hit only .242/.355/.422 with 21 steals for Double-A Chattanooga. He failed to make my Top 20 rankings because he just hasn’t hit as expected.
The Reds added him to their 40 man roster in November. He's a potential legit centerfielder but he’s not going to be a factor before 2008, but he could be a regular for someone someday.
Homer Bailey should fit into the Reds starting equation at some point this season. The organization’s top prospect is going to get a shot at competing for the fifth starter's spot during Spring Training.
He’ll likely start the season at Triple-A Louisville, if the Reds can’t find anyone on the free-agent market or through a trade to fill out the rotation before the season starts.
"We have Homer Bailey's best interests at heart," Krivsky said. "It's very important we do the right thing by him. He's going to get some innings at Spring Training and get more experience. We'll go from there. He'll dictate to us when he's ready to come up here."
Cincinnati actually consider calling Bailey up for the stretch run last season, bypassing playing time at Triple-A, when it appeared that the Reds may be able to overtake the St. Louis Cardinals, who captured the Central Division title with just 83 wins. The Reds finished just in third place just 3.5 games back of the Cardinals when the season ended.
Bailey has been the Reds’ Top Prospect since signing for a $2.3 million bonus, (the second largest in the organization’s history), as the seventh overall pick in 2004. He potentially may be their best pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Seaver who pitched for the Reds from 1977-1982.
An aggressive power pitcher, Bailey’s fastball sits between 92-94 MPH and can top out at 98. Behind that he has a killer 12-to-6 curve ball that leaves batters with that deer in the headlight look. He’s working on improving his changeup to compliment his two plus pitches. He has front-of-the-rotation stuff and has the potential to be a staff ace.
If Bailey gets off to a hot start in the minors next spring and continues to dominate hitters, there will be a lot of fan pressure on the Reds to promote him quickly.
Top 20 Prospects
RK Name Pos Age
1. Homer Bailey RHP 21
Classic power pitcher with staff ace potential
2. Jay Bruce OF 19
MVP 2006 Midwest League All-Star game
3. Joey Votto 1B 23
One of the Reds best power prospects
4. Johnny Cueto RHP 20
Best pitch is his 96 mph fastball
5. Drew Stubbs OF 22
Rare combination of speed and power
6. Travis Wood LHP 19
A potential breakthrough candidate for 2007
7. Milton Loo INF 20
A potential above average major league infielder
8. Chris Valaika INF 21
Scouts continue to praise his work ethic
9. Javon Moran OF 24
Plus speed and has good baserunning instincts
10. Paul Janish SS 24
Excellent defensive infielder and contact hitter
11. Tyler Pelland LHP 23
Considerable still undeveloped raw potential
12. Carlos Fisher RHP 23
Dayton Dragon’s best starting pitcher
13. Drew Anderson 2B 23
Strives to be a complete player
14. Sam LeCure RHP 22
Good stuff with decent control and potential
15. Josh Ravin RHP 18
A sleeper who with a good arm and promise
16. Justin Turner 2B 22
Received three different All-Star awards in 06
17. Cody Strait OF 23
Had 10 game hitting streak in AFL
18. Jordan Smith RHP 20
Won four games for Mustangs in August
19. Sean Watson RHP 21
Lively fastball with good breaking pitches
20. Calvin Medlock RHP 24
Added to 40 man roster this fall
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