1. Homer Bailey - RHP - DOB: 05/03/86 - ETA: May 2007
3-5, 3.31 ERA, 49 H, 79/22 K/BB in 70 2/3 IP for Single-A Sarasota
7-1, 1.59 ERA, 50 H, 77/28 K/BB in 68 IP for Double-A Chattanooga
The Reds have tried to be cautious, but Bailey, the NL's top pitching prospect, is on the cusp of the majors following a dominant stint in Double-A during the second half of last year. The seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft throws 94-97 mph with movement and features a curveball that ranks as one of the top breaking pitches in the minors. With his walk rate down significantly last year, the only thing missing from his game is a plus changeup. It looks like he'll get a month or two to work on the pitch in Triple-A at the start of this year, but if the Reds want to contend, Bailey will have to be in the rotation by June 1.
2. Jay Bruce - OF - DOB: 04/03/87 - ETA: 2009
.291/.355/.516, 16 HR, 81 RBI, 106/44 K/BB, 19 SB in 444 AB for low Single-A Dayton
Despite batting .167 in the final month of the minor league season, Bruce finished with an 871 OPS and 63 extra-base hits in 117 games. He is on his way to showing 30-homer power and has proven to be better at going the other way than the Reds thought when they drafted him with the 12th overall pick in 2005. The left-handed hitter struggled some against southpaws, batting .236/.310/.439 in 123 at-bats. Bruce should be a whole lot more than a platoon player, though. While he's still seeing some time in center, he projects as an above average defensive right fielder in the majors. He could end 2007 in Double-A.
3. Joey Votto - 1B - DOB: 09/10/83 - ETA: July 2007
.319/.408/.547, 22 HR, 77 RBI, 109/78 K/BB, 24 SB in 508 AB for Double-A Chattanooga
Votto, a 2002 second-round pick, had his stock take quite a hit when he batted just .256/.330/.425 with a 122/52 K/BB ratio in 464 at-bats for Single-A Sarasota in 2005. He improved in all facets of the game last year, even turning in a better showing on defense and going from four steals in nine tries to 24 in 31 attempts. There was no doubt about Votto's power even when he was struggling in the big ballparks of the FSL. The question was whether he'd make enough contact to warrant a starting job in the majors. Now it looks like he will, though he still doesn't project as much more than an average regular. If he gets off to a good start in Triple-A this year, he could overtake Scott Hatteberg in Cincinnati at some point during the summer. He'll likely have some .270-25 HR seasons.
4. Drew Stubbs - OF - DOB: 10/04/84 - ETA: 2009
.252/.368/.400, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 64/32 K/BB, 19 SB in 210 AB for Rookie Billings
Stubbs starred at the University of Texas, hitting .342/.439/.580 in his final year as the team's center fielder. Still, the Reds decided against sending him to full-season ball after drafting him eighth overall in 2006. Stubbs is a legitimate defensive center fielder with plenty of power potential. What remains to be seen is whether his swing will allow him to handle advanced pitching. He struck out plenty even in college and continued to do so in the Pioneer League. Stubbs does enough else well that he'd be a quality regular in the majors as a .250-.260 hitter. However, it's possible even that will be beyond him.
5. Travis Wood - LHP - DOB: 02/06/87 - ETA: 2009
10-5, 3.66 ERA, 108 H, 133/56 K/BB in 140 IP for low Single-A Dayton
Wood had an outstanding debut after being drafted in the second round in 2005, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 48 2/3 innings. Moved up to full-season ball, he continued to succeed on the strength of his excellent changeup, limiting hitters to a .215 average. Wood works at 89-92 mph with his fastball and is adept at throwing his change to lefties as well as righties. His curveball remains a problem, but he knows it and is he working to improve. The potential is there for him to reach Double-A as a 20-year-old this season.
6. Johnny Cueto - RHP - DOB: 02/15/86 - ETA: 2009
8-1, 2.59 ERA, 52 H, 82/15 K/BB in 76 1/3 IP for low Single-A Daytona
7-2, 3.50 ERA, 48 H, 61/23 K/BB in 61 2/3 IP for Single-A Sarasota
With a 15-3 record, Cueto, who had a 5.02 ERA in the GCL in 2005, was the Reds' breakthrough prospect last year. The 5-foot-11 right-hander owes a lot to his new changeup. He was already throwing in the mid-90s at times and showing a slider with a lot of movement. The change could give him three above average pitches by the time he's ready for the majors. What keeps him ranked below Wood is the likelihood of injury. While he's not a max-effort guy, he's still at high risk for arm problems. If he can remain healthy, he might be a factor in 2008.
7. Paul Janish - SS - DOB: 10/12/82 - ETA: 2009
.398/.435/.612, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 10/7 K/BB, 0 SB in 98 AB for low Single-A Daytona
.278/.355/.421, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 39/38 K/BB, 8 SB in 335 AB for Single-A Sarasota
.267/.313/.333, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 5/1 K/BB, 0 SB in 15 AB for Double-A Chattanooga
Janish isn't three years away, but the Reds couldn't resist giving Alex Gonzalez a long-term deal in November. Like Gonzalez, Janish is a defense-first shortstop. The Rice product doesn't quite have Gonzalez's range, but he is above average and sure-handed. On offense, he's similarly well-rounded, but without anything that sets him apart. He has 10-12 homer power and is willing to take a walk. He probably won't hit for high averages in the majors, but he should do better than Gonzalez in that area. Steady progress would make him a solid regular in 2009.
8. Chris Valaika - SS - DOB: 08/14/85 - ETA: 2009
.324/.387/.520, 8 HR, 60 RBI, 64/21 K/BB, 2 SB in 275 AB for Rookie Billings
Valaika's exceptional debut could put him on the fast track beginning this year. The 2006 third-round pick out of UC Santa Barbara projects to keep hitting for average, so if he can maintain the power he demonstrated last year, he should have a future as a regular. Unfortunately, he probably isn't going to last at shortstop. A position switch isn't on the way at the start of this year, but his lack of range suggests that he'll switch to second at some point.
9. Sean Watson - RHP - DOB: 07/24/85 - ETA: 2009
0-0, 1.52 ERA, 16 H, 19/5 K/BB in 23 2/3 IP for Rookie Billings
1-2, 8.59 ERA, 22 H, 16/5 K/BB in 14 2/3 IP for low Single-A Daytona
Watson made the move from starting to closing at the University of Tennessee, racking up 16 saves in his final two years. The Reds drafted him in the second round last year and had him start four games and relieve in 13 in his pro debut. It's likely that he'll be a starter this year, but because of his lack of a quality third pitch and subpar command, he figures to be a long-term reliever. Watson averages 93 mph with his fastball and shows a sharp curveball. The command might never be there to make him a closer, but he does have some upside.
10. Chris Dickerson - OF - DOB: 04/10/82 - ETA: July 2008
.242/.355/.424, 12 HR, 48 RBI, 129/65 K/BB, 21 SB in 389 AB for Double-A Chattanooga
Dickerson only really lacks in one area, but it's a big one. He's amassed averages of .236 and .243 the last two years, leaving him at .253 in his career. Dickerson is a terrific athlete with a great deal of range in center field. On offense, he displays 15-homer potential and draws a fair number of walks to help make up for all of the strikeouts. Still, none of that's going to matter unless he can bat .250 in the majors. A breakthrough remains a possibility, but at age 25, it's getting to be now or never.
Next five - SS Milton Loo, LHP Phil Dumatrait, RHP Sam LeCure, OF Josh Hamilton, RHP Josh Ravin
2006 top 15: Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Travis Wood, Chris Denorfia, B.J. Szymanski, William Bergolla, Travis Chick, Joey Votto, Adam Rosales, Tyler Pelland, Phil Dumatrait, Calvin Medlock, Carlos Guevara, Chris Dickerson, Justin Germano
2005 top 10 - Edwin Encarnacion, Homer Bailey, Richie Gardner, Joey Votto, Thomas Pauly, B.J. Szymanski, Todd Coffey, William Bergolla, Phil Dumatrait, Chris Dickerson
2004 top 10: Brandon Claussen, Ryan Wagner, Dustin Moseley, Edwin Encarnacion, Ty Howington, Phil Dumatrait, Matt Belisle, Stephen Smitherman, Joey Votto, Joe Valentine
2003 top 10: Dustin Moseley, Bobby Basham, Ty Howington, Wily Mo Pena, Brandon Larson, Chris Gruler, Edwin Encarnacion, Luke Hudson, Josh Hall, William Bergolla