I started working on this top ten list late last night and after going to bed about 3:00 a.m., I just woke up and finally finished it. I tried to put a lot of thought into it and this is what I came up with. Later on I may list numbers 11-20. Tell me what you think.
1. Homer Bailey, rhp, 6-4/205, age: 20
We all know his story. With a fastball that regurarly sits in the 95-98 mph range and a sharp 12-6 curveball that rates as a plus-plus strikeout pitch, Homer Bailey comes in as my number one Reds prospect and one of the top five in baseball. Already possessing two great major league pitches, Bailey is working on developing his changeup into a third above average pitch. I give him two months in Louisville working with Mario Soto on the changeup before he bursts onto the scene in Cincinnati for good. Bailey projects as a franchise type pitcher and some expect him to become the first Cincinnati Red to win a Cy Young award on down the road from now.
2007 projection: Louisville/Cincinnati
2. Jay Bruce, rf, 6-3/205, age: 19
This was a tough choice for me but in the end I decided to place Jay Bruce just ahead of Joey Votto as the Reds second best prospect. After coming off one of the best seasons ever for a 19-year old kid in the Midwest League, Jay Bruce looks to repeat his success in the tough FSL in 2007. As good as this kid is, I expect him to hammer FSL pitching and possibly earn a promotion to Chattanooga sometime during the summer. Bruce is often compared to Larry Walker due to his sweet lefthanded swing and similar body frame, and in 2006 he showed why by pounding out 63 extra-base hits in 444 atbats while playing most of the season with a sore shoulder. I predict Bruce to have a huge 2007 season and predict he will be the number one hitting prospect in baseball at this time next year, and possibly the best prospect in the game.
2007 projection: Sarasota with a mid-seasn promotion to Chattanooga.
3. Joey Votto, 1b, 6-3/220, age: 23
Just slightly behind Bruce in my book. You could say Bruce is 2a. and Votto 2b. in terms of my rankings. I think Votto will reach the majors a little sooner than Bruce but Bruce's five tools place him slightly ahead of Votto. Joey, in my opinion, in the most underrated prospect in the minor leagues. Here is a guy who has been overlooked because of an average 2005 season in the pitcher friendly FSL where he was constantly behind in the count due to Dan O'Brien's take the first pitch mantra. I don't care who it is, anybody will struggle under those circumstances. Some people may disagree with me but I think Votto is going to be a star in this game for a long time. I could see him developing into a similar player to Justin Morneau, though with a lower BA (.300 range as opposed to .320) but with more walks.
2007 projection: Louisville with a summer promotion to Cincinnati.
4. Johnny Cueto, rhp, 5-11/180, age: 21
I am a huge fan of Johnny Cueto as you can probably tell by my posts and the thing above my avatar and with good reason. Cueto is yet another vastly underrated prospect in my mind. Only one prospect list that I know of currently lists Cueto in their top 100 prospects, and that is Project Prospect. If you look up and down the lists, Johnny outperformed a lot of guys and his stuff is just as good, if not better. Cueto boasts a 94-96 mph fastball and an above average slider/changeup combination. Baseball America rates his slider and control as the best in the Reds system. The only knock on him is his short stature, but he makes up for it with a very smooth and clean delivery. Cueto reminds me a bit of Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez in terms of size and stuff.
2007 projection: Chattanooga.
5. Travis Wood, lhp, 6-0/165, age: 20
A second round draft pick in 2005 from an Arkansas high school, Wood is easily the best lefthanded pitching prospect in the Reds organization. Wood was said to be hitting 95 mph with his fastball during his senior season of high school, however, he was only rumored to be in the 89-90 mph range this past season. Some speculate the Reds may have asked Wood to tone it down a bit while working on his third pitch, a curveball. Wood's changeup rates as the best in the organization and possibily the best in the minor leagues. If he regains his velocity into the lower 90's and develops that changep into a decent pitch then we could really have a stud on our hands. Compares favorably to Mike Hampton in stature and stuff.
2007 projection: Sarasota.
6. Josh Hamilton, of, 6-4/230, age: 25
When the Reds first drafted Hamilton in the Rule-5 draft, I was reluctant to place him in any top prospect lists because of his long layoff. After following him through boxscores this spring and watching a few of his atbats, I am amazed at his skillset. Not only does he have enormous power, his plate discipline is top notch. He just looks so comfortable at the plate. I think Krivsky found a gem in Hamilton, he may struggle some during this season but by 2008 I think he'll be a fixture in the Reds outfield.
2007 projection: Cincinnati.
7. Drew Stubbs, of, 6-4/200, age: 22
I wanted to put Chris Valaika in this spot but decided instead to go with Drew Stubbs. While I badly wanted the Reds to draft Tim Lincecum over Stubbs with the #8 pick, I'm still not as down on Stubbs as some Reds fans. I think at worst the Reds got a gold glove caliber centerfielder with decent power and good speed. At best, Stubbs develops into a poor's mans Andruw Jones. I personally think he falls in between and develops into a gold glove CFer who will consistently hit .250 and draw 70 walks and hit 20-25 homers and steal 30 bases. Mike Cameron basically.
2007 projection: Dayton/Sarasota.
8. Chris Valaika, ss, 6-0/190, age: 21
Coming off a huge season in which he hit .324/.387/.520 with 34 extra-base hits in 275 atbats, Valaika looks to build off that success this season. Valaika will probably play second base at the next level due to his lack of range, though I expect the Reds to keep him at SS this season. Valaika possesses good gap power and bat speed and could move quickly through the system with him playing college ball and all. My hope is Valaika can develop into a Marcus Giles type hitter and push Phillips to SS in a couple years.
2007 projection: Dayton/Sarasota.
9. Sam Lecure, rhp, 6-1/190, age: 22
Lecure just nudged Ravin for the 9th spot due to him being closer to the major leagues. Drafted in the 4th round out of Texas in 2005, Lecure throws his fastball in the 90-92 mph range and compliments it with a plus-slider. Lecure currently lacks a solid third pitch but hopefully with the help of Mario Soto he can develop a decent changeup. Lecure projects as a solid innings eater at the major league level if he can develop that changeup, otherwise he'll end up in the bullpen somewhere.
2007 projection: Chattanooga
10. Josh Ravin, rhp, 6-4/195, age: 19
The Reds picked up a potential steal in the draft when they took Josh Ravin with their 5th round pick out of a California high school. Ravin pitched solid in his debut last season, posting a 3.96 ERA and striking out 40 batters in 36.1 innings between the GCL Reds and Billings. It was reported that Ravin was hitting 96 mph in Instructional League, and he mixes in a solid changeup/curve combo. At 6-4/195, Ravin has a solid power pitcher build and a projectible body which makes him that much more interesting to follow.
2007 projection: Dayton.