Minors stocked with solid pitching
Reds insider: At least the future offers good news for the organization

We here at Reds Insider realize it's not easy being a Reds fan these days.

So on this Sunday morning, we seek to bring you a little cheery news. It has nothing to do with the big-league club, but it's good news nonetheless.

Here goes: The Reds are fairly stacked with starting pitching in the minor leagues. That's very good for the Reds, who over the past 20 years or so have developed zero starting pitchers.

The club has starters putting up good numbers at every level from Triple-A Louisville to low Single-A Dayton.

"(Minor-league pitching coordinator) Mack Jenkins has done a good job getting guys ready," field coordinator Tim Naehring said. "Guys are being aggressive, throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count."

The starting pitching depth is as good in the minors as it has been in at least 10 years.

"You can never have enough pitching," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "But we have a lot of guys having good years. Guys have stayed healthy. That's a big part of it. We've played well in the minors all around. We're winning. That's good. The first goal is development, but it's good to win."

The Reds are hesitant to reveal what they think of their own players - trade secrets and all that - but we've put together a list of 10 starters who could be pitching in Great American Ball Park in the future:

Johnny Cueto, 21, RH: He's listed behind Homer Bailey on most prospect lists. He's 4-5 with a 3.15 ERA at Sarasota and probably will get bumped up to Double-A. He held his own in a spot start at Louisville.

Phil Dumatrait, 25, LH: He's 7-4 with a 3.30 ERA for Louisville. He has found it again after struggling for three starts and probably is closest to the majors of anyone on this list.

Carlos Fisher, 24, RH: "He's probably been as consistent as anyone we have," Naehring said. Fisher went from Sarasota to Chattanooga without missing a beat. He's 2-1 with a 1.26 ERA with the Lookouts. He was 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA with Sarasota. He was the 11th-round pick in the 2005 draft.

Richie Gardner, 24, RH: He might be in the Reds' rotation now if not for shoulder surgery in 2005. He was the minor-league player of the year in '04 and finally is healthy again. He's 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA at Chattanooga after going 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA at Sarasota.

Rafael Gonzalez, 21, RH: He was the fourth-round pick in 2004, and his results finally are matching his stuff. He's 9-1 with a 2.04 ERA at Dayton. "For a big kid (6 feet 1, 232 pounds), he's a pretty good athlete," Naehring said.

Michael Gosling, 26, LH: He's 5-3 with a 3.00 ERA at Louisville. He's the only one on this list with big-league experience, having pitched for the Diamondbacks in '04 and '05.

Sam Lecure, 23, RH: He's 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA with Chattanooga. He's currently at Sarasota on a rehab assignment (pulled oblique).

Daryl Thompson, 21, RH: He was one of the minor-leaguers in the eight-player trade with the Nationals last summer. He dominated at Dayton (5-0, 0.89 ERA) and is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA at Sarasota.

Sean Watson, 21, RH: He was the second-round pick in last year's draft out of the University of Tennessee. The Reds converted him from a closer to a starter. He's 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA at Dayton and is scheduled to start the Midwest League All-Star game. He has struck out 76, walked 12 and allowed 55 hits in 652/3 innings.

Travis Webb, 22, LH: He's 4-3 with a 3.26 ERA at Dayton.

It's never a good idea to fall in love with minor-league stats.

"Stats mean more the higher you go in the minors," Krivsky said. "But we've had guys making good adjustments and improving."

Depth is the key. Chances are, only half of the aforementioned 10 will make the big leagues. Of course, the more prospects you have, the better chance some of them will turn out.

"When you've got the depth, it leads to competition. Guys feed off one another," Naehring said. "When they see a guy get it done, they want to keep it going."

TRADE TALK: I asked a scout what Adam Dunn might bring on the trade market. He wasn't sure. But what he said might explain why it could be hard to get a team to pull the trigger on Dunn:

"He's been a mystifying player for a long time. When he was in the minors, he played right field. He stole bases. He hit .300. Now, I think an American League team would be more interested."

STAT OF THE WEEK: Jay Bruce, the Reds' 2005 top pick, went into Saturday hitting .327 for Sarasota. Nearly half his hits were for extra bases. He had 85 hits - 26 doubles, five triples and 10 home runs.