1. Jay Bruce, of
2. Homer Bailey, rhp
3. Joey Votto, 1b/of
4. Johnny Cueto, rhp
5. Drew Stubbs, of
6. Devin Mesoraco, c
7. Todd Frazier, ss
8. Juan Francisco, 3b
9. Josh Roenicke, rhp
10. Matt Maloney, lhp
In hindsight, the Reds' success during the first part of the 2006 season was the worst thing that could have happened to them.
A new ownership group led by Bob Castellini took over in January 2006 and hired Wayne Krivsky as general manager a month later. Krivsky quickly went to work fixing a roster with some clear deficiencies, swinging preseason deals for Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Phillips and David Ross. Those moves helped Cincinnati jump to a 17-8 start that put it atop the National League Central at the end of April, and it appeared that Krivsky had a Midas touch for talent acquisition.
The reality was that the hot start was more a matter of luck than any actual improvement. The Reds were tied for first place in the division as late as Aug. 24, but they collapsed in September and have been trying to live up to unrealistic expectations ever since. Cincinnati finished fifth with a 72-90 record in 2007, and the rotation and bullpen are still as problematic as they were when Krivsky arrived.
After 12 years without a playoff appearance, Reds fans are understandably restless for some signs of success. Krivsky is facing discontent even though the team is actually closer to contending for a prolonged period of time than it has been in years. A farm system that has produced very little over the past decade has four top prospects ready to contribute.
Outfielder Jay Bruce became the first Cincinnati prospect to win Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year award. He and first baseman Joey Votto should take up residence in the heart of the Reds' batting order in the very near future, while Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto are the organization's best pair of pitching prospects in several decades.
Behind them, Cincinnati has more depth in its system than it has had in recent years especially at third base, in the outfield and in the bullpen.
When the Reds' Fab Four make it to the big leagues, they'll join a club that has succeeded in turning other team's castoffs into solid regulars. Picking up Phillips for righthander Jeff Stevens was a masterstroke, as the young second baseman finally realized his considerable promise with a 30-30 season in 2007.
Cincinnati also poached former No. 1 overall pick Josh Hamilton from the Devil Rays via the major league Rule 5 draft at the 2006 Winter Meetings. Hamilton became one of the stories of the 2007 season with his amazing return from a nearly four-year layoff because of drug suspensions. Another Rule 5 pickup, Jared Burton, has become one of the club's most reliable relievers.
If there's a negative to the resurgence of the Reds system, it's that many of the people involved in the long-awaited turnaround are no longer with the team as Krivsky has put his stamp on the organization.
Johnny Almaraz, who signed Cueto and served as the team's farm director and international scouting director, quit after the 2006 season because he was unhappy with Krivsky. Assistant farm director Grant Griesser, field coordinator Tim Naehring, roving coordinator Rick Burleson, roving hitting instructor Jim Hickman, base-running coordinator Lynn Jones and Double-A Chattanooga manager Jayhawk Owens all were fired at the end of the 2007 season.
There will be a chat at 1:30 PM EST.