Here is a look at the framework for the pitching depth placements for the 2008 season. As you can see there are multiple players crowding the upper levels at this time, though the higher ceilings are still limited to the same few. To fix that glut I hope a few things occur:
1. The major league Bullpen is sorted out through the trade or release of a couple of guys past their expiration dates - Mike Stanton and Gary Majewski. Some team in need of a lefty might be willing to take at least a portion of Stanton's $ off the Reds hands and Majewski needs a fresh start somewhere that doesn't have the cloud of "the trade" and the massive failure it spawned for the 2006 play-off "push." In there place, I hope a reliever who can log a lot of innings and maybe a top lefty are added. One dark horse to watch may be Ramon Ramirez. He was a starter most of last year and could be the long reliever the team needs at some point. I don't think the Reds would want to risk the development of Cueto, Bailey or Maloney in that role.
2. Sergio Valenzuela is sent back to Atlanta or acquired for the lower levels.
3. A solid mid-rotation starter is added and Homer Bailey joins a very strong AAA rotation with Cueto, Maloney, Shearn and Gardner.
4. Some thinning of the ranks will need to occur. Looking at this, its hard to understand why the Reds signed guys like Ricky Stone, Jon Adkins, Justin Lehr and Jim Brower. Adkins, Lehr and Brower may be in the mix for the major league long relief role in Spring Training, but I don't imagine all will be kept around if they don't make it or don't appear to be needed. Other Guys who could be in trouble:
Ricky Stone - He does not appear to be needed at this point. The Reds seem to have a number of options for short/middle relief and Stone is 32.
James Avery - The crowd of starters pushing for AA rotation spots (including Sean Watson and Logan Ondrusek who I have listed as relievers for now) may push Avery out. Avery hasn't posted a K/9 above 6 since 17 innings in the Gulf Coast League at age 21.
Brad Salmon - The Reds removed him from the 25 Man roster and others appear to be passing him by. I personally think he could help if given a shot, but I wonder if the Reds will be showcasing him in Spring with the idea of adding him as a kicker to a spring deal. Some smart franchise can probably make decent use of him in the middle of the pen somewhere. IMO Salmon is to the Reds what Heath Bell was to the Mets, some other team will provide the opportunity and I think he has a good chance to succeed. I hope the Reds don't make the same mistake the Mets did and keep Jon Adkins in favor of him.
Brock Till - He's already 27 (28 on July 1) and has thrown 105.333 innings in AA the last two years with an underwhelming K Rate or 5.55. Couple that with a walk rate of 3.84 and it doesn't bode well. He's been great at limiting HR, giving up only 2 in those AA innings, but his age and position in line suggest that the spot would be better filled by a younger player.
Robert Manuel - He'll be 25 in July and hasn't pitched above A+. His peripherals were pretty good in A+ in 2007, so he's probably worth keeping around, but he needs to move faster and has a crowd in front of him.
Thomas Pauly - He'll be 27 in July. He was again hurt a lot in 2007 and posted a 7.23 BB/9 in 18.666 innings when he was pitching. Sad (typical Red's) tale of a guy who had real promise at one point.
Here is the chart:
Spot # Majors AAA AA A+ A- Billings GCL
1 Aaron Harang Tom Shearn Carlos Fisher Travis Wood* Jamie Arneson* Tzu Chiu* Andrew Bowman*
2 Bronson Arroyo Johnny Cueto Daryl Thompson Rafael Gonzalez Scott Carroll Ef. Rodriguez Ricky Rhodes
3 Matt Belisle Matt Maloney* Sam Lecure Alex Smit* Josh Ravin Jon Conaster Leonardo Astorga
4 Edinson Volquez Richie Gardner James Avery D. Guerrero Kyle Lotzkar* Har Honeycutt Charles Snowden*
5 Homer Bailey Justin James B. Jukich* Travis Webb* E. Del Rosario Anthony Romero Brandon Rice
6 S. Valenzuela Justin Lehr Camilo Vazquez* Jordan Smith S. Otterness* Curtis Partch Evan Hildenbrandt
1 Fran. Cordero Josh Roenicke Pedro Viola* Sean Watson Terrell Young Scott Gafney Tom Fiebig
2 David Weathers Tyler Pelland* Derrik Lutz P Valiquette* Bo Lanier Ray Jeffords Aguido Gonzalez*
3 Jared Burton Todd Coffey Brock Till Misael Dejesus Dan Donaldson* Matthew Klinker Victor Navarro
4 Bill Bray* Jon Adkins Justin Mallett Logan Ondrusek Kevin Gunter Joseph Krebs* Josh Beal
5 Mike Stanton* Ricky Stone T. Pauly R. Geronimo Jeremy Horst* J. Hotchkiss Jeremy Vinyard
6 Gary Majewski Jim Brower Robert Manuel Lee Tabor* Luis Montano Tyler Rhoden Jose Marizan
7 Jon Coutlangus* Brad Salmon R. Medina A. Gressick Juan Rafael Dan Zeffiro James Morris*
8 Marcus McBeth Daniel Herrera* Ramon Ramirez