I was just curious to what everybody thought...how would you rank the Reds talent age 25 and under? Major leaguers or minor leaguers, it doesn't matter as long as they are 25 years old or younger. I'm going to do a top ten but feel free to do more.
Mine would look like this:
1. OF Jay Bruce, Opening Day age: 21 - This was an easy choice for me, and probably everyone else too. The number one prospect in all of baseball, Bruce has a chance to be a superstar in this game for a long time. He should be the starting centerfielder for the Reds come Opening Day and if he is, my prediction is that he'll win the NL Rookie of the Year.
2. RHP Edinson Volquez, Opening Day age: 24 - This was an extremely hard decision for me. Two through four were very hard to pick, but I went with Volquez here because he already has major league experience and I think he is ready to bust out in a major way. Homer Bailey may have a little more potential but I think Volquez is ready to put it together now, whereas I don't expect Bailey to put it all together for another year or two. With a 94-95 mph fastball that touches 97, a devastating changeup, and a curveball that he has shown to be solid at times, Volquez could be a top-of-the-rotation type starter. When I watched his videos on MLB.com I was amazed at how great his stuff is.
3. RHP Johnny Cueto, Opening Day age: 22- Yet another difficult decision for me. I literally considered flipping a coin in choosing between Bailey and Cueto for this spot, but in the end I chose Cueto because of his control. This is a guy who I can't wait to see pitch for the Reds. Since I began following the minor leagues in 2001, Cueto is probably my favorite guy to have followed through the minor leagues with the exception to Jay Bruce. I love his stuff and command and look forward to him being at the top of the Reds rotation for a long time. I think people are going to be amazed at how good he is when he comes up.
4. RHP Homer Bailey, Opening Day age: 21 - I may be the biggest Homer Bailey fan on here (behind doug of course) but I do realize that he has control problems which is why I put him fourth. Unlike a few, I do think Bailey will improve his control and develop into a top notch starter, just not this year. I think he makes some progress this year but 2009-2010 is when I think he becomes what scouts and Reds fans think he can be - and that is a #1 starter.
5. 1B Joey Votto, Opening Day age: 24 - You know you have a strong top four when Joey Votto is listed at number five. With his ability to hit the ball with authority to all fields plus his very good plate discipline, Votto has a chance to be an All-Star first baseman. I figure the norm for him to be somewhere around .300/.380/.500 each season with 35-40 doubles and 25-30 homeruns.
6. 3B Edwin Encarnacion, Opening Day age: 25 - Again, it's a pretty strong list when a player of Encarnacion's caliber is number six. After OPSing .831 as a 23-year old in 2006, EdE disappointed in the first couple months of 2007 before getting back on track in the second half and posted a .309/.360/.488 line after the All-Star break. More importantly, his defense was much improved in the second half as he made stellar play after stellar play. I've already predicted him to be my breakout hitter of 2008. I'm thinking he reaches the 25 HR mark this season.
7. RHP Josh Roenicke, Opening Day age: 25 - This spot came down to Todd Frazier and Roenicke for me and I decided to go with Roenicke because I believe he will help the Reds sometime during the 2008 season whereas Frazier probably won't be up until sometime in 2009 at the earliest. Roenicke throws his fastball up to 98 mph while mixing in a slider and splitter. He's a NRI to Spring Training, and with a solid spring he could possibly make the team and be this years Jared Burton.
8. SS Todd Frazier, Opening Day age: 22 - A supplemental draft pick by the Reds in the 2007 draft, Frazier hit a combined .319/.405/.538 between Billings and Dayton in his first pro season. Drafted as a SS, Frazier will eventually move to 3B or LF. Normally I wouldn't put a guy with only 200 plate appearances in this list, but Frazier is so advanced at the plate that I was forced to put him here. He has the size and strength to hit 25 homers a year and the plate discipline to get on base at a .380+ clip. I expect him to reach Double-A Chattanooga at some point this season and possibly reach the majors in late 2009.
9. LHP Matt Maloney, Opening Day age: 24 - Another pitching prospect that I like, while he doesn't possess the stuff of Bailey, Cueto, or Volquez, Maloney is still very interesting and has upside. His 87-91 mph fastball could make for a nice change of pace from the heat that Bailey/Cueto/Volquez bring. He also has a plus changeup and what Baseball America calls a slightly above-average slider. Listed at 6'4" and 220 pounds, Maloney has the build to be a durable 200 inning guy as a No. 4 starter.
10. LHP Bill Bray, Opening Day age: 24 - While I'm still not a fan of the Kearns/Lopez trade, I do, however, like Bill Bray. With a 91-94 mph fastball and a nice slider, Bray can be tough on lefties (in a very very small sample size last year, LH batters OPS'ed .438 against him). If he can stay healthy and gain more consistency, Bray could become not only just a situation lefty but a fine setup man for Francisco Cordero IMO.