8. Homer Bailey, SP, Reds
Entering 2007, Bailey was in a heated battle with the Yankees' Phil Hughes for the title of Best Pitching Prospect in Baseball. The bloom is off Bailey's rose a bit, but it shouldn't be. His troubles were exacerbated by a groin injury that kept him out for awhile, and besides, did you expect him to dominate at age 21? With Bailey's stuff, a small improvement in control could produce some big numbers this season. The Great American Home Run Park won't help Bailey, but he should be a solid starter.
7. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds
I've seen six comprehensive prospect lists for this season, and Bruce ranks first or second on all of them. I don't doubt that he's going to be great, but Dusty Baker is trying really hard to find someone else to play between Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. The Reds already have Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper, non-hitters who Baker says he wants to see play. Baker has also apparently pushed for Kenny Lofton and Corey Patterson as center field solutions, and I think former Dodger teammates Rick Monday and Pedro Guerrero are next on his call list.
If Bruce goes back to the minors, he'll probably put up such overwhelming numbers that the Reds have to bring him back, but in that case he'll have already missed a month or two for your fantasy team. If Bruce makes the Reds on Opening Day, he might be the best 2008 player on this list. I'm skeptical, so he stays here.
2. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
I wrote in the NL Predictions that I thought Votto would be a better fantasy player in 2008 than Bruce or Bailey, and I still think that's the case. That shouldn't be a surprise, since I wrote the NL Predictions two days before writing this paragraph. (Thank you! Thank you! I'll be here all week!)
Votto's minor league track record suggests that he's a decent bet to hit 20-25 home runs and steal 15-20 bases right now. The only thing standing in his way is Scott Hatteberg, and if Dusty Baker starts Hatteberg over Votto on Opening Day, Reds fans should charge out of the stands with pitchforks and chase Baker back to the TV studio.