Looking at the position there are two guys who really stand out from the rest currently. Devin Mesoraco, 2007’s first round draft pick and Ryan Hanigan who hit very well for Louisville and has been in Cincinnati for the last month. Mesoraco is coming off a solid season given his age and the league he was playing in. He is still far away, but he has upside and showed signs of the potential he was drafted for. Hanigan on the other end of the spectrum is a bit old, but he showed a solid bat with low strikeouts and good defense.
In the middle of those two guys are Craig Tatum, Alvin Colina, Chris Denove, Eddy Rodriguez, Jake Long and Justin Tordi. Craig Tatum has the upside but hasn’t been able to put it together yet and he is reaching an age where he really needs to make that next step. The rest of the guys at this point come off as organizational filler.
The Reds have one guy going into next year that will start in the minors who can be seen as a legit catching prospect and its Devin Mesoraco. Catching across the minors is tough to come by (heck, its tough to come by in the majors for that matter), but the Reds do have a lack of real options for the future at the position. Overall, I would give the Reds a D+ at the catcher position because they do have one guy who looks like he has the potential to be an above average catcher (Mesoraco) and Hanigan looks good enough to hold his own at the major league level. Outside of that though, there is a big hole at the position.
The Reds have several guys who split time at first base who are real prospects with Adam Rosales and Todd Frazier, but the best prospect of the bunch is this years first round draft pick Yonder Alonso. Yonder Alonso signed late and didn’t play much but he is the best prospect at the position and arguably in the entire system. He is limited to first base (regardless of what the Reds want you to believe), but he has outstanding plate discipline and reminds me of an Adrian Gonzalez (Padres 1B) with a tad less power. Adam Rosales is at an age where he needs to start seeing time with the Reds, but he is a bit of a utility type in the sense that he can play several positions and his bat may be able to play at the major league level at first base. Frazier, one of 2007’s first round draft picks is like Rosales in the sense that he can play several positions (drafted as a shortstop, but isn’t a shortstop) but has spent plenty of time logged at first base. He has a very strong all around game at the plate. He can hit for average and power while having solid plate discipline. Its not certain he will stay at first base or not but he is an option.
The Reds also have a little bit of depth at the position with guys like Tonys Gutierrez and Logan Parker in the ranks. Gutierrez doesn’t have much power, but he has outstanding plate discipline, doesn’t strike out much and can hit for a solid average. Logan Parker is coming back from shoulder surgery but he brings a fairly well rounded game with him. He can hit for average, a bit of power and he has decent plate discipline as well. He is behind some guys at the position, but he brings strong depth at the position.
With Joey Votto manning the spot at the major league level it may be a tough position to break into (unless he shifts to LF which has been suggested by some), but the Reds seem to have some top end talent at the position with Alonso and Frazier, as well as good talent with Rosales, Gutierrez and Parker. Overall they seem to be looking real good at the first base position in the future. I would give the Reds a B/B+ at the position.
When I think about the Reds at second base, no one really jumps out at me as a guy who will be above average. The best prospect of the bunch is easily Justin Turner who finished his season at AA. Turner has hit at every level at a solid rate. He has hit .310/.377/.445 in his minor league career to this point with good contact skills and a little bit of pop in his bat on top of good defense.. He has been described as a gamer type who just knows how to play the game.
The rest of the group at the position come off as utility type infielders with the exception of a guy like Alex Buchholz who spent his year down in Billings after being drafted this year. He has a long way to go, but he has shown some flashes that he could be a real prospect.The other wild card in the group is Danny Richar who was brought over in the Ken Griffey Jr trade. He has had seasons in the minors that look very promising (last year had an .870 OPS in AAA as a 24 year old), although he looks to me like he is probably a utility bench player.
One other thing to note is that there are guys in the system, much like first base, who have the ability to play second base who have been moved around some. Guys like Adam Rosales and Chris Valaika fall into this mix, although both are viewed at different positions.
OVerall I think I would give the position a C based on the ability that the Reds could likely fill the spot in the near term future if they needed to (with either Rosales next year or Turner toward the end of next year and going forward in 2009), but the lack of star power potential at the position hurts it overall and outside of Turner there wasn’t anyone at the position who looked too good for most of the season.
Shortstop is a real important position on the field because it requires a very specific skillset that not many guys have. Top that off with the fact that the Reds currently have a gaping hole at shortstop at the major league level and its a real important thing to have in the system. The position is led by Chris Valaika who finished up his season in AA Chattanooga for the Lookouts.
Chris Valaika has played SS since he was drafted by the Reds in the 3rd round, but there are a lot of people who question his ability to play SS at the major league level. The Reds don’t seem to be those people though from what they have shown with Valaika. His bat will likely play wherever he moves to though, as he is just a real solid hitter. He can hit for average, for power and he draws enough walks that he isn’t going to hurt you either. The next guy to look for is Zach Cozart, who is the best defensive shortstop in the system. His bat has some questions about it, but he hit very well in the second half of the season for Dayton. If he continues to develop with the bat, he could be a real solution in the future at the position.
Paul Janish is currently in Cincinnati, but I just don’t see his bat playing enough to be a major league starter. His glove will likely make him a bench player in the majors though. Jose Castro had a disappointing year after having a solid 2007 year, but he needs to make some strides in his game before he can really be talked about as anything in regards to a major leaguer. The Reds seemed to have moved on from the Todd Frazier and Neftali Soto are shortstops boat, so I don’t really count them as shortstops.
Overall I would give the Reds shortstop position a C/C+ grade. With Valaika they have a guy who could be passable defensively at the position and his bat should easily play. Cozart brings in another real prospect type of guy at the position even if he has a ways to go. After them though, there are some questions almost everywhere else about guys that don’t look like they could start at SS in the majors.
Third base may be the deepest position in the entire system. Neftali Soto and Todd Frazier were both drafted last season but are already leading the way at the third base position. Neftali Soto was taken in the 3rd round, but could be the best prospect in the system. He hit a combined .340/.362/.558 between Billings and Dayton this year as a 19 year old. Frazier, one of last years first round draft picks hit .291/.368/.485 between Dayton and Sarasota.
While those two are the leaders of the class Juan Francisco has more power than anyone in the system and hit 23 home runs in the Florida State League as a 21 year old. He has some plate discipline issues he needs to work with (just 19 walks all season and 123 strikeouts), but he has a lot of power and plenty of tools to work with. Another 2007 draft pick had a decently strong season at third base for Dayton as Brandon Waring hit 20 home runs along with hitting .270/.346/.467 for the Dragons. Like Francisco he also has a strikeout issue he needs to work with, but unlike Francisco, Waring can take a walk.
Overall I would give the Reds 3B position a solid A. They have two top end prospects at the position and also have depth that includes potential high end talent as well. I really don’t think there is another way to grade the position than that. The future looks bright for the guys playing third base in the Reds system.
Centerfield is a spot that has really hurt the Reds this season for the most part. Dusty Baker has run Corey Patterson out there for 96 starts now and the Reds centerfielders have hit a combined .249/.301/.400 (hit .300/.364/.461 without Corey Patterson). Finding a centerfielder and soon is a big need since Dusty wants to play Patterson so much and is probably going to push for him to be back next season.
The centerfield position is led by 2006 first round pick Drew Stubbs. Stubbs had somewhat of a breakout season this year although some of it was hidden by the Florida State League. He brings game changing defense to the table along with a bat that will play in the majors and promising power potential. He finished the season in AAA Louisville, but the guy who spent most of the time roaming CF for the Bats this year is the next guy on the list. Chris Dickerson has always been a toolbox waiting to be opened. This year he really broke out with an OPS over .850 while hitting for the power he always had inside but wasn’t showing consistently. His season is likely done now, so he will keep his prospect status for one more offseason. Dickerson has some strikeout concerns, but he knows how to work the walk, plays very good defense and has some pop in his bat.
The next tier of guys is led by Chris Heisey who was also drafted in 2006 like Stubbs and spent his time in Sarasota and Chattanooga. Heisey does lots of things well. He can steal some bases (stole 32 this year in 34 attempts), play solid defense, has good plate discipline and gap to gap power (although not much HR power). The next guy in this group is Shaun Cumberland. Cumberland was part of the trade that brought the Reds Jorge Cantu. He split time in AA and AAA where he really changed his plate approach around. He has always been a toolsy kind of guy but wasn’t one who had put together a real good year. He increased his walk rate big time this year and started hitting the ball in the air more, which resulted in a much better overall season than he had seen before.
There are also two wildcard guys in the mix with Justin Reed and Yorman Rodriguez. Justin Reed is another toolsy type of player who turned down a football scholarship at Ole Miss to play baseball for the Reds. He has the tools to be successful, but he is going to need to cut down on the strikeouts to have more success. Right now, he is an unopened toolbox, but he is certainly someone to keep an eye on as he continues to progress. Yorman Rodriguez on the same token is also a very toolsy player. He is said to have plus-plus speed and plus-plus raw power, as a 16 year old, to go with defensive tools as well. He has been compared to guys like Miguel Cabrera (for his bat), Eric Davis and a right handed Carlos Beltran. He signed for $2.7 million this August and has yet to play a professional game at any level. He is a ways away, likely at least 4 years if everything goes right, but he is someone to certainly watch for in the future.
Overall, I would give this Reds a B/B+ for the position. They have the high upside guys with Stubbs and Rodriguez (even if he is a long ways away) as well as a guy who could cut it as a starter against most of the league next year with Chris Dickerson. Guys like Heisey and Cumberland also are strong prospects that add depth to the position and give you wiggle room if something doesn’t pan out how you want it. A very solid crew of guys standing deep in the middle of the field through our system.
Jay Bruce looks like he will be holding down RF for a long time as a Red (or at least for the next 5 years, but lets hope for more) so there really only looks to be one spot open in the corner outfield for a while.
The guy that really leads the list in my opinion has to be 32nd round pick Danny Dorn. All he has done since being drafted is hit the snot out of the baseball posting OPS numbers of 1.030, .873 and .906 over his three seasons in the minor leagues. He is a lefty who has struggled with left handed pitching, but as you can see by his numbers, he absolutely kills right handed pitching. Even if he may need to platoon in the majors, he will face the right handers which means probably 450 or so PA a year. He has plenty of power to hit for a corner outfielder in the majors. He really stands out from the rest of the group as a guy pushing for a top 10 ranking in the system.
Sean Henry is among the next tier of guys on the list. He is a bit undersized as he checks in at 5′10 and 185 pounds, but all he has done is hit the ball and play good defense since he was drafted. He just hit .285/.361/.455 in AA as a 22 year old. He will need to hit for some more HR power to play fulltime in the majors, but he is still provides solid depth at the spot with the potential to fill in quite well at the major league level if needed. Drew Anderson is a bit of an older guy, but he also provides some depth at the position. The big wild card at the position is the $2 million manboy out of the Dominican Republic Juan Duran. The Reds got this sign due to a loophole in the rules that they saw before anyone else and signed him quietly before others really even talked to him. Duran has been compared to Juan Gonzalez and Vladimir Guerrero by some scouts.
The rest of the guys are bigger question marks at this point but some guys have the potential to break out in the future as they possess the tools to do so. Overall I would give the Reds corner outfield position a C+/B- because they do have someone I feel could step in and produce at a league average rate in LF right now with Danny Dorn, but after him the next impact guy spent his year playing in the Dominican Republic and likely learning how to drive a car and speak English. Sean Henry and Drew Anderson bring a little depth to the position though. I am on the fence on the overall grade though.
Thats my take anyways, just thought I would share it with you guys. Sorry for the long read, but hopefully you didn't fall asleep.