A quick glance at the minor league roster and how it sets up for next season, asuming no deals, would present an interesting dilemma. There are four really solid prospects for three OF spots, with no room at 1B or other positions.
Sean Henry has been playing some 2B in the AFL this year, so perhaps he moves to that position. It definately increases the interest in him as a prospect if he can adequately play the keystone spot on the infield. With Henry's bat, that should vault him into Top 5-15 Prospect status next season, assuming he can indeed play at 2B. We do know Henry can play OF-- all three positions, though CF seems to be blocked by Stubbs in AAA. Henry's AFL numbers are really, really good (387/441/516). It's a small sample size, but he's done nothing to dim an above average regular season in AA Chattanooga either (285/361/455 with 16 SBs). He's only 22, too, so he's progressing really well and should be ready by 2010.
That's also the likely time Justin Turner should be ready, and, if Henry is moved out of the OF for his bat, that's likely the person he's replacing on the infield. Turner has done nothing but hit since being drafted in 2006, and, while his star isn't quite as bright as fellow '06 draftees Valaika, Dorn, and Stubbs, it's not like he's struggled either. If you think you've seen Turner's AA stats (289/359/432 with ) and AFL line (341/396/432), you have-- in th person of Sean Henry. Not only that, Turner has also been tried at different positions all over the field, from OF (obviously a no-go in Louisville) to 3B (pobably not an option with Eric Eymann progressing last season) to SS (no chance, with both Valaika and Janish there). Turner is a year older, so he may get the nod at AAA simply because of age, but that's a pretty arbitrary way to decide, nec pas?
If Turner nor Henry are sent packing, conventional wisdom says the most likely to say hello to Carolina would be Drew Stubbs . We all know his story-- Reds were Bowie'd by his athleticism and questions around the elastic arm of Lincecum. BUt a funny thing happened on the way to Palooka-ville. Stubbs hit. He didn't set the world afire. He didn't mash opponents into oblivion. He simply hit well enough to be promoted twice, through three levels. That should mean he's safe at AAA. After all, he was chosen to go to Louisville ahead of both Turner and Henry, not to mention at least four others in this conversation, so he' not going anywhere, right? Plus, he's a number one pick ahead of some guy who's a pretty good pitcher, or so I hear, so the temptation is to show the world what you saw in him. What the Reds saw was world class athleticism. He's long, lean, fast, and should eventually become powerful. He also plays CF like a gazelle and, if he were to hit enough, would probably be awarded with an the Au element for his leather.
If Stubbs is indeed sent back a step to Carolina, then Shaun Cumberland could play CF. He played it well in AA last season until his own promotion (before Stubbs, I might add) for the last third of the season. He's fast (19 SBs) and has some pop (an 835 OPS in Chattanooga before tanking with a 700 OPS in Louisville) in his bat. Also, Cumberland succeeded when he was allowed to repeat AA last season and has nothing left to prove there. He's 23, so he has some time.
Don't like what you've seen so far? Prfer a guy with more pop in his bat and less grace in his step? Looking for a meat and potatoes run producer? Look no further than Danny Dorn. He's strictly a LF, with an outside possibility of playing RF or 1B. But you're not looking at him for his glove. Dorn has arguably been the most consistent and best hitter in the Red system since he was drafted in 2006. He's averaged a 915 OPS since being drafted and has shown a propensity for BA, taking a walk, and hitting for power. Dorn's 23, but, looking at the Louisville potential lineup, he's the only guy there with much of a chance of hitting clean-up. (Actually, I'd hit him third and only that if the Reds didn't need him, but I digress.) Surely, they wouldn't get rid of him, would they?
If you insist Dorn can play 1B, that's fine. Perhaps you're right. Perhaps the Reds will move hiim between Alonso in AA and Votto in the majors. But they would never block Tonys Gutierrez. Besides owning a way-cool and oft-misspelled moniker, Tonys is a wizard with the glove. He's been voted the best glove-man around the first sack twice in his minor league career and is generally regarded as ready defensively for the majors. His OBP is ready for the majors, too. He's routinely around 400 for the season. In fact, Gutierrez's career OBP is a solid 396 and his OPS is 809. Both of these are good, but they're not really good enough to make him a prospect. Still, he's valuable, especially to a team in need of a good glove at 1B. He's the best glove on the team and no manager would play Gutierrez at DH, while teaching someone else 1B just to see them sit behind two better prospects in as little as half a season. I just can't see the Reds doing that. And Tonys has shown just enough to keep him around at age 25 to see if he develops a little more power. (If he does, he's a major league All Star.) You don't generally dump talent for nothing, especially young talent.
Speaking of young talent, how about erstwhile SS Chris Valaika? It looks like Louisville may be loaded with talent, but the middle infield questions surounding Cincinnati have to take precedence and Valaika is the best option at short in the upper minor leagues. He's hit solidly everywhere, bu everyone but mth thinks he'll hit pretty well wherever he goes. (Though it may take a half season or so. It seems as if Valaika needs to see the pitchers and make his own adjustments and that takes him half a year. Then he crushes the ball.) Valaika's question is his glove. Or, rather, his arm. His average range, coupled with a slightly below average arm conjur images of Jeff Keppinger in the minds of many. And they may be right. But Valaika's Range factor (admittedly a flawed stat) shows him well above average for his league and the best SS on his team by a wide margin (and that team also included supposed glove man Jose Castro). He has made 25 E's a year or so, but that's not many when you consider the shape many fields are in and the poor lighting conditions.
If you decide to keep Valaika (and, really, it's not like he needs another go-'round at AA), what do you do with Paul Janish? You rememer Janish. He the Rice grad with Dave Concepcion's glove. And his anemic early 70's bat. Still, Janish is seriously good with the glove and perhaps he hits enough at AAA to justify using it in The Show. He does all the little things well-- hitting behind runners, sacrifice bunts, etc. (Dusty loves that, you know he does.) But, no one thinks he's ready for Cincinnati now. He needs more seasoning.
Maybe they can move Valaika to 2B (a la many posters here), Janish sticks at SS, and Turner moves to the hot corner and provides a top of the order hitter at that position. But that, then, leaves out Eric Eymann. Eymann, after a poor beginning to his professional career, blossomed into a solid hitter while playing 3B for Chattanooga. He hit a shade under 300 for the year and provided his AA team with timely hit after timely hit. He led a pretty powerful team in RBIs (a team-dependent stat, I know), with 71 and socked 31 doubles. And it's not like Eymann is a statue at 3B, either. He's a former SS and 2B who moved to the hot corner because Valaika and Turner were the AA double play combination. He's good with the glove and a good bet to continue success up the ladder. And, really with 3B stacked in below (Frazier and Francisco, not to mention Soto and Waring a level behind that), the Reds aren't likely to switch another top prospect to the hot corner.
So, Redszone, what happens? They can't all play in AAA, can they? What happens to the loser of the middle infield spot up for grabs in Cincinnati between Adam Rosales, Danny Richar, and Jeff Keppinger? Where do they go?
Who is most likely to be sent packing in a deal?
Who's your pick to drop back, if no deal is made?