Poised, polished batteries in '09 class
Pitchers, catchers abound in talented Reds system
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com
12/02/09 10:00 AM EST
With the 2009 season and Arizona Fall League (where several 2009 draftees got their first taste of pro ball) in the books, we take a look at the early results of each club's '09 First-Year Player Draft class: how their top picks did; late-round picks that fared well; which picks are likely to move up the ladder quickest; and which picks clubs were unable to sign.
If the 2009 Draft is any indication, the Reds are apparently looking to recharge their batteries, as 13 of their first 17 picks were pitchers or catchers.
Of that group, the Reds signed their first 16 picks, including 10 pitchers, a crop that included nine right-handers and seven college products.
Though they didn't get to see their top two picks in action until the Arizona Fall League, as they both signed late, the showings of right-handers Mike Leake, taken out of Arizona State in the first round, and Brad Boxberger, a Southern Cal product taken in the supplemental first round, were both encouraging there as they impressed the Reds' front office with their maturity.
"It's a tough place to start your career," said Reds farm director Terry Reynolds. "Both had impressive debuts and we just wish we could have had them all summer."
Four of the club's first five picks were polished college players, with the exception coming in the form of shortstop Billy Hamilton, a raw but toolsy player out of high school in Mississippi.
Top five picks
1. Mike Leake, RHP: Drafted out of Arizona State with the eighth overall pick, Leake signed at the deadline and made his unofficial pro debut in the Arizona Fall League where he posted a 1.37 ERA and saved his best for last with a four-inning, two-hit shutout performance. Not a big guy, he has a repertoire of five pitches including a lively fastball and deceptive changeup and has the polish and poise to move quickly. The Reds love his baseball smarts and command.
1S. Brad Boxberger, RHP: Taken with the 43rd overall pick, Boxberger's dad Rod was MVP of the 1977 College World Series and a first-round pick by the Astros in 1978, so the bloodlines are there. So is the size and stuff, namely a mid-90s fastball and solid slider, to which he is adding a curveball and changeup. A late sign who was inconsistent in Arizona Fall League action (11.37 ERA in eight games, 13 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings), he was a starter in college but more likely projects in the back end of the bullpen.
2. Billy Hamilton, SS: A football recruit by Mississippi State, the 19-year-old Hamilton doesn't have a lot of baseball experience but what he does have makes up for it and can't be taught: game-changing top of the order speed, an 80 on the scout scale of 20-80. He also has the natural tools to be a fine shortstop (or, possibly, a center fielder) with agility, soft hands, a strong arm and good range. A natural right-handed hitter, he's just learning to switch-hit to take advantage of that speed. He batted .205 with 14 steals in 43 games in the Gulf Coast League, leading league shortstops with a .955 fielding percentage, and continued his baseball schooling in the instructional league.
3. Donnie Joseph, LHP : Back to college pitchers, the Reds took the University of Houston product with the plus slider and moved him quickly, as he combined for a 3.06 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings between short-season Billings and Class A Dayton. Joseph, a reliever, walked just 14 and limited batters to a .165 average.
4. Mark Fleury, C: The members of the North Carolina Tarheels went early and often in the Draft, including Fleury, who began his pro career hitting .198 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 39 games at Billings.
5. Dan Tuttle, RHP: Tuttle was considered by many to be the top high school pitcher in North Carolina, has solid potential pitches in his low-90s fastball, slider and changeup despite an unorthodox delivery. In the Arizona League he posted a 1.67 ERA and fanned 30 in 32 1.3 innings, walking 10.
Best of the Rest
Right-hander and sixth-round pick Mark Serrano, a 24-year-old out of Oral Roberts, moved up quickly, combining between Billings and Dayton for a 2.11 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 55 innings and limiting hitters to a .198 average. ... Outfielder Juan Silva is an excellent athlete from Puerto Rico who hit .280 in Arizona League action and was an eighth-round selection. ... Righty Brian Pearl, selected out of Washington in the ninth round, fanned 43 in 29 innings with eight saves at Billings. ... Jacob Johnson, a right-handed high school pick taken in the 11th round out of Florida, had a 2.83 ERA, third in the organization, in 47 2/3 innings of work in the Arizona League where hitters managed just a .212 average against him. ... First baseman Dave Stewart is a power prospect out of St. Louis who missed time with a wrist injury, causing him to be a 22nd round selection. The 6-foot-6 230-pounder hit .158 in seven games in the Arizona League.
Keep an eye on the college pitchers who will be looked to soon, namely first-rounders Leake and Boxberger, but also reliever Joseph and later-round pick Serrano who, at 24, will dictate his own timetable with his performance.
With their first 16 picks signed and 34 overall out of 51, there were only a few who "got away," with the key three coming all in a row in the mid-teens. Catcher Chase Fowler (16th round), a Georgia prep, heads to Southern Misssissippi. The Reds also lost a pair of Florida shortstops whom they selected with back-to-back picks, as Deven Marrero (17th round), the cousin of Nationals former first-rounder Chris Marrero and MLB.com's White Sox Co-Hitter of the Year Christian Marrero, goes west from American Heritage High School to Arizona State, while Gulliver Prep (Miami) product Steven Perez (18th round) stays at home to play for the University of Miami. Second baseman Matt Valaika (20th round), who plays the same position as his older brother Chris, one of the Reds' top middle infield prospects, will stay at his current school (and his brother's alma mater), UC-Santa Barbara.