One (perhaps small) area of improvement I've been happy to see this year, throughout the farm system, is first base.
Especially last year, I felt that the performance of the Reds' minor-league teams was handicapped by a lack of production at first base. It was understandable. The organization has been emphasizing shortstops, center fielders and catchers. I can't disagree with that at all. First basemen are typically limited to first base, in the long run. So, as far as developing prospects, that seems like a good strategy. However, it leaves the teams a little short on the power production that's required to generate runs and win games at the lower levels.
This year, without investing heavily in a non-premium position, there has been an uptick in production at first base. Let's look team-by-team.
In 2009, the depth chart was:
Louisville -- Kevin Barker and Wes Bankston. Both were productive veterans, but not prospects. Both are now out of the organization.
Carolina -- Logan Parker and Yonder Alonso. Parker is out of the organization. Alonso was the only legitimate prospect among the system's first basemen.
Sarasota -- Alonso and Jason Louwsma. Louwsma is out of the organization.
Dayton -- Humberto Sosa and Mike Konstanty. Sosa is out of the organization. Konstanty is now a pitcher. (Edit: As pointed out by others, Konstanty is also out of the organization now, released over the holiday weekend.)
Billings -- Thomas Nurre and Chris Richburg.
GCL Reds -- Danny Hernandez, Donald Lutz and Derrick Lowery. Hernandez is now playing mostly third base for the Arizona Reds. Lowery is pitching. Lutz hit .169.
Louisville -- Alonso and Danny Dorn. Alonso is also playing left field. Dorn has seen an increase in playing time at first. When healthy, he has been Louisville's best hitter, by a considerable amount.
Carolina -- Mike Costanzo and Eric Eymann. Neither is a highly regarded prospect, but the acquisition of Costanzo has helped the offense.
Lynchburg -- Neftali Soto and Carlos Mendez. Mendez has become more of a first baseman than third baseman. Soto's switch from third base to catcher has received a lot of attention, but he's also playing a lot of first.
Dayton -- Richburg and Nurre moved up from Billings. Richburg, who had a decent first season last year, has picked up the power pace, with 12 HR.
Billings -- Draftee (#41) Jonathan Kaskow has a 1.012 OPS. Lutz, who did very little in two years with the GCL Reds, has a .922.
Arizona Reds -- Draftee (#31) Dominic D'Anna has been ridiculous, with a 1.357 OPS.
There are three main differences in the upgrade. 1) The switch of Dorn, Soto and Mendez. 2) The drafting of Kaskow and D'Anna. And 3) The improvement of Richburg and Lutz.
Anyway, it beats last year. I'm just surprised that the improvement hasn't shown up much in the W-L records.