The long-time assumption has been that somebody will get dealt.
We have seemingly unprecedented depth, we're a year ahead of schedule in terms of competing for championships, and the minor leagues are starting to stack up with depth - not with certainty. What I mean by that is no one knows what is going to happen with the Yonders, Juans, Sappelts, and Maloneys of the world where as 3 years ago they'd be locks to make the Reds.
With depth comes uncertainty, but ol' Walt never let's that bother him, "These things have their way of working out." (paraphrasing)
So, I thought I'd examine where we'll be in a few months if the season kicks off with only a Cairo signing here and a Rhodes signing there. Or neither. In six or twelve months, what narrative will have developed in relation to our prospects that are blocked?
First a quick run down on 2011 roster spots (My own best guess). Not all 25 spots, but the pertinent ones here. Blocked players are in BOLD :
Volquez - #1 starter
Arroyo - locked up
Cueto - vet
Bailey - vet
Wood - balls*
Coco - vet
Masset - vet
Chapman - heat
Bray - vet
Leake - too good for AAA**
Pitchers Blocked in AAA:
Fisher, Burton, Owings, DRH, Maloney
From the preeminent Redszone Rankings:
Prospect #1 - Aroldis Chapman, LHP - He'll be on the 25 man roster, but as a reliever? Rhodes not resigned?
Prospect #2 - Devin Mesoraco, C - Not expected to make the 25 man, ETA September
Prospect #3 - Yorman Rodriguez, CF - N/A
Prospect #4 - Yonder Alonso, 1B - Yonder makes the team as the LH off the bench? Insurance for Votto situation. Potential stud .900 OPS.
Prospect #5 - Billy Hamilton, SS - N/A
Prospect #6 - Yasmani Grandal, C - Can he relieve the Reds at 1b or C by 2012?
Prospect #7 - Todd Frazier, IF/OF - Does he do enough in AAA to platoon in LF/3b in 2012? What about...
Prospect #8 - Juan Francisco, 3B - Reds love him. He could work on plate discipline all year in AAA or earn bench spot. I think he's a lock for the 25 man.
Prospect #9 - Zack Cozart, SS - Does he do enough to beat out Alonso, Juan, Valaika as INF prospects off the bench?
Prospect #10 - David Sappelt, CF - All year in AAA. Injury callup?
Prospect #11 - Donnie Joseph, LHP - ETA September?
Prospect #12 - Ismael Guillon, LHP - N/A
Prospect #13 - Brad Boxberger, RHP - N/A
Prospect #14 - Chris Valaika, IF - Cairo replacement?
Prospect #15 - Kyle Lotzkar, RHP - N/A
Prospect #16 - Ryan LaMarre, OF - N/A
Prospect #17 - Juan Duran, OF - N/A
Prospect #18 - Junior Arias, SS - N/A
Prospect #19 - Sam Lecure, RHP - Beat out Leake for long relief?
Some others blocked in AAA next year:
Dorn, Negron, Perez, Thompson
Ages of blocked players 2010 & 2011. Core prospects bolded.
The only players, it seems, that have "time" to retain their prospect standing while staying in AAA next year are Mesoraco, Alonso, Cozart, Frazier, Sappelt, Negron, Perez (due to short time in the US so far), Valaika and Thompson - and that's putting pressure on all of them to dominate next year in AAA, as their ages dictate a level of mastery. Ultimately, that pressure is a result, or byproduct, of all the competition throughout the organization, which is a good thing. Anyway, in my opinion, it can be said that the values of our core AAA prospects can withstand one more year down on the farm. Meanwhile these players can also be provided the benefit of a September call up, injury call up, or standard promotion in 2011. Talk about depth and flexibility when you've got a slew of hungry 23-26 year old vets in AAA ready to contribute in Cincinnati at a moments notice.
Granted, many on the above list are nowhere near being prospects anymore, and the fact they will be in AAA another year can't be pleasing to them - and can't look good to other teams if they were to languish all of 2011 in AAA. So, perhaps if you're Walt, looking to deal players with MLB experience that are blocked is the best route. We've seen the value many GM's place on "proven" MLB players. To some extent Fisher, Burton, Owings, DRH, Maloney, and Lecure must have some real value that isn't realized here. I don't want to say a Burton, Owings and Maloney package can haul Jose Reyes by any means, but I wonder if we wouldn't be surprised at what it could haul in. These guys aren't exactly scrap heap players...yet. A Maloney/Lecure package, for example, holds some value in that perhaps a team is getting their 4th and 5th starters here, depending on that team's depth and injury status.
All this said, there aren't many holes on this Reds team anyway. Despite the amount of talent blocked or vying for position, it makes a lot of sense we may not see a trade because many of the highest upside prospects still could benefit from a year in AAA without losing an undue amount of luster. Perhaps Walt ought to try unloading from the bottom of the depth chart. If nothing pans out you're still really really deep. That's been the word on the Reds anyway - really really deep.
*switch out Wood with Leake if you want
**Leake may end up in the blocked group in AAA to remain on track for starting
***Smith and Ondrusek are interchangable with the bullpeners in AAA discussed