Minor League notations in descending order<o:p></o:p>
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh<o:p></o:p>
*A+ signifies high A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A- signifies low A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season<o:p></o:p>
*a signifies short-season A ball<o:p></o:p>
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season
Cincinnati Reds Top 15 Prospects
1. Yonder Alonso 1B Age: 21 MLL: A+
Alonso may have been the best hitting prospect in the 2008 draft. Alonso will hit for a good average, and has exceptional plate patience. He also possesses plus power, and is average defensively at first. Due to Alonso’s advanced hitting ability, he should move through the system quickly – I am tempted to use an Albert Pujols comp. but, without the defensive ability.
2. Drew Stubbs OF Age: 24 MLL: AAA/AA/A+
Stubbs has a lot tools. He is great defensively, has a plus arm, and also has well above-average base running ability, 33 SBs in 2008. Stubbs’ strikeout to walk ratio is nearly 2:1, still Stubbs hits a high OBP of .371 – high for his .277 BA. Stubbs’ raw power has yet to be shown in his home run totals, but he could hit 20 or so in the future. Stubbs’ potential: a Jim Edmonds type that will remain a mainstay in Cincinnati’s outfield for a long time.
2a. Homer Bailey RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AAA
Ok, a bit unprecedented, but Homer Bailey slides in at number 2a because I am not sure whether or not to call him a prospect. He has yet to pitch 50 innings in the major leagues, but for some reason I get this feeling in the back of my mind he does not qualify because of service time. So, instead of redoing the whole list I threw him in behind Stubbs. Homer Bailey throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s, and has thrown up to 97 in the past. He also throws a curveball, and a changeup, to go with his 4, and 2 seam fastballs. Bailey has yet to have any success at the major league level, but should still become a front line starter one day – he is only 22.
3. Chris Valaika SS Age: 23 MLL: AA/A+
Cincinnati’s 2008 minor league MVP, Valaika does a lot of things well, but not one of his tools sticks out. Valaika hit .317 in 2008, with a relatively low OBP of .363. His strikeout to walk ratio is almost 3:1, with 102 SOs, to 35 walks. Valaika has solid power, hitting 18 homers in 2008, but his defense at short will force him to move to third base, or the outfield. Valaika has a lower ceiling, but should be starting for the Reds, though at what position is still in question, by 2010.
4. Todd Frazier SS Age: 22 MLL: A
He and Valaika are two pees in the same pod, they hit for a similar OBP, hit just about the same number HRs, and both will not play shortstop I the majors. Frazier has a strikeout to walk ratio of 2:1, (112 SOs), and has a higher power potential than Valaika. Down the road I see Frazier as a slightly above-average third basemen with solid power, and OBP.
5. Darryl Thompson RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA
Thompson is a control type pitcher, but throws pretty good stuff, with his low 90s fastball. He also throws solid secondary stuff in his curveball, and changeup. Thompson pitched great in 2008 throwing 126 innings for an ERA of only 2.70, while striking out 99 batters. He is obviously not going to overpower many batters in the majors, but will make for an above-average back of the rotation guy, and could even be as good as an average number three starter.
6. Matt Maloney LHSP Age: 24 MLL: AAA
Maloney is the top lefty in the system. He was acquired midseason of 2007 in an exchange involver Kyle Lohse. Maloney put up great numbers in a full season of AAA, in 2008. Pitching 146 innings, and striking out 141 batters, winning 12 games. He is not a future ace, but is major league ready, and could be inserted at the back of the Reds rotation to start 2009.
7. Juan Fransisco 3B Age: 21 MLL: A
One of the most interesting prospects the Reds have. Fransisco hit 23 homers in high A in 2008 - the most of any Reds player, Fransisco also hit 25 homers in 2007. Like many minor league power hitters Fransisco has very little plate disciple, he finished 2008 with an inexcusable strikeout to walk ratio of 6:1 (123:19). Still his 123 SOs in 2008, was an improvement on his 161 in 2007, and should continue to improve in this area in the future. Fransisco also possesses a strong arm, and can man third in the major leagues.
8. Kyle Lotzkar RHSP Age: 19 MLL: A-
Lotzkar has a higher ceiling than Thompson, and Maloney, but is still a long way away, and it would be foolish to assume he will reach it, just yet. Lotzkar has big mid 90s fastball, but still need time to learn to command it and his secondary stuff. In 2008 he pitched only 38 innings, but struck out 50 batters in that time, while finishing the season with a 3.58 ERA, and limiting opposing hitters to a .215 BA.
9. Neftali Soto SS/3B Age: 19 MLL: A-
Soto played well in low A this season – despite his young age. He hit .340, with a .362 OBP, while hitting 11 homeruns in 285 ABs in that league. Soto’s 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio is not much to worry about because of his age, and the fact that he should not have been playing at low A this season, but was promoted due to an injured player. Like Valiaka, and Frazier, Soto is not expected to stick at shortstop, and actually made the move to third while he was in low A Dayton. With Frazier likely to become the mainstay at third at some point it makes me wonder where they are all going to play, and… where is the shortstop of the future?
10. Devin Mesoraco C Age: 20 MLL: A-
A great defensive catcher, Mesoraco is not putting up the kinds of offensive numbers that were hoped when he was taken with the 15<sup>th</sup> pick in 2007. Still, Mesoraco is a potential 5-tool player, and is only 20 so, I will give him another season before I shake him from the top 10.
11. Josh Roenicke RHP Age: 26 MLL: AAA/AA
Roenicke is now a sure thing, as a solid setup man, maybe even a closer someday – I will admit, I have him ranked a bit low, but was reluctant to move Mesoraco out of the top 10. Roenicke finished the season in Cincinnati, but before winding up there he pitched 61 innings in AAA, and AA striking out 71 batters. He throws a mid 90s fastball, and throws a cutter in the 80s.
12. Zach Stewart RHRP Age: MLL: A
The Red’s third round pick in 2008. Stewart was a closer in college possessing a plus fastball, and slider. He was successful for the Reds in his first taste of pro ball striking out 23 batters in over 16 innings of high A ball. Stewart should move swiftly through the system, and could be a successful closer someday in the future, at worst he is a solid setup man.
13. Chris Heisey OF Age: 24 MLL: AA/A+
Heisey is solid across the board, and possesses plus speed. In 2008 he hit .291, .375 OBP, with 9HRs, and 32 SBs split between double A, and high A ball. Most impressive was his only 84 SOs, and 60 BBs to go with it. Heisey will be a good major leaguer, but not a start, and he may not even start most of his career, but will make a great sub in the OF, and bat on the bench.
14. Alex Buchholz 2B Age: 21 MLL: A
Another 2008 draftee, Buchholz had only 134 ABs in 2008, but made them useful, and thus earns a spot on the list. He hit .396, with a .471 OBP, striking out 25 times, but walking 16 times. He is a guy to look out for going into his first full pro season.
15. Evan Hildenbrandt RHSP Age: 19 MLL: A-
Evan played great in 2008 despite being younger than the rest of his league. In 2008 he threw in 66 innings, and struck out 63, acquiring an ERA of 2.98, and holding opponents to a BA of .231, he is my young pitcher to watch next season for the Reds.
Strengths: Other than the class of 2008, this included Edison Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and Jay Bruce. The Reds are balanced with a couple good starters, a couple good relievers, some good outfielders, and some good infiedlers. That variety extends to expected ETAs. Cincinnati has some ready prospects in Josh Roenicke, and Matt Maloney, but also some high upside younger players in Kyle Lotzkar, and Neftali Soto.
Weaknesses: Not many weaknesses to speak of. The Reds are not as deep as some of the teams I have analyzed, but they are not that far off. The only real problem I see is their lack of sure thing shortstop, and catcher in the future. Every team should be good up the middle, but the Reds will not be if Mesoraco does not improve on offense, and if one of their “shortstops” does not stick – and do not come to me with name Paul Janish till he starts hitting. Which is why the Reds should have taken Gordon Beckham instead of Alonso, but that was a debate for last June, not for today.
Next Up: The Houston Astros, YAY! Also, because I made you all wait a couple days to continue the top prospects series, I will eventually put up some Denver Nuggets/Detroit Pistons trade analysis, and look for my SU basketball preview