Well, it's early in the year, but it's not too early to take a look at who's sizzling and who's fizzling on the farm.
Todd Frazier - Frazier, a supplemental 1st round pick in last year's draft, has been white hot early this year. He started off at low-A Dayton, but earned a quick promotion by posting a robust line of .321/.402/.598/1.000. He had a 28/15 K/BB ratio and 7 homeruns.
He got bumped up to high-A Sarasota, where he has still been holding his own, posting a line of .245/.309/.551/.860. If he keeps producing, he'll continue on the fast track up the developmental ladder. His performance has expectations for him sky-rocketing. For now, he's a very good looking prospect.
Justin Turner - Turner, a scrappy middle infielder from Cal State Fullerton, has been going very well in early 2008. He started out at high-A Sarasota, posting a line of .316/.384/.390/.774 in a tough environment for offense.
The Reds moved him up the ladder to double-A Chattanooga where he has struggled out of the gate. The jump from A-ball to double-A is widely considered the toughest in professional baseball, but Turner is a smart player who gets the most out of his limited skillset. The early 2008 returns are very positive on Turner.
Jay Bruce - The best prospect in baseball and he's proving it again in 2008. The Reds sent him to triple-A to start out year and he's responded by hitting an out-of-this-world .369/.397/.661/1.057 with 10 homers and a 41/11 K/BB ratio.
Clearly, he's elite and he's ready, which will make it fun to be a Reds fan for the next decade or so.
Darly Thompson - Well, the concern heading into 2008 was whether his velocity would return and those concerns have been laid to rest. Thompson has been pitching at a level typically reserved for the Clayton Kershaws and David Prices of the world.
The Reds sent Thompson to double-A Chattanooga and he has responded, to say the least. In 55.1 innings pitched, Thompson has a 1.63 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a 49/14 K/BB ratio. His performance level is that of the very best prospects, so it'll be interesting to see if he can sustain it.
There was concern that the Reds might not have any impact pitching beyond Cueto and Homer, but Thompson may be part of the next wave of talent.
Matt Maloney - Last year, it seemed that Maloney was on the cusp of the big leagues and may even put up a strong battle in spring training to break camp with the team. However, Maloney was sent to triple-A to start the year and has had a very rough go of it in 2008.
In 47.2 innings, Maloney posted a lackluster 4.91 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and a 41/14 K/BB ratio. Maloney has been hit hard, giving up 51 hits, but his K/BB ratio is still stellar and he's likely to get back on track in the near future.
Devin Mesoraco - The Reds chose not to assign Mesoraco to a team to start the year, preferring to keep him in extended spring training. However, Devin was recently sent to low-A Dayton, where he has gotten off to a slow start.
At Dayton, Mesoraco has posted a line of .182/.270/.364/.634. While it's still early, it would be nice to see some sign of competence at the plate, especially coming on the heels of an uninspiring 2007 campaign.
His play has improved as of late and it's far too early to be discouraged by Mesoraco, but he's going to be 20 in June, so it would be nice to see him capable of holding his own against the lowest level of full season competition.
Pedro Viola - Viola exploded onto the scene in 2007, posting a 1.42 ERA across three levels of the minors. Unfortunately, his 2008 hasn't exactly been smooth sailing. On the season, Viola is sporting a 6.75 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, and a 22/13 K/BB ratio.
Relievers almost always have to be viewed in the context of a smaller sample size, so Viola's numbers should normalize over the next month. He still has very good upside and he should form a potent tandem at the MLB level with Josh Roenicke.
Overall, it's been an interesting start to the season and should only get better. Josh Ravin was just assigned to Dayton and Danny Dorn is now back from injury. In addition, Chris Valaika is off to a very strong start and is looking to reestablish himself after a down 2007.
Overall, there is joy in Mudville...er....Cincinnati this year.