Monday, June 23, 2008

Top 25 Prospects: Midseason Update Part 2

And, finishing up the updates on the remaining prospects on our Top 25 List.

16. Kyle Lotzkar - Lotzkar arrived on the professional scene with a bang in 2007. He pitched very well with the Gulf Coast League Reds and at Billings, posting a combined 3.10 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 36/10 K/BB ratio in 29.0 innings at the two levels. That performance was enough to send him rocketing up most prospect lists and certainly was a strong first step on his professional baseball journey. Lotzkar started out in extended spring training, but was recently sent to low-A Dayton, where he hasn't found the going quite as easy as he did last year. In 2 starts and 7.o innings, Lotzkar has posted a 9.00 ERA, 2.14 WHIP, and an 11/7 K/BB ratio. Like Ravin, control is the problem. Both have good stuff, but they need to harness it in order to be effective in the professional ranks. Still, as with Ravin, time is on Lotzkar's side, so he has plenty of time to harness his stuff.

17. Josh Roenicke - Roenicke has lived up to his reputation early in 2008. Roenicke exploded into the collective conscious last year by showing stellar command to go with overpowering stuff. He has proven that last year was no fluke by again showing flashes of brilliance. He started out the 2008 campaign at double-A Chattanooga and was quickly promoted to triple-A Louisville. Between the two levels, Roenicke has posted stellar numbers: 2.31 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and a 56/21 K/BB ratio. Roenicke is poised to make his MLB splash in the near future, which will make the Francisco Cordero signing look even more dubious. Regardless, the troika of Jared Burton, Josh Roenicke, and Francisco Cordero should give the Reds the nastiest bullpen since the Nasty Boys walked the earth.

18. Pedro Viola - Unfortunately, Pedro Viola's 2008 season hasn't exactly been "sweet music." Viola started at double-A Chattanooga and has had his fair share of struggles. In 31.0 innings, Pedro has an ERA of 6.10, a 1.90 WHIP, and a 36/22 K/BB ratio. Pedro will be 25 tomorrow, so it would be nice to see him get back on track, but he's still a promising arm and has a bright future. Perhaps not as bright as it seemed last year, but time will tell.

19. Brandon Waring - Waring is another player who made a noisy debut in the professional ranks, ripping the cover off the ball with the Billings Mustangs in 2007. The Reds sent Waring to Dayton where he has posted a solid line of .280/.357/.500/.857. He has hit 14 homers, demonstrating that his power is more than legitimate. However, as with Juan Francisco, it's difficult not to be worried about his strikeout rate. In 254 ABs, Waring has struck out a stunning 92 times, which works out to a strikeout every 2.8 ABs. What's even more alarming is that he is having so much difficulty making contact at low-A ball. Waring is a college ballplayer, so he shouldn't be having so much trouble at low-A Ball. The competition is only going to get tougher and it's difficult to imagine the more advanced pitchers really exploiting all the holes in Waring's swing. The power is nice, but I'm just not sure I see Waring having much success as he advances up the ladder.

20. Sean Watson - When I looked at him last year, I had concerns about Watson and his sloppy mechanics. Unfortunately, those concerns still ring true. He started out the 2008 season at high-A Sarasota, where he posted a 4.50 ERA and a 30/10 K/BB ratio in 20 innings. He was bumped up to Chattanooga, where he's gotta off to a rough start, posting a 14.85 ERA in his first 6.2 innings pitched. Last year, the Reds had Watson work as a starter, but they have switched him back to the bullpen for 2008, but the results just aren't there yet. Originally, I thought Watson might become a middle reliever, but even that may be optimistic. Still, like the others, he has time to get back on track.

21. Carlos Fisher - Unlike many on this list, who started the 2008 season off with a bang, Carlos has had a quietly effective 2008 season. Like Watson, Fisher worked as a starter in 2007, but the Reds are using him exclusively as a reliever in 2008. Fisher struck me as a future reliever, so I'm not too surprised by the move, but it's good to see him take to the change like a duck to water. At Chattanooga this year, Fisher has posted a 3.76 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP, and a stellar 33/15 K/BB ratio in 40.2 innings. In addition, Fisher has continued to demonstrate impressive groundball tendencies, posting a 1.75 GB/FB ratio. Fisher's combination of solid stuff, good control, and heavy groundball tendencies could make him a valuable middle reliever in Cincinnati. First, he'll have to continue to climb the ladder, but he's off to a quiet, productive 2008 season.

22. Sam Lecure - Lecure is the type of pitcher that I like, so I'm rooting for him to take it to the next level. He has actually been fairly solid in 2008, posting a 3.75, 1.33 WHIP, and a rather impressive 76/37 K/BB ratio for Chattanooga. However, I still question whether he has enough stuff to be successful at the MLB level. I'd love to say yes, but I just don't think he does. In addition, his flyball tendencies (0.67 GB/FB in 2008) don't bode well for any future he may have in Great American Ballpark. Still, I'll continue to root Lecure on, but unfortunately I'm not all that optimistic about his chances.

23. Justin Turner - Turner is the type of player who constantly exceeds expectations and wrings every last drop of production out of his rather limited skills. Sabermetricians don't like him, but scouts swear that he'll carve out an MLB career. It's hard not to like someone who gets the absolute best out of his gifts, but Turner is looking like a poor bet to have much of an MLB career. Perhaps he can latch on as a utility infielder, but his 2008 line at Chattanooga of .232/.320/.317/.637 hardly inspires confidence.

24. Justin Reed - I am higher on Reed than most, as I think he's got the skills necessary to be a top of the order hitter and a solid defensive player. Reed didn't focus solely on baseball until he was drafted by the Reds, rather he split his time between football and baseball. Accordingly, he's still a bit behind the development curve, but he has the gifts to catch up in a hurry if all breaks right. The Reds sent Reed to Dayton, where he has posted a respectable line of .259/.337/.415/.752. He has also swiped 15 out of 19 bases he has attempted to steal. Reed still needs to polish his game and learn the nuances of baseball. While he does seem to be making progress, his contact rate needs improvement. On the season, he is striking out every 2.8 ABs. Clearly, that's not acceptable for someone with his limited power, so he'll need to improve that aspect of his game. Reed has shown improvement, but needs to continue to work, work, work on his skills. His athletic ability could allow him to take a big step forward at some point in his development, but unfortunately he is just as likely to never have the light come on.

25. Tyler Pelland - Pelland has really struggled in 2008, doing little to earn the confidence of the front office. Pelland is just a stone's throw away from the big leagues, but with his performance he may as well be playing for the Long Islands Ducks of the Independent League. In 28.2 innings, Pelland has posted a 33/20 K/BB ratio and an uninspiring 5.65 ERA. Pelland is continuing to show the inconsistency that has plagued him. He's got swing-and-missing stuff, but just can't get command of it with any regularity. So, once again, the Reds will have to wait on Pelland, whose career is stalling at triple-A Louisville.

Other Notables - Obviously, the big story here is Daryl Thompson, whose performance got him on the fast track to the big leagues, where he held his own against the Yankees. Thompson's stuff came all the way back after surgery for a torn labrum and he has established himself as one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. He has demonstrated a very strong combination of power and control. Time will tell just how high his ceiling will be, but for now he appears to be at least a future middle of the rotation pitcher. Paul Janish got the call by default, after every shortstop in the entire city of Cincinnati got injured (and believe me, Dusty tried them all before finally turning to Janish). Unfortunately, Paul is still struggling with the bat, but he does intrigue me. If he can hit a meager .265, then his on base skills and stellar defense will make him a viable shortstop at the MLB level. While Chris Dickerson impressed Dusty during spring training, his offense continues to fall short. At AAA, he is producing only at a .255/.357/.388 clip. Time is rapidly running out for Chris. Zach Cozart is down at Dayton, where he is showing surprising power, tallying 8 homeruns and a stellar .459 SLG%. His glove is still solid, so he'll go as far as his bat will take him. Finally, Craig Tatum has really struggled in 2008, posting a disturbing line of .229/.300/.351. He is a borderline prospect, but the Reds are still shallow at catcher, so he'll continue to get a look.

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