Monday, June 15, 2009

2009 Surprises: Pleasant and Otherwise

We are over a third of the way through the season, so it's time to take a look at some surprises at each level in the organization. Some good. Some not so good.


Good: The Reds bullpen has been extraordinary. As a group, they rank 6th in all of baseball with a 3.42 ERA and 9th in WHIP with a 1.35 mark. From an individual standpoint, the only regular relievers with an ERA over 3.00 are Jared Burton (5.27) and Mike Lincoln (8.22). The rest are in the 1s or 2s.

Bad: It's tough to look past the performance of Willy Taveras. I wasn't a fan of the signing, but I'm hoping that his level of performance will be closer to his early season production than his recent production. Given that his game is centered around his legs, it's possible that his injury problem is still hindering his play. Regardless, there is little excuse for Willy T to be starting over Chris Dickerson, especially in light of his 0-for-32 slump and 8 game stretch where he failed to reach base even one time, which was the longest stretch in 56 years for the Reds!!!


Good: Josh Roenicke. Roenicke has been utterly dominant for Louisville and only the unbelievable performance of almost the MLB relief corps has kept him down on the farm. On the season, Roenicke has a 3.00 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1.56 GB/FB, and a stellar 26/3 K/BB ratio. In addition, he has yet to give up a single homerun in his 24.0 innings. As good as his numbers have been, his WHIP and ERA really aren't indicative of his dominance. His component stats are so good that they should be lower. When you give up 3 walks, no homeruns, and strike out more than a batter per inning, then you have been unlucky when you have given up more hits than innings pitched. His WHIP and ERA are artificially high because of poor hit luck, shabby defense, or both. Roenicke should be pitching high leverage innings at the MLB level in the near future.

Bad: Danny Dorn. Dorn is seemingly a perpetual slow starter, so I'm not worried, especially in light of his substantial success at double-A. The jump to triple-A typically isn't that challenging, so, barring an undisclosed injury, I fully expect Dorn to get back on the ball in the near future.


Good: Chris Heisey. Heisey has been so good that I had to add another "Good" for double-A Carolina. Heisey has been unbelievable up to this point. On the season, he is hitting a Ruthian .362/.441/.621/1.062. Before the season, I had Heisey pegged as a career 4th outfielder type, but he is obviously taking it to another level. In addition, his plus defense allows him some slack on the offensive side, not that he needs right now. He's obviously due for a promotion and it'll be interesting to see if this is just an epic hot streak or actually breaking into a new level of production.

Good: Zach Stewart. Stewart has had a massive season at two different levels. He has taken a huge step forward and laid claim to a job as a starting pitcher. At this point, he's the best starting pitching prospect in the organization. His 56/15 K/BB ratio in 71.1 innings is strong, but it plays up a notch because of his ability to keep the balls he does allow into play on the ground, as evidenced by his stellar 2.34 GB/FB ratio. Hopefully, Stewart continues his dominant pitching, as the Reds need all the prospect pitching depth they can get.

Good: Travis Wood. Travis Wood has been so good that I had to add yet another "Good" for double-A Carolina. Wood has been white hot for Carolina, but his component stats probably don't quite support it. He currently has a 1.11 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP, but his K/BB (which has improved over the last month, including a 26/2 K/BB ratio over his last three starts) is only 69/31 and his GB/FB is 0.93. Wood's season has been an unqualified success, but a bit of regression is to be expected. Even so, his performance has been so good that any regression would still leave him at a very high level of performance. In the last prospect write up, I talked about this season being a big data point on his career trend line, as it would reveal whether his 2008 struggles at double-A were simply the result of a young pitcher getting his feet wet or rather indicative of a pitcher who lacked the tools to succeed against advanced competition. Fortunately, Wood has proven it to be the former, not the latter.


Good: Jeremy Horst. Horst is following up his stellar 2008 season with a very solid 2009. He has a 3.14 ERA, 1.29 GB/FB ratio, and a 53/22 K/BB ratio in 71.2 innings. If he continues his solid play, he'll help fill the southpaw void that exists in the organization.

Bad: Neftali Soto. Soto hasn't followed up his breakout 2008 season very well. In 2009, he has a line of .253/.286/.352. His poor walk rate is still of concern, but on the plus side he makes consistent contact which should limit his strikeouts and allow him to post strong batting averages. Soto's age is still on his side, but he hasn't been all that good this year.


Good: Matt Fairel. The southpaw selected in the 35th round out of Florida State University has made a tremendous professional debut. For Dayton, Fairel has pitched 66.0 innings and logged a 2.86 ERA and a 66/24 K/BB ratio. His performance has been impressive and eye opening, but he is a college leftysquaring off against younger competition. Even so, if he continues to pitch at such a high level, he'll emerge as a legitimate prospect.


  1. I'm curious to what you think Homer's value is now. He's been brought up, done nothing but still has a decent game in AAA. Is he trade bait at best now. He never strikes anyone out. To me he's part of a package at best.

  2. Hey 007,

    I think Homer's trade value is nil. That's the main reason why I was so against promoting him for his most recent start. Prior to that start, he had been rebuilding some measure of trade value with some solid triple-A production. If they had left him down there to continue to build his confidence, I think it would also have built his trade value. The decision to call him up destroyed any trade value he had built up. Right now, I'd be very surprised if the Reds could get anything for him. I agree with you, for now I think he's only "trade-able" as a throw-in on a larger deal.

    As of now, I don't want to see Bailey until September and I want the Reds to force him to EARN a promotion. The one thing that gives me an ounce of hope is that Homer is now reported to be throwing a split-fingered fastball. He has gone away from the ineffective curveball and the changeup that fooled no one.

    As you mentioned, he desperately needs a swing-and-miss pitch. In his last MLB start, Homer threw 95 pitches and got a grand total of 3 swing-and-misses. That's an unbelievable inability to miss bats for a reputed power pitcher. Someone with plus stuff should miss more bats than that. However, there is some positive news, as the split-fingered fastball seems to be working.

    In his last three triple-A starts, Homer has tossed 23.1 innings giving up 1 earned run and striking out 23 hitters. Maybe, just maybe, Homer is turning corner and doing a better job avoiding contact.

    I remain very skeptical about Homer and will wait until he proves me wrong. But, I suppose I still have to mention the possibility that he is turning the corner.

    Thanks for the comment!


  3. thanks for answering my duran and yorman comment i found out that they will both be in the GCL league for the reds

  4. i just read that the reds signed billy hamilton, don joseph, and mark serrano.
    Do you think that the reds will be able to sign stephen perez, deven marrero, chase fowler, or tucker barnhart especially the SS because of the billy hamilton signing

  5. Hey Brian,

    Thanks for the clarification on the GCL. I figured that was the logical spot for them to land. It's tough to do much else with such young prospects, as they simply aren't ready to be thrown into the mix against mature competition.

    Duran has grown so much, so quickly, that he seems more likely to struggle than Yorman. Duran just doesn't seem all that comfortable in his new body, but Yorman seems more polished at this point. Even so, both are good prospects with big upside. It'll be fun to see what happens when they hit the GCL.


  6. Brian,

    It'll be interesting to see who the Reds get signed.

    In the fourth round, the Reds selected UNC catcher Mark Fleury, who was one of the best college backstops in country. It was a bit of a watered down class, but still he's a solid prospect. If they sign Fleury, then it seems less likely that they'll sign both Tucker Barnhart and Chase Fowler.

    I haven't heard of any outrageous contract demands for either, but Barnhart was the more highly regarded catching prospect. Baseball America had Fleury rated #11 and Barnhart rated 16th of all the draft eligible catchers. For what it's worth, Fowler didn't rate among the top 25 catchers.

    I would imagine that if they sign Fleury, then they will probably sign one of the Barnhart/Fowler duo. That's more of a gut feel than anything else, but with Mesoraco already at the lower levels, I'm not sure they'd sign 3 catchers from this draft class.

    As for the shortstops, I could see both of them signing. At least, that's my hope. Obviously, shortstops have more positional flexibility than catchers, so they could find room for both Perez and Marrero.

    The Reds did sign Hamilton, but while he is a very good athlete, he's pretty raw. I'm not convinced he'll hit enough at the professional level or be able to stick at shortstop.

    Perez seems to be the opposite of Hamilton. He's a bit short on tools, but his makeup and instincts are big pluses and help his tools play up a tick. Baseball America had him rated as the 11th best shortstop in the draft class.

    As for Marrero, he's another intriguing talent and played at American Heritage High School, the same school that produced uber-prospect Eric Hosmer. Marrero has the skills to have been drafted higher, so he could have been more of a 5th/6th round pick. Baseball America rated him as the 12th best shortstop prospect. My gut tells me he might be the toughest sign, but again I don't have any evidence to back that up.

    In short, I don't think the Hamilton signing necessarily precludes the signing of both Marrero and Perez, but a Fleury signing might preclude the signing of both Barnhart and Fowler.

    Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the Reds deal with their draftees. They may have to go a bit over slot to sign a couple of these guys, but the long-term payoff could make it well worth it.

    Anyway, that's what I'm currently thinking. Thanks for the comment!


  7. Lark11,
    My name is Joe Yanarella from Bleacher Report and I'm looking to add Featured Columnists for our MLB Team Pages and I enjoy your blog entries.

    Please drop me an e-mail so I can provide you with more information about Bleacher Report Featured Columnists and the additional exposure we can provide for your blog.

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

    Joe Yanarella
    Bleacher Report

  8. Hey Joe,

    Thanks for the kind words. I just sent you an e-mail.