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.