Well, time for a quick and dirty update as to our top prospects. This one is much more off the cuff than what I do over the offseason and obviously incorporates only half of the 2009 season, but here are some initial thoughts about our system.
Obviously, Stewart and Roenicke are no longer eligible, guys like Dickerson and Fisher have graduated, and recent draftees like Mike Leake are included.
Anyway, off we go.
1. Yonder Alonso -- 1b
Hamate bone fracture or not, Yonder still resides on top of the heap. He is limited to 1b, where his bat will determine his success. Fortunately, Yonder has the hit tool necessary to be an impact player at the MLB level. In addition, he controls the strikezone very well, which gives him the added advantage of top notch OBPs.
On the season, Alonso has a line of .284/.357/.466, which isn't massively impressive, but when coupled with his upside makes him the top prospect in the system and one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
2. Travis Wood -- sp
Travis Wood has always intrigued me. He has clean mechanics and I love pitchers with top notch change-ups, but he lacked the effective breaking pitch needed to be successful at the professional level. Obviously, that all changed in 2009 when Wood scrapped his inconsistent curveball in favor of a cutter, which has unlocked his potential and made him one of the best pitchers in the minors this year.
The new arsenal has not only improved Wood's walk and strikeout rates, but has really limited hard contact when opposing hitters do put the ball in play. In 137.2 innings between double-A and triple-A Wood has a 1.44 ERA and a 116/46 K/BB ratio. Just as impressively is the fact that he has allowed only 4 homeruns despite a neutral GB/FB rate of 0.99. He's not limiting homeruns by keeping the ball on the ground, but rather it seems that opposing hitters just can't square the ball up. His cutter is really limiting hard contact against him.
In 2009, Wood's cutter seems to allow him to keep the ball off the barrell of the bat, while his changeup continues to rack up the strikeouts. The concerns about his size and lack of velocity still remain, but Wood's 2009 season has solidified his prospect status and catapulted him into the discussions for the 2010 MLB rotation.
3. Mike Leake -- sp
Leake has yet to throw a professional pitch, but his upside is considerable. Leake is polished and has a tremendous baseball IQ. While he's unlikely to be a true #1 starter, his polish and maturity makes him one of the lowest risk pitching prospect in the 2009 draft. And, given the Reds recent history in the draft, low risk isn't such a bad thing.
It'll be interesting to see how quickly he adjusts to the professional ranks. He should be signed before the August 17th deadline.
I think Reds fans will like Mike Leake.
4. Yorman Rodriguez -- of
Rodriguez is already flashing the overloaded tool set and the massive upside he was reported to possess. I always thought he had more polish than Juan Duran, but he's been even more polished than previously thought.
He made his debut in the Gulf Coast League, but was promoted up to rookie league Billings Mustangs. In the two stops, Yorman has a line of .270/.348/.377/.725 a 41/15 K/BB ratio and a 6/0 SB/CS mark. Given that he won't even turn 17 until August 15th, his performance is very impressive. Not many prospects that age could hold their own against such an advanced level of competition.
The sky is seemingly the limit for Yorman.
5. Todd Frazier -- inf/of
For me, the biggest concern on Frazier is how the Reds are handling him. He's a baseball player through and through. His tools play up because of his understanding of the game. However, his bat likely isn't strong enough to make him an above average leftfielder, which is where the Reds have been playing him. The Reds have yet to lock him into a defensive position, which is an odd way for an organization to handle a legitimate prospect. The way the Reds are developing makes it seem like they view him as a utility player, rather than a full-time starter.
The obvious thing to do was to develop Frazier as a third baseman, where his bat would be more valuable. However, the acquisition of Scott Rolen changes that, so it's unclear where Frazier will end up. Though, as of late, he has seen time at second base.
6. Drew Stubbs -- of
Stubbs continues to be Stubbs. He's flashing strong on base skills, speed, and defense, but is not hitting for a high average or power.
Stubbs can be a solid MLB centerfielder based on his plus defense, on base skills, and ability to steal bases. However, he's much less interesting and valuable as a prospect if he can't provide 20 homerun power or a high batting average.
On the season, Stubbs has a .280/.368/.379/.748 slash line for triple-A Louisville. Not bad, but not all that impressive either.
7. Neftali Soto -- inf
Soto has underwhelmed this year. The Reds sent him to high-A Sarasota, where his offensive numbers have suffered. This is not entirely unexpected, as Sarasota is a tough place to hit.
On the year, Soto is at .241/.278/.365/.643 with 10 homeruns and a 71/18 K/BB ratio in 386 At Bats. His walk rate still leaves much to be desired, but he doesn't have the massive strikeout rate that will preclude him from hitting for a high average as a climbs the ranks. He could be a high average and high power offensive player.
It's been a down year, but not one that should diminish his prospect status all that much. If he can rebound in 2010, then all is forgiven. Time is on his side.
8. Chris Heisey -- of
Heisey exploded in 2009, forcing everyone to pay attention. I had him pegged as a 4th outfielder type. A nice player, but the kind of player who was a "jack of all trades, but master of none" type. However, he eviscerated double-A pitching to a tune of .347/.426/.572/.998, which obviously earned him a promotion to triple-A.
He has slowed since the promotion, hitting .298/.326/.450/.777, but he has made enough noise to warrant consideration as a legitimate prospect. His ability to handle centerfield makes gives him an added boost in the prospect department, as his bat doesn't need to carry him.
It'll be interesting to see if his performance at double-A represented a new baseline of performance or was just an unsustainable hot streak.
9. Zack Cozart -- ss
Cozart has taken his offensive game to a new level in 2009. That step will go a long way towards making him a legitimate option as a starting shortstop at the major league level.
At double-A Cozart is hitting .270/.366/.420/.786 with 9 homers and a 68/47 K/BB ratio in 352 ABs. He'll never be an impact offensive player at the MLB level, but he could be something more than an automatic out. Defense will always be his calling card and it, if it's as good as they say, then he could be the future at shortstop for the organization.
10. J.C. Sulbaran -- sp
Sulbaran made a lot of noise before ever throwing a professional pitch. He flashed impressive skill in international competition, but his first professional season hasn't been all that noteworthy.
The Reds sent him to low-A Dayton where he has pitched 64.2 innings and posted a 4.87 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and a 72/38 K/BB ratio. Obviously, the big problem here is the walk rate. A BB/9 up over 5.0 just isn't acceptable. In addition, he is giving up a lot of flyballs (GB/FB: 0.56) and homeruns (12), which isn't all that unexpected from a power pitcher. Still, cutting down on the longballs will be necessary in the future. However, the strikeout rate is stellar and bodes well for the future.
Sulbaran's performance in the international game created big time expectations, but he has suffered the same struggles that plague most young pitchers. Still, his stuff is impressive and his future is bright.
11. Juan Duran -- of
Duran joined Yorman Rodriguez in the Gulf Coast League, but hasn't performed as well as Yorman. That's not unexpected, as he has always struck me as the less polished of the two. In fact, Duran doesn't seem all that uncomfortable in his body after a massive growth spurt that saw him shoot up to 6-5. He has good athleticism and upside, but he'll likely take longer to reach it than Yorman.
On the season, Duran is hitting .180/.235/.270/.506 for the Gulf Coast League Reds. Not impressive, but he's so young that it doesn't mean all that much. Struggles were to be expected, but the future remains bright.
12. Devin Mesoraco -- c
Mesoraco continues to underwhelm, but I still think patience is advisable. Again, a combination of factors all indicated that Mesoraco would have a long development curve. As a high school catching prospect from a cold weather school who lost a season to Tommy John surgery, it was inevitable that he would be slow out of the gate.
This year, it would have been nice to see something more from Mesoraco on the offensive side, but instead he has a .222/.307/.376/.683 for high-A Sarasota. Again, that's a tough environment for hitters and I wouldn't be surprised to see a significant step forward in 2010. His overall production isn't great, but the peripherals aren't bad. His walk rate is good and his power isn't bad.
I'm willing to be patient on Mesoraco for another year, but 2010 is the time for him to really show something.
13. Chris Valaika -- inf
It's been a wasted year for Valaika. He suffered through injury and his production is awful. For triple-A Louisville, Valaika is hitting .197/.237/.299/.536. The 2009 season can't end fast enough for Chris.
14. Matt Maloney -- lhp
Maloney has been stellar in 2009...at least in the minors. For Louisville, Maloney has a 2.72 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 97/16 K/BB ratio. He didn't embarrass himself in the majors, as evidenced by his 14/5 K/BB ratio in 17.2 innings, but he was stung for 6 homeruns.
Maloney still looks like a serviceable backend of the rotation MLB starter, but he may never been a good fit in Great American Ballpark. If he stays in the Cincinnati organization, he may be nothing more than a 4A player. I'd like to see him get another shot. Time will tell.
15. Danny Dorn -- 1b/of
Like Valaika, Dorn's season has been a waste. Always a slow starter, Dorn seemed to have more trouble kicking it into gear in 2009 than in year's past. In his first taste of triple-A, Dorn has a .256/.323/.446/.769 slash line. Not all that impressive, but the Reds moving him around the field and bouncing him in and out of the lineup can't help. Still, I expect him to finish strong and bounce back in 2010.
16. Pedro Viola -- lhp
Live armed southpaw. Stellar strikeout rate, but too many walks hinder his performance. Still, he's the type who could flip the switch and become something special. Surprising, not necessarily in a bad way, to see the Reds use him in the bullpen all year after finishing strong in the rotation in 2008. Still, shortage of starting pitching could lead the Reds to try him in the rotation again.
17. Juan Francisco -- inf
Francisco has over 30 errors on the season at 3rd base. He's clearly not a viable option over there, which is very problematic. Frankly, he doesn't have the glove to handle any position other than the "offense first" positions. And, he doesn't have the offensive game to hold down the "offensive first" positions.
Still, Dusty seemed to take a shine to him in spring training. Be afraid, be very afraid.
18. Brad Boxberger -- sp
Yet to throw a pitch in anger, but an intriguing prospect.
19 Josh Fellhauer -- of
I like Fellhauer. He has a sweet line drive swing from the left side. His professional career will likely be driven by his ability to stick in center. He probably won't have the bat for a corner outfield spot. Still, he's off to a rocking start for Dayton, where he has a .309/.375/.545/.920 line on the season. He's a polished prospect from Cal State Fullerton, so his success at low-A isn't surprising, but it's encouraging nonetheless.
20. Alexis Oliveras -- of
Oliveras started out the year with the Billings Mustangs, but was bumped up the ladder to Dayon when Yorman Rodriguez was promoted to Billings.
At Billings, Oliveras had a .270/.326/.352/.678 line with 7 stolen bases. At Dayton, Oliveras has stepped it up a notch, posting a .333/.351/.611/.962.
Oliveras has a bit of electricity in his game. He has good speed and provides solid outfield defense, but he'll need to improve either his on base skills or his power to climb the prospect ladder.
21. Josh Ravin -- sp
Josh Ravin is a personal favorite and he was on the road to reestablishing his prospect status when an elbow strain shut him down at the end of June. Still, it was a positive step forward. Hopefully, he can get back and finish out the 2009 season strong.
22. Kyle Lotzkar -- sp
Lotzkar has the tools to be a successful pitcher, but he also has a healthy injury risk because of his mechanics. He suffered from a stress fracture in 2008 and reaggravated it, which will keep him out of the entire 2009 season. Best hope is that he comes back 100% for 2010 and never suffers a reoccurrence of the injury. I was concerned about his injury risk before and it's only heightened now.
23. Billy Hamilton -- inf/of
Hamilton was one of the best athletes in the 2009 draft class. However, great athleticism doesn't always translate into the specific skills necessary for success in professional baseball.
The Reds sent Hamilton to the Gulf Coast League where he has a line of .207/.275/.239/.514 on the season. On the plus side he has swiped 13 bases in 15 attempts.
If the athleticism translates, he could be special. Or, he could be another in a long line of great athletes who have been frustrated by baseball's refusal to bend to their will.
24. Matt Fairel -- lhp
A southpaw out of Florida State who has performed well in 2009. At both levels of A-ball, Fairel has posted a 2.94 ERA and a solid 115/42 K/BB ratio in 122.1 innings. He'll need to sustain his level of performance against more advanced competition to confirm his prospect status. It's not too unexpected for a college pitcher to perform well in A-ball, so his prospect status will be determined by his performance against more advanced competition.
25. Miguel Rojas -- ss
Rojas is a good glove infielder who is developing on the offensive side of the game. He's pushing Zach Cozart for best defensive shortstop in the system. Whether his bat will play is another question, but he is starting to make progress at the plate.