Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects

Moderator: Welcome to the Reds chat. I seem to remember being surprised last year by all the interest in Reds prospects, so I'm anticipating another good showing today. Let's get after it.

 Q:  John from Cincinnati asks:
Whats the word on Chris Gruler and his rehab?? Do you think he will be able to show the same type of stuff after that type of surgery??

Josh Boyd: Given the Reds troubles with arm injuries in recent years, I guess this is an appropriate place to start. Gruler was rated No. 1 in the organization following the 2002 season, and then he was limited to six innings this season by shoulder surgery. His rehab is reportedly going well, though he wasn't pitching in instructional league. Expect him to get going by spring training. All Reds officials I spoke with agreed that he is still at the top of the organization if healthy. That "if" lingers large, though. As you know, shoulder injuries can be trick to come back from, so it is really difficult to say for sure that he will come back the same. One thing working in his favor is his outstanding work ethic.

 Q:  Jason Brown from Rome, GA asks:
What do you think the ceiling is on Matt Belsie, the pitcher that the Reds received in the Kent Mercker trade from the Braves? Do you think that he will arrive in the majors soon?

Josh Boyd: Hi Jason, scouts are mixed on this, but the ceiling seems to be as a No. 5 starter in the majors. Others think he'll fit more in a middle relief role. He throws strikes with average stuff across the board. Late in the season for the Braves before the deal, he was at his best since his back surgery sidelined him in 2001. He already arrived in the majors in September, and he'll get a shot to stay in spring training. He could stick at any point next season.

 Q:  Mike from Connecticut asks:
Who's the best pitching prospect, Phil Dumatrait, Tyler Pelland, or Jorge de la Rosa?

Josh Boyd: Sounds like Sox fan here. De la Rosa gets the nod over the two lefties the Sox dealt to Cincy last summer, though the gap isn't that large. De la Rosa has often been projected as a reliever, and their is some strong differences between some scouts on that topic. The key will be his command, which still needs to improve. As a reliever he would be potentially overpowering from the left side. Pelland is a long way away, but he really caught the attention of the Reds brass in instructional league.

 Q:  STRAY from HOWINGTON asks:
How can the leave him off the 40 man - if he's a top 10 prospect?

Josh Boyd: Good question. The Reds are running a risk of losing Howington in the Rule 5 draft, though. They have 39 on their 40 man roster, so there wasn't a lot of room to play with and I'm sure there was a lot of internal debate about Howington. Ultimately, what their decision to leave him unprotected at the major league level tells us is that they don't believe there is any way Howington could stick on another teams's 25-man roster all season. He's had so many problems in Double-A the last couple years, that they may be right on with their assessment.

 Q:  Joe from Newport News, VA asks:
I'm surprised Mark Schramek didn't make the Top Ten. What is he lacking?

Josh Boyd: As you may remember Schramek was ranked No. 10 last year on the strength of his collegiate career and scouting report. He hadn't played an inning of pro ball at the time and several Reds scouts were calling him one of the best hitters in the draft. Well, he went out and was overmatched, ringing up more than 150 times last season. Scouts are now saying that his bat is a little to slow to catch up to plus velocity, and he doesn't handle breaking balls very well. His approach improved in instructional league, but he needs to make some adjustments quickly to avoid the same fate next year. As a college senior, he should have been able to experience more success outside of low Class A.

 Q:  Larry from Norcross, GA asks:
Does Cincinnati have to improve upon their scouting prowess in other countries like the D.R., P.R., Venezuela, and Mexico? It seems like most teams have a much richer talent pool from these countries. Other than Cincy's Wily Mo, who was acquired via trade, nobody else of this nature is really knocking on the door of the major league ball club. The Yanks have Soriano; the Marlins have Cabrera; the Braves have Furcal, A. Jones, and Marte; etc, etc.

Josh Boyd: The Reds are one of many teams who could invest more in Latin American scouting, however, they have done a fine job in Venezuela. They aren't going to go out and sign any international prospects to wild six-figure bonuses, but if they can keep adding depth with prospects like William Bergolla, Rainer Feliz, Luis Bolivar, Habelito Hernandez and Hector Tiburcio, they will be in better shape than you think. But they aren't going to compete with the Yankees or Braves, or even the Marlins, who have been willing to spend in Latin America.

 Q:  Big Al from Waterloo, Ontario asks:
Should Bobby Basham rebound this season or is he done as a prospect?

Josh Boyd: It's way too early to write Basham off as a prospect, but there is reason to have legitimate concerns. He's only one year removed from a dominant season, and the Reds haven't found anything wrong with his arm structurally. Basham just reported that he never quite felt right all season long. His delivery and arm action wasn't as smooth as the previous season and his stuff lacked the same sharpness.

 Q:  na from chicago asks:
How high are the Reds on Thomas Pauly and where will he be this year?

Josh Boyd: The Reds are very excited about Pauly. A converted reliever, he has shown the stuff and command to start, and the Reds plan on developing him as a starter. His fastball gets up to 95 and his slider is a true put-away pitch, while he has developed a nice cambio. He has a chance to move fast, and could be in Double-A by midseason if not sooner.

 Q:  rob from st louis asks:
Who are some players not mentioned in the top 10 who have a chance to make a big jump during the next baseball season?

Josh Boyd: I don't know if you mean a jump to the majors, but the three prospects not in the top 10 who look like they are poised to jump into the top 10 next year are Rainer Feliz, Miguel Perez and Richie Gardner. Feliz is the one who could be real special, while Perez was called the best catching prospect to ever come through the system by one Reds official. Gardner signed late but was throwing 90-94 mph with advanced secondary stuff in instructional league.

 Q:  Joe from Newport News, VA asks:
Listening to Midwest League games over the Internet, I have to say Dayton was the least interesting team out there. The only Dayton position player who could develop into anything was Kevin Howard. What's his outlook?

Josh Boyd: Dayton's Opening Day roster with Schramek, Joey Votto, Miguel Perez, was probably a little more interesting than it was by the end. You'd probably have to see righthander Alex Farfan's electric arm to appreciate it, because he's far from polished and probably doesn't sound that good on the radio... ha. Anyway, Kevin Howard has an unorthodox swing which might not work as well in the upper levels and he needs some work defensively. Most scouts see him as a utility infielder.

 Q:  Tom from Jacksonville asks:
How much danger are the Reds in of losing Howington, Basham or others in Rule 5?

Josh Boyd: I've mentioned those two already, but the Reds have several interesting names available for the picking come next month in the Rule 5. I don't think Basham will go given his recent struggles, but lefthander Brian Shackelford has four pitches and looks dominant against lefties, and outfielder Eric Valent might be a nice fit for a team looking to save some money on their extra outfielder. His lefthanded pop is still somewhat interesting. Alex Farfan's liev arm will attract interest though his command is nowhere near major league ready. Todd Coffey could also make a team jump on him with his plus fastball and improving splitter.

 Q:  Jeff Brown from Waco, Tx asks:
What is Ryan Wagner's ceiling? Is he expected to stick with the Reds as a reliever in 2004? Do the Reds project him as a closer, long-term, or is there any talk of making him a starter down the road?

Josh Boyd: His most likely ceiling is as a closer. After he was promoted last summer, there was some talk of moving him into the rotation in spring training, but not many scouts believe that would be a good idea. His delivery is best suited for one-inning roles. He has two outstanding pitches which will make him a lock to pitch in the Reds pen next season.

 Q:  Clint from OHIO asks:
Wagner was fast tracked to the show last season, who else from the 2003 draft could move quickly to the majors?

Josh Boyd: They plan on moving Pauly and Gardner swiftly, with both having a shot to finish next year in Double-A, but also keep an eye on 12th-rounder James Paduch, who has an advanced feel for pitching with good command of average stuff.

 Q:  Mike from Hialeah asks:
What is your take on Camilo Vasquez. Where do you see him in the future and what do you expect his ETA time to be if he is to reach the majors?

Josh Boyd: He had Tommy John surgery, so it's really tough to know what to expect from him at this point. He doesn't have many pro innings under his belt and he won't see anymore until 2005.

 Q:  Kalani from Hawai'i asks:
What's your thoughts on Dane Sardinha? I know that defensively he's probably MLB ready and that his inconsistency with the bat is holding him back, but he seems to show flashes of a solid, if not spectacular, bat. Do you see him progressing with the bat?

Josh Boyd: As another reader suggested, maybe Sardinha should get traded to the Diamondbacks, because he only seems to hit in Arizona (Fall League). But Sardinha still has a long way to go with the bat. He has trouble keeping his hitting mechanics consistent. Defensively, yes, he's good, and he'll have to rely on that to get him to the big leagues as a No. 2 catcher.

 Q:  Larry from Boston asks:
Hey Josh, Any chance the Reds might actually sign Matt Harrington, the frequently-drafted-but-never-signed pitcher, late of the independent leagues? What do scouts see as his upside at this point in his career?

Josh Boyd: I think the chances are low, though I am unaware of any contact made by either side recently. I've asked many scouts the same question about Harrington's upside now, and most don't have an opinion because he's been so far off their radar for a couple years now. I guess that indirectly tells you all you need to know.

 Q:  Josh Hall fan from Cincinnati asks:
Why didnt't I crack the top 10 list?

Josh Boyd: Hall was a lock for the Top 10 before he injured his shoulder and required surgery late in the year. This is his second major shoulder surgery in his career. He was fortunate to recover from the first and reach the big leagues. He has another huge challenge ahead though.

 Q:  Charles Berg from Houston, Texas asks:
Hey Josh, where do the Reds see Jose Ronda in terms of talent level?

Josh Boyd: They view him as an offensive second baseman. He has some juice from both sides, but has work to do defensively and needs to improve his swing from the right side of the plate. He should take the slow track.

 Q:  Tom from Jax asks:
Aramboles and Hudson.... Did they pitch in Instructional League, are they recovering on schedule?

Josh Boyd: Man, more sore wings for the Reds... Neither righty pitched in instructs. Aramboles was given a pitching program to work on from his home in the Dominican, and they hope he will be ready to go in spring training. If Hudson returns, he could jump into the big league pen, as he's armed with one of the best fastballs in the organization. But he suffered a similar injury to Chris Booker who was throwing 99 mph before shoulder problems and is around average now. Shoulder surgery is bad news.

 Q:  Mike from Orrville, OH asks:
Is Stephen Smitherman a big league regular or a 4th outfielder at best? Would he be a big prospect in most farm systems or just because he is with the Reds?

Josh Boyd: Well he is a legitimate prospect, and his ceiling is the same regardless of which organization he's in. That said, he would not be in the top 10 of every organization. There is still debate as to what his future role will be. His power makes him an interesting case, but his struggles in Triple-A and in the majors exploited some holes that he'll have to overcome. His swing tends to get long. He did make some impressive strides with his control of the strike zone last year.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Where would you rank the Reds' system overall? A top 10 list with two guys from rookie ball, one guy who's barely pitched and another who couldn't make the 40-man roster doesn't seem to indicate a lot of quality.

Josh Boyd: You're right. There is some depth, but not a lot of overall impact potential. The injury factor with pitchers has certainly taken its toll on the system. We haven't ranked the talent yet, but they ranked 24th last year and I don't see that changing a whole lot.

 Q:  J. Parker from Vancouver asks:
Though Joey Votto's patience and power are intriguing, how troubling is it that he struggled against Midwest League pitching, given that other 20 year olds have succeeded in that league. And do the Reds plan to keep him at first base?

Josh Boyd: It is a little troubling, I guess, but not overly concerning. He will stay at first base, though some in the organization would have liked to have seen him get a longer look behind the dish. He's still young and relatively inexperienced, hailing from Canada. He made some adjustments when he was demoted. The fact is, he should've started the year in extended spring training instead of Dayton. I fully expect him to go back to Dayton next year and rake. He has a chance to be a special run producer.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Do you really consider Pelland a better prospect than Kenny Lewis and Jose Ronda? Or are the Reds pimping him in an attempt to make the Scott Williamson trade look better?

Josh Boyd: Yes I do, and I'm not alone in that assessment. Lewis has an 80 tool with his speed, but he has light years to go with the bat. Pelland is a power lefty who can get it up to 95 already with good command and a feel for his offspeed stuff. He's only pitched in the GCL and much could happen along the way, but I don't think it's even a stretch to put him ahead of those two prospects.

 Q:  Shawn from Cinci asks:
What type of pitcher does Claussen project to be? Any chance he regains his stuff pre TJ surgery?

Josh Boyd: Sure, he was already close to that less than a year after the procedure. When Columbus came to Durham earlier this season, he was 88-91 touching 92, which isn't far from the 94 he topped out at before TJ. He projects as a No. 3 starter who is capable of winning double-digits and running up pretty good strikeout numbers because he command his fastball and changeup and can put guys down with his plus slider.

 Q:  David from Savannah asks:
Ty Howington, ready for a breakout next season, or is he done as far as No. 1 starter potential is concerned?

Josh Boyd: Considering there are only a dozen or so bona fide No. 1 starters in the big leagues, I wouldn't project him as such given his recent string of bad luck. If he can stay healthy and keep his delivery and arm action consistent, he profiles as a solid middle of the rotation starter.

 Q:  Gar from Memphis asks:
Who has the best fastball in system? Draft report card has 2-3 2003 draftees throwing in the mid 90's. Till 96,Ursian 95. How do these two rate with other pitchers in system, and what is expected from them?

Josh Boyd: The best fastball in the organization was a tough one to narrow down this year because of injuries. Without injuries it would have been Luke Hudson. You could even make a case for Wagner who throws 91-94 mph but has well above average movement. We went with Alex Farfan, though. He gets 97 with pretty good regularity and needs to learn to command it. Till and Ursin both have a chance and are considered prospects, but are limited to relief.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:
Hi Josh. Congrats on the big day a few months ago. Was Wily Mo's .273.354.500, with 5 HR in September a sign of things to come, or does the 24-8 K-BB ratio he posted speak louder?

Josh Boyd: Wow, thanks for that Mike. You know, that contract situation of Wily Mo's is really a problem, but I was very encouraged by his performance. The issue is whether he will be able to get steady play again or waste away on the bench. He needs ABs day after day to have any chance of achieving his ceiling. I still like him and would gamble on him.

 Q:  seth corey from center city asks:
it looks like Tony Blanco ex number 2 propect for Boston resurfaced in high A ball this year. it looked like his plate discipline improved and he had decent power numbers. Does he still have any star potential?

Josh Boyd: The Redlegs sure to have a lot of ex-Red Sox flavor, huh? Well, I am not going to say "star potential" for Blanco, but the Reds people have been encouraged by strides he's made. Unfortunately he's been restricted by an elbow injury, preventing him from playing third. He may not be able to return to the position, which hurts his value a little. His raw power is among the best in the organization.

 Q:  Adam from Oxford, Ohio asks:
Why would the Reds want to make Wagner the closer of the future? They already seem to want Chris Reitsma in that role, since he has been show to be effective in that role. Besides, A quality starter would be of much more importance for a team like the Reds who dont have legit starting pitchers.

Josh Boyd: Are you sold on Reitsma in that role? I don't know if I am or not. Can he continue to flourish in that role? Those questions remain to be seen, and he could easily prove me wrong, but I don't think he's the overpowering type of guy who will settle into that role. Wagner won't neccesarily move into the closer role immediately, but again I think it's more a matter of his repertoire fitting the bullpen better than as a starter. His delivery is just not condusive to holding up over the course of a season throwing 200 innings. I don't doubt he could get by with two pitches, because his sink and slider is that good. But he wouldn't be able to hold up long putting that kind of stress on his shoulder.

 Q:  Brent from Cincinnati asks:
Hi, I have friends who are Cub fans and Cardinal fans and we always argue about pitching prospects. How would you rank the pitching prospects for each team in the Central. Thanks

Josh Boyd: Just from a prospect standpoint, I would rank the six Central teams as such: Cubs, Pirates, Brewers, Reds, Astros, Cardinals.

 Q:  Ray from Chester, NY asks:
What are you thoughts on Tim Hummel? After being traded to the Reds he received a decent amount of playing time and put up OK numbers. Is he in the mix for the 3B job with Branyan, Larson etc...? All seem to put up the same type of numbers.

Josh Boyd: Most project Hummel as a utility infielder as his bat might be a little too light for an everyday job. Hummel doesn't have near the same type of raw power as those other two. He is more of a line-drive type, with fewer holes in his swing than those two windmills.

 Q:  Aaron from The Island asks:
What's the ceiling on Joey Votto? How does he compare with the Braves' Brian McCann?

Josh Boyd: This would be a nice showdown if Votto was going to stay behind the plate as both are lefthanded hitting receivers. But with Votto at first, that tells you a lot about his catching defense. McCann has improved in that regard, but he'll never match Votto's power potential.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Is a Dayton OF of Kenny Lewis, Ben Himes and Chris Dickerson a good bet for next year? Do you see that trio advancing as a group?

Josh Boyd: Man, Mike you should just give me a call and I can answer all your Reds questions. Just kidding, they are all appreciated and well thought out. The guy who might surprise you on the top 30 more than anyone is Jordan Belcher, and he is the guy who could, actually is likely, to sneak into that outfield next spring. I think Lewis will stay back in extended spring training to work on his overall hitting approach.

 Q:  Tom from Jacksonville asks:
Gilman's been kind of the forgotten name. But he came back after 11 months from TJ surgery. He had a non-arm injury to end his season early. Any word on him in Instructional League, or in general?

Josh Boyd: He had a groin injury at one point during his comeback, but his elbow was sore again in instructs so he didn't pitch and was shut down for the offseason. The Reds say it was more of a precaucion than a major alarm, but it's a red flag nonetheless. Gillman has the type of arm to advance in the footsteps of Josh Hall if he can get healthy... lots of "ifs" in this chat...

 Q:  Tim from Cincinnati asks:
Josh, You didn't list Joe Valentine in your top 10 list. Are the 10 in front of him really better prospects. I was visiting Arizona and saw Valentine throw one day and he was overpowering. Does he have a chance to stick in the big leagues.

Josh Boyd: That's the type of pitcher Valentine is. He can flash overpowering stuff one day. It's a matter of consistency, and to gain the manager's confidence to give you the ball in the late innings of a close game you have to be consistent and throw strikes. These are two issues that Valentine is capable of overcoming. I'm not going to go overboard on too many relievers with questions like that, which is why he didn't make it this year. He has electric stuff, getting 95 with his fastball and spinning a hard slider, so the ingredients are there.

 Q:  Erik the Red from FLA asks:
Is there any possibility of historical top 30 information for individual players (like in your recent awards look-back special) to be included in next year's Prospect Handbook?

Josh Boyd: That's a good idea and I think we are working on something along those lines. Thanks.

 Q:  Tommy from New York asks:
What do you believe the ceiling is on a player like Edwin Encarnacion? Is he a Juan Encarnacion-type player in the majors (20-20 type with no plate discipline) or could he be a superstar?

Josh Boyd: He projects as a slightly above-average major leaguer with occasional all-star potential. My biggest concern with Edwin is his lack of hustle at times. He needs to remain focused at all times to avoid a slump like he fell into early last season. His bat can produce above-average pop and he should be a very good defensive third baseman. He's similar to Juan Encarnacion with his approach, though Edwin probably has is grade better with his pitch recognition, where Juan just doesn't seem to make that adjustment.

 Q:  tom callahan from sandusky ohio asks:
hey there reds fans!!! any key sleepers on the aaa roster the reds could lose????

Josh Boyd: Was Tommy Boy a Reds fan? He could have tried to sell those brake pads to Marge Schott or something. Errr... I mentioned a couple possible Rule 5 targets earlier, but you could also consider Aramboles, if someone will hide him on the DL for a while. He was nearly ready for a major league breakthrough when he suffered his 100th injury of his career last spring. You could make a case for Charlie Manning or for a real sleeper Joel Barreto.

 Q:  Q from Q-ville asks:
I've heard Ty Howington's name among potential Rule-5 targets. Who else are the Reds risking by not including them on the 40-man?

Josh Boyd: Lot's of Rule 5 questions. We'll be bringing you full coverage of the draft, including a Rule 5 preview as we near the Winter Meetings next month.

 Q:  Kris from Tampa, Fl asks:
What is the status on Chalie Manning? Is he considered a prospect, or has he dropped in value after being traded in the Aaron Boone deal

Josh Boyd: I just mentioned Manning, but yes he is still considered a prospect. He has learned a good cutter that eats up righthanders, but he needs to learn to command the arm side of the plate which will allow him to pitch inside more effectively to lefties.

 Q:  Adam from Oxford, Ohio asks:
The Reds seemed to have at least 1 player become a "sensation" over the last few years (Williamson,Dunn, Kearns, Wagner...even Larson raking in AAA). Is there anybody who is going to do it this year?

Josh Boyd: Adam vs. Mike from Boston--are you guys having a contest to see who can get more questions answered? Good questions, though, seriously. To answer your question, I digress, my pick would be Votto.

 Q:  Joe from Boston asks:
If Chris Gruler comes back strong and shows no ill effects of his injury, what kind of pitcher can he be? What kind of stuff does he have and who does he remind you of?

Josh Boyd: He projects as a No. 2 starter when everything is going right. He was throwing 95 mph with a plus curveball and command coming out of high school. Not bad.

 Q:  wily's agent from the West asks:
Wily Mo's development is certainly slowed by his contact which ensures he's on the ML roster but limits his ability to learn how to play the game because he'll be riding the bench as the least experienced outfielder. Does this situation ever change? Does the contract expire and allow the player to pick up needed experience in the minors?

Josh Boyd: Wily Mo needs a new agent if he doesn't know the answer to that question! (memo to Wily Mo's agent: I know this is not really you). Pena's only chance to get back to the minors is that he would have to be outrighted from the 40-man roster (a la Dane Sardinha this year), except that if the Reds did this with Pena he would be claimed and lost. It would be a never-ending cycle. He's stuck in the bigs.

 Q:  John M. Perkins from Macon, GA asks:
Best chance for a NL Gold Glove -- Edwin Encarnacion or Andy Marte?

Josh Boyd: John, John, John, you won't give up on this huh? I'm taking Marte. Check back with me in three years. Actually both are solid, Marte is going to be better though.

 Q:  Chris from Encinitas, CA asks:
Has Josh Thigpen fallen so far that he wouldn't be considered one of the Reds' top 30 prospects? Do you think Thigpen has suffered from being a three sport athlete that didn't have enough time to concentrate on the art of pitching and will need time to develop to his third pitch changeup?

Josh Boyd: The Reds can't quite figure it out, but they haven't seen the velocity since acquiring him last year.

 Q:  Tom from NJ asks:
Do Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn still project to be big time hitters?

Josh Boyd: Yes, especially Kearns.

Moderator: Thanks for all of your questions today, I really enjoyed it.

Moderator: We thank Josh for turning off his cell phone for 90 minutes to discuss all things Red. Jim Callis will kick off the long holiday weekend with a discussion of the Cubs system on Wednesday.