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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Robert Stephenson, rhp|
|2. Cody Reed, lhp|
|3. Amir Garrett, lhp|
|4. Tyler Stephenson, c|
|5. Jesse Winker, of|
|6. Alex Blandino, ss/2b|
|7. Nick Travieso, rhp|
|8. Keury Mella, rhp|
|9. Sal Romano, rhp|
|10. Tyler Mahle, rhp|
The Reds signed and developed an enviable wave of homegrown talent in the first decade of the 2000s. Players like Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey all reached the majors around the same time and contributed to a trio of playoff teams in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Coming up right behind them were the fruits of an excellent 2007 draft that included Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart. An astute signing of Cuban lefthander Aroldis Chapman just added to the youth movement.
Votto developed into one of the best hitters in baseball. Cueto proved to be a No. 1 starter, while Bruce, Frazier, Chapman and Mesoraco all have made all-star teams.
But it’s time to write a disappointing eulogy for this group of Reds stars. As talented as they are, the best homegrown group the Reds have produced in decades failed to win a playoff series.
The Reds were swept and no-hit by Roy Halladay and the Phillies in 2010. Two years later, a 97-win Reds team led the Giants two games to none in the NL Division Series but then lost three straight. A year later, the Reds lost in the Wild Card Game to the Pirates.
The Reds made a few offseason tweaks heading into 2015—they traded Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon—but pending free agents Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake were retained. Cincinnati also traded for outfielder Marlon Byrd.
But the team the Reds’ envisioned making one more playoff push never showed up. Bailey succumbed to an elbow injury in April. Mesoraco caught just six games before a hip injury ruined his season. A knee injury finished Cozart’s season in June.
The Reds’ injuries were difficult to overcome, but they also deflected blame from what was an impossible task. Even if everything had gone perfectly for the Reds in 2015, they likely would have found themselves failing to keep up in the best division in baseball. At least by falling apart so quickly, the Reds were able to switch to rebuilding mode for the first time since Votto and Cueto arrived as regulars in 2008.
The Reds traded Cueto, Leake and Byrd. Cincinnati turned to an all-rookie rotation for the final 40 percent of the season, and the Reds will pick second overall in the 2016 draft.
Cincinnati has to decide whether it’s willing to get even worse in the short term to get better. Even with Votto and Frazier in their primes, it’s hard to see how even a tweaked Reds team can compete in 2016. Trading away Bruce, Chapman and/of Brandon Phillips will not help Cincinnati win more games in 2016, but it may be their best bet to try to compete again in 2017 and beyond.
Adding to that impetus, the Reds have split the executive duties. Walt Jocketty remains president, but Dick Williams, a former investor banker/venture capitalist, has been named the team’s general manager. Jocketty has said that 2016 will be his last year as decision maker.