Triple-A baseball is home to hot shots, long shots and baseball lifers, its unique nature making it interesting on those levels alone. With that in mind, here’s a look at Louisville, the Reds’ top farm club, and home to two of baseball’s finest prospects.
As the fifth-best prospect in baseball, righthander Homer Bailey needs little introduction. The 20-year-old Bailey has racked up impressive strikeout rates with an exploding mid-90s fastball and plus curveball as he’s climbed the ladder. He’s in Triple-A in his third full season, after posting going 7-1, 1.59 in 13 starts with Double-A Chattanooga last season after a midseason callup.
“Homer needs to work on the same things that most young pitchers do: Control, command and his secondary pitches,” Reds farm director Terry Reynolds said.
Fewer than 50 feet to Bailey’s left, first baseman Joey Votto consolidated his gains with a monster season in the Southern League in 2006, showing impressive gains in his power game and even making more of his speed. The Toronto-born Votto, 23, hit .319/.408/.547 and led the league with 70 extra-base hits.
Though he’s come a long way, Votto needs to improve his defensive footwork and throwing accuracy. And according to Reynolds, Votto, who spent most of 2003 and 2004 in low Class A, simply needs more at-bats versus veteran pitching. While Votto did most of his damage versus righthanders last year, he was far from helpless against southpaws, batting .262 in 183 at-bats with a 27-50 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
“They both are hard workers and will do the necessary work,” Reynolds said.
As a lefty with an average fastball, Phil Dumatrait, who came over from the Red Sox for Scott Williamson in 2003, has seemingly been on prospects lists forever. He missed all of 2004 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but returned to pitch well at Double-A in 2005 and 2006.
Dumatrait, 25, came to camp this year with increased velocity–touching 92-93 mph–and put together a fine spring training as a result. He racked up five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings his first time out this year, as he works on refining his changeup and slurvy breaking ball. Dumatrait has been quite tough on lefty batters–holding them to a .171 average at Double-A–making him a good bullpen candidate if the Reds are looking for in-season reinforcements.
Third baseman Earl Snyder bested Jeff Bagwell’s home run record at the University of Hartford and was included in a trade for Roberto Alomar. Not too shabby. While he has a scant 59 at-bats in the majors, Snyder has been one of the International League’s most fearsome sluggers, leading the league in extra-base hits in 2004 and 2005. He even won the home run crown in 2004.
Drafted by the Mets in 36th round of the 1998 draft, Snyder, 30, has batted .267/.334/.491 with 207 home runs in nine minor league seasons entering 2007.