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Reds Draft Report Card

By Jim Callis

Best Pro Debut: OF Steve Smitherman (23) batted .316-15-65 with 14 stolen bases at Rookie-level Billings. RHP David Gil (3) was one of three drafted pitchers to reach Double-A.

Best Athlete: SS David Espinosa (1) is a switch-hitter who can run, hit and sting the ball, and he has a plus arm and range. C Dane Sardinha (2) is athletic for his position. Cash-flow problems jeopardized Cincinnati’s chances of signing either player until Espinosa (eight years, up to $5 million) and Sardinha (four years, up to $2.4 million) accepted big league contracts without bonuses.

Best Hitter: Espinosa not only has the physical tools to hit, but he also has the knowledge, plate discipline and makeup. He should be an effective leadoff hitter, and in a best-case scenario Cincinnati can see him growing into a Chipper Jones.

Best Raw Power: OF/1B Chris Williamson (11), who hit eight homers between Billings and Class A Dayton, and Smitherman. They need to control their swings better but can punish mistakes.

Fastest Runner: Espinosa is an above-average runner who can run a 6.6-second 60-yard dash.

Best Defensive Player: Sardinha is so agile and talented behind the plate that he probably could play defensively in the majors right now.

Best Fastball: RHP Dan Fletcher (7) touched 95 mph last spring but didn’t throw as hard after signing. RHP Bryan Edwards (9) also threw 95 but with an ugly delivery. Cincinnati retooled his mechanics in instructional league, and Edwards was more effective throwing 88-92 mph.

Most Intriguing Background: Edwards dropped out of Texas and pitched in the independent Atlantic League. 3B Rod Allen (34), who didn’t sign, is the son of the former big leaguer of the same name.

Closest To The Majors: Sardinha, whose timetable will be based on how much he hits. He’ll debut next April, probably in Class A.

Best Late-Round Pick: Williamson and Smitherman. RHP Bradley George (12) was clocked as fast as 93 mph while striking out 55 in 48 innings at Billings.

The One Who Got Away: The Reds are expected to announce the signing of RHP Dustin Moseley (1) when their new fiscal year begins Nov. 1. The Reds did lose RHP Mark Kaiser (4), the highest-drafted high school player who definitely won’t sign, and OF Roydell Williams (5). Kaiser is at Arizona and Williams, a stud athlete, is playing wide receiver at Tulane.

Assessment: In spite of a budget crunch, the Reds found a way to sign arguably the draft’s best shortstop (Espinosa), most polished high school pitcher (Moseley) and best catcher (Sardinha). They also did an exceptional job of acquiring prospects in trades, and overall brought in more quality talent this year than any organization in the game.

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