1999 Top 10
Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By David Rawnsley
1. Travis Dawkins, SS
Background: More than a few eyes were raised when the 20-year-old Dawkins was named to Team USA for the Pan American Games last July, with a berth in the 2000 Sydney Olympics on the line. Why put a Midwest League shortstop hardly two years removed from a rural South Carolina high school program on the field with the Cubans and professionals from other countries? No worry, as they would say in Australia. Dawkins was more than up to it, providing flawless fielding and timely hitting as the Americans finished second. By September, Dawkins was in Cincinnati watching the pennant race and learning from 10-time all-star Barry Larkin.
Strengths: Dawkins fielding tools are what made him a second-round pick in 1997 and what get noticed first today. He is relatively tall and rangy for a shortstop but has a little mans quickness and balance. Dawkins hands are soft and sure and he has the arm strength to make the off-balance throw and get runners from the hole. Dawkins quick feet translate into a 3.9-4.0 runner to first base from the right side and he has a chance to steal 40 bases a year in the major leagues. The big difference in Dawkins from 1998 to 1999, according to Reds officials, was just physical maturity and strength. He went from a hitter who just tried to make contact against decent fastballs to a stronger hitter with the bat speed to drive plus velocity fastballs. Dawkins has always had good command of the strike zone and rarely strikes out.
Weaknesses: Defensively, Dawkins is ready to play in the big leagues now. At the plate, the Reds feel that Dawkins needs to look to drive pitches more when the count is in his favor instead of just feeling for them. Thats a mental adjustment that goes in hand with being physically stronger.
The Future: "Gookie" has the same Gold Glove potential as Pokey Reese but a far higher offensive ceiling. Larkin is showing signs of his age in the field, but his offensive ability and leadership guarantee that he will play somewhere. That situation will continue to evolve, as will Dawkins swing and strength.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Rockford (A) .272 305 56 83 10 6 8 32 35 38 38 Chattanooga (AA) .364 129 24 47 7 0 2 13 14 17 15 Cincinnati .143 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
2. Adam Dunn, OF
Age: 20 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-6 Wt: 235
Drafted: HS--New Caney, Texas, 1998 (2nd round) Signed by: Johnny Almaraz
Background: Dunn dropped out of a crowded quarterback race at Texas in April to concentrate on baseball full time. He was added to the Reds 40-man roster this fall as part of his deal with Cincinnati.
Strengths: Dunn is an intriguing athlete. Despite his size, he can run to first in less than 4.1 seconds. Dunns leverage and bat speed at the plate make him a top power threat, but he also has the ability to adjust his swing and use the entire field. He showed surprisingly pure baseball skills this summer despite his inexperience.
Weaknesses: Dunn is still raw in the outfield, especially with his routes to the ball. Dunn has quickly worked much of the normal football stiffness out of his muscles.
The Future: While the Reds were amazed at Dunns summer performance, they were thrilled at the way he dominated games during his first instructional league. With an entire offseason to prepare just for baseball and his first spring training ahead of him, Dunn could blossom at Double-A in 2000.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Rockford (A) .307 313 62 96 16 2 11 44 46 64 21
3. Rob Bell, RHP
Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 225
Drafted: HS--Marlboro, N.Y., 1995 (3rd round) Signed by: John Stewart (Braves)
Background: Bell missed time in 1999 after experiencing elbow tenderness during spring training. The Reds rehabbed him conservatively and he threw the second half of the season and a full Arizona Fall League without any problems.
Strengths: Like many pitchers recovering from arm problems, Bell actually throws harder now, consistently reaching 92 mph and topping out around 95. His best pitch is a hard-biting curveball that starts off on the same plane as his fastball, almost like a slider. Bells command is above average and he is stubborn about not walking hitters.
Weaknesses: One primary worry is his tendency to throw 8-10 inches across his body, which hurts the consistency of his curveball. His changeup is definitely a secondary pitch.
The Future: The Reds are counting on Bell to be a major factor in their future rotation. The elbow injury pushes his schedule back a bit.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO GCL Reds (R) 0 0 1.13 2 2 0 0 8 3 0 11 Chattanooga (AA) 3 6 3.13 12 12 2 0 72 75 17 68
4. Ty Howington, LHP
Age: 19 B-T: R-L Ht: 6-5 Wt: 220
Drafted: HS--Vancouver, Wash., 1999 (1st round) Signed by: Howard Bowens
Background: Howington was the first of three high school pitchers from Washington selected in the first round last June. He signed late and didnt make his professional debut until instructional league.
Strengths: Howington is a big, loose, strong-shouldered pitcher straight off the scouts drawing board. He throws a plus fastball in the 93-96 mph range from a high three-quarters release point. He dominated older hitters in instructional league, getting them to swing at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone with good deception. Howingtons curveball gets hard spin and good downward bite and can be a plus pitch.
Weaknesses: The Reds were amazed at what a polished product Howington was mechanically and with the command of his two primary pitches. As with most young pitchers, Howington will need to refine his changeup.
The Future: Based on what theyve seen, the Reds wont hesitate to start Howington in Class A in 2000, a rarity for a high school pitcher and especially one from the Northwest.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Did Not PlaySigned 2000 Contract
5. Ben Broussard, OF
Age: 23 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 225
Drafted: McNeese State, 1999 (2nd round) Signed by: Johnny Almaraz
Background: Broussard was an obscure college senior at the start of the spring before blossoming into one of the top power prospects in baseball. His 1999 totals from college, three minor league levels and the California Fall League: .373-60-200 in 614 at-bats.
Strengths: Broussard has pole-to-pole power and uses the entire field already. His bat speed is excellent and he has natural loft in his swing. The Reds tested Broussards vision before the draft and found it was 20/10, or Ted Williams/fighter pilot level. Broussard runs the 60 in 6.7 seconds.
Weaknesses: A first baseman in college, Broussard still needs work on his routes and staying on top of his throws.
The Future: Broussard is clearly on the fast track and could step into left field when Dante Bichettes contract expires after the 2000 season.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Billings (R) .407 145 39 59 11 2 14 48 34 30 1 Clinton (A) .550 20 8 11 4 1 2 6 3 4 0 Chattanooga (AA) .213 127 26 27 5 0 8 21 11 41 1
6. Austin Kearns, OF
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 220
Drafted: HS--Lexington, Ky., 1998 (1st round) Signed by: Robert Koontz
Background: The Reds 1998 first-round picked started the 1999 season as an 18-year-old in full-season Class A and responded well, knocking out 54 extra-base hits.
Strengths: Kearns has excellent bat speed and above-average power potential. He is mature as a hitter and will drive the ball to all fields depending on the pitch and its location. Kearns defensive tools are perfect for right field, with a well-above-average throwing arm and enough speed underway to provide good range.
Weaknesses: Kearns is quietly intense to the point where he probably puts too much pressure on himself to excel at times. Early in the year he developed an uppercut in his swing, which slowed his trigger and hurt his consistency.
The Future: One Reds official called Kearns "a hard-nosed ballplayer with tools." The Reds emphasis in 1999 was just getting Kearns everyday experience. The organizations lack of a high Class A affiliate could make for a monster 2000 season for Kearns if he returns to the Midwest League.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Rockford (A) .258 426 72 110 36 5 13 48 50 120 21
7. Jason LaRue, C
Age: 26 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 200
Drafted: Dallas Baptist, 1995 (5th round) Signed by: Johnny Almaraz
Background: LaRue received an early big league callup this summer when Reds backup catcher Brian Johnson was injured. Known more for his offense than his defense, LaRue shined behind the plate.
Strengths: LaRue is athletic for a catcher and shows good quickness and agility behind the plate. Better footwork and hand position improved his receiving and throwing abilities and LaRue threw out 38 percent of basestealers in Cincinnati. He is a tireless worker with leadership abilities.
Weaknesses: LaRues short, quick line-drive stroke deserted him this year, as he became less selective at the plate and his swing lengthened. This could just be a function of concentrating extensively on his defense.
The Future: The Reds were thrilled with LaRues defensive performance in 1999 and the way he worked with the pitching staff. Taubensee has become increasingly valuable on offense, but LaRues better-rounded skills could earn him more playing time in 2000.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Indianapolis (AAA) .251 263 42 66 12 2 12 37 15 52 0 Cincinnati .211 90 12 19 7 0 3 10 11 32 4
8. Antonio Perez, 2B/SS
Age: 18 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 175
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998 Signed by: Johnny Almaraz
Background: Perez was so impressive in the Reds 1998 instructional league and during spring training that the organization skipped him over Rookie ball entirely and started him at Rockford.
Strengths: The Reds call Perez their "bolt of lightning." The righthanded hitter can get down to first base in 3.9 seconds and has well-above-average range in the field. Perez played second base the first half of the 99 season and moved to shortstop when Dawkins was promoted, showing good instincts and soft hands at both positions. For a smallish speed player, Perez has surprising pop in his bat.
Weaknesses: Perez inexperience still shows at the plate and on the bases. He gets overanxious both places and tries to make things happen too quickly instead of letting situations develop.
The Future: Perez will continue to play at both shortstop and second base in 2000, though the organization feels his future is more likely on the right side of the diamond.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Rockford (A) .288 385 69 111 20 3 7 41 43 80 35
9. Alejandro Diaz, OF
Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-10 Wt: 185
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1999 Signed by: Alvin Rittman
Background: Diaz was the first, and thus far only, product of an agreement between the commissioners offices in Japan and the United States that enables Japanese teams to in essence sell players to U.S. organizations. The Reds won an auction last spring for the right to sign him.
Strengths: The Reds already consider Diaz a quality big league center fielder defensively. He has plus speed and excellent instincts on jumps and routes, and his arm strength also grades out above average. Diaz has good bat speed and can drive good fastballs out of the park.
Weaknesses: Diaz aptitude in learning the strike zone and how to wait on pitches will determine his future. He is overanxious at the plate, commits too early on pitches and ends up swinging too long on off-speed pitches.
The Future: While the organization has good outfield depth, Diaz is the only true center fielder in the group and will get every opportunity to play.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Clinton (A) .285 221 39 63 14 3 6 41 12 35 28 Chattanooga (AA) .264 220 27 58 9 8 7 35 8 31 6
10. Brandon Larson, 3B
Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 210
Drafted: Louisiana State, 1997 (1st round) Signed by: Robert Filotei
Background: This year was Larsons first real opportunity to show his skills since he hit .381-40-118 and led LSU to a College World Series title in 1997. Injuries to his knee, ankle and wrist have limited him to 531 at-bats in three seasons since signing.
Strengths: Larsons game is power. The ball explodes off his bat and he has the strength, especially in his hands, to leave the park to all fields. A shortstop in college, Larson is solid at third base, with a plus throwing arm and good range, especially to his left. He is also an average runner.
Weaknesses: Staying healthy is Larsons major concern, along with maintaining his patience with the fast track expectations of being a first-round pick. His plate discipline and strike zone judgement must improve.
The Future: Between the injuries and a complete turnover in the teams scouting and development staff, its been easy to overlook Larson. He still must show he can make consistent contact above Class A, but the raw tools are there.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Rockford (A) .300 250 38 75 18 1 13 52 25 67 12 Chattanooga (AA) .285 172 28 49 10 0 12 42 10 51 4
Rest of the Best:
11. John Riedling, rhp
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