Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Chris Haft
1. Austin Kearns, of
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS--Lexington, Ky., 1998 (1st round). Signed by: Robert Koontz.
Background: Kearns was a highly regarded high school pitching prospect until his senior year, when his velocity plunged from the low 90s to the low 80s. The Reds made him the seventh overall pick in the 1998 draft as an outfielder and refused to panic when he homered just once in 108 Rookie-level at-bats. He made steady progress in the low Class A Midwest League in 1999, then dominated when the organizations lack of a high Class A club sent him back there last season. He ranked among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category and topped the circuit in runs, homers, RBIs and extra-base hits (66).
Strengths: Kearns power is in full bloom. He homered in eight consecutive games from July 17-24, establishing a Midwest League record and falling two games short of the all-time minor league mark. Reds officials like Kearns ability to distribute that power to all fields. Another of his assets is the ability to make adjustments at the plate. He made impressive strides with his strike-zone judgment in 2000, and the dividends were obvious. Kearns has decent speed, a strong arm and is proficient enough in right field to keep Cincinnati from switching him to first base.
Weaknesses: Though Kearns attitude has earned praise, the Reds want to see him continue to push himself. Some observers believe that hes so good that he occasionally eases up a little bit. Developing a gameday routineextra hitting, mental preparation and even a short workout, similar to the regimen most top major leaguers maintainwould benefit him. That also could help him fine-tune his swing, which gets a little long from time to time.
The Future: The blueprints for Great American Ball Park, which is scheduled to open on Cincinnatis riverfront in 2003, might as well have Kearns name etched in right field. He tops the group of prospects whom the Reds hope will provide a youthful and economical influx of talent as they move into their new stadium. Cincinnatis braintrust loves the idea of Kearns and Adam Dunn, the systems gems, flanking center fielder Ken Griffey, the franchises crown jewel. For 2001, the Reds will be happy to watch Kearns continue to improve at Double-A Chattanooga.
2. Adam Dunn, of
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 235. Drafted: HSNew Caney, Texas. (2nd round). Signed by: Johnny Almaraz.
Background: Dunn continued his conversion to being exclusively a baseball player with a solid all-around performance in his second full professional season. The former University of Texas quarterback announced his commitment to baseball in spring training of 1999, thrilling Reds management.
Strengths: Just take a look at Dunns dimensions. Then watch him move. Not only has Dunn displayed power potential, but he also stole 24 bases in 29 tries last year at Dayton. He enhances his skill with keen eyesight and patience. Dunn led the Midwest League with a .428 on-base percentage last year.
Weaknesses: Dunn still shows the effects of his time on the gridiron. Reading balls off the bat and taking the proper routes when tracking hits challenges him. His arm isnt what you would expect from a former quarterback, which is why he has been in left field. As with many patient hitters, Dunn occasionally takes too many pitches.
The Future: Dunns size-speed-power combination gives him the potential to be a more spectacular player than Kearns. Hell play with Kearns for the fourth straight season, this time in Double-A, and is on the same 2003 timetable for arriving in Cincinnati.
3. Drew Henson, 3b
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 222. Drafted: HSBrighton, Mich., 1998 (3rd round). Signed by: Dick Groch (Yankees).
Background: The Yankees gave Henson a $2 million bonus, fully aware the pull of football might prevent the University of Michigan quarterback from ever reaching the Bronx. Hensons future became the Reds headache when they acquired him in the Denny Neagle deal in July.
Strengths: Hensons all-around athleticism is enviable. He displays nimble feet at third base, outstanding hands and a cannon arm. He runs well for his size and hits to all fields. His power is his best tool. He has the poise that enables him to thrive in front of 110,000 fans at Michigan on home Saturdays.
Weaknesses: A baseball chauvinist might say that Hensons only weakness is football. Having divided his athletic attention, he needs at-batswhich may never cometo polish his plate technique.
The Future: Henson remains a top-rated quarterback prospect, though he spurned the 2001 NFL draft to return to Michigan. Football offers him guaranteed millions and a shot at playing at the highest level right away. Idealists who think Henson will choose baseball over football should repeat these two words: John Elway.
4. Dane Sardinha, c
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Pepperdine, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Craig Kornfeld/Butch Baccala.
Background: Sardinhas reported bonus demands and adviser (Scott Boras) knocked him out of the first round, but general manager Jim Bowden ordered his staff to take Sardinha in the second. Signing Sardinha was a chore, but the Reds got it done by giving him a six-year big league contract worth at least $1.75 million that didnt include a signing bonus.
Strengths: Sardinha could catch and throw in the big leagues now. His hands, release and arm are all considered assets. For a player with no professional experience, he exudes leadership that should help him work with pitchers. His speed and opposite-field power were encouraging in instructional league.
Weaknesses: Sardinhas next professional game will be his first. He needs at-bats and innings behind the plate. As with many young catchers, Sardinha must continue to refine his footwork. His hitting has been questioned since he struggled in the Cape Cod League in 1999.
The Future: Catching has been the weakest position in the organization for a decade, so Sardinha could ascend rapidly. He has been stamped as part of the 2003 group but could arrive sooner. Hell debut in Class A and could reach Double-A by the end of the season.
5. David Espinosa, 2b
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HSMiami, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Greg Zunino.
Background: Like Sardinha, a fellow Boras client, Espinosa didnt sign until Sept. 1. When he did, it was for eight years and $2.75 million, the same type of big league, bonus-free deal Sardinha received. Had he not signed, it would have marked the first time Cincinnati ever had failed to secure its top draft pick.
Strengths: The Reds like Espinosas aggressive approach from both sides of the plate. Its not mindless aggression, either. Coaches noticed in instructional league that he has a good idea at the plate, seldom looking overmatched. He has above-average speed and arm strength.
Weaknesses: As with most young players, Espinosa needs to refine his defensive footwork. This could be challenging, given his move from shortstop to second base. The Reds plethora of shortstop prospects and need to accelerate his progress prompted the decision. Espinosa also can gain flexibility, which should develop over time.
The Future: Espinosa shouldnt regard his position switch as a negative. He will have to stick in the majors by 2004, but that isnt expected to be a problem. The clubs leadoff man of the future, hell break in at low Class A Dayton.
6. Ty Howington, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSVancouver, Wash., 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Howard Bowens.
Background: Howington was considered the best high school lefthander available in the 1999 draft. The Reds chose him in the first round but didnt sign him until late August, preventing him from making his pro debut until 2000. He jumped past short-season ball to Class A and showed promise despite his ugly stats.
Strengths: Howingtons lively fastball regularly reaches 95 mph. He complements it with an above-average curveball and a changeup. The Reds were thrilled he managed to make every start in his first professional season, reflecting his physical and mental durability.
Weaknesses: With continued work on his mechanics, Howington should manage to improve the late life on his fastball and the break on his curve. He must develop consistency in his mechanics, which hindered his command and effectiveness last year. His delivery was considered unorthodox before the Reds tried to streamline it.
The Future: As this ranking indicates, the Reds remain enthusiastic about Howington. Hell move up to Mudville in 2001 and probably wont be ready for the majors until sometime in 2003, at the earliest.
7. Dustin Moseley, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSTexarkana, Ark., 2000 (1st round/supplemental). Signed by: Jimmy Gonzales.
Background: Moseley was considered one of the most advanced high school pitchers in the 2000 draft. His precociousness attracted the attention of the pitching-poor Reds, who made him the 34th choice overall. Cincinnati couldnt sign Moseley until mid-November, after its new fiscal year, landing him with a $930,000 bonus and a $100,000 scholarship plan.
Strengths: Moseley already shows a seasoned professionals polish and control. Scouts say hes extremely confident and knows what he must do to advance toward the majors. Moseley spots his fastball well, complementing it with a wicked curveball and an adequate changeup. His intelligence allows him to survive on the mound even on days when his stuff falls a little short.
Weaknesses: Moseleys velocity is good but not great. His fastball was clocked at 89-90 mph, which is fine for Greg Maddux but few others. The Reds hope he can add velocity with physical maturity and strength. He needs experience to test his impressive self-assurance.
The Future: Moseley is expected to start 2001 at Dayton. The Reds might want to keep him there for most or all of the season so he can learn to adjust to hitters the second and third time he faces them.
8. Gookie Dawkins, 2b/ss
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSChappells, S.C., 1997 (2nd round). Signed by: Steve Kring.
Background: Dawkins has more medals than an Armed Forces veteran. He hit .273 in the 1999 Pan Am Games as Team USA captured the silver medal. He appeared in seven games, starting twice, for the gold medal-winning Americans in the 2000 Olympics. The Reds shortstops in the majors and in the system led them to try Dawkins at second base last year.
Strengths: If Dawkins were to play a full season alongside Pokey Reese, the Reds might be able to count the number of ground-ball base hits up the middle on one hand. Dawkins has excellent range and a sure, strong arm. Though he could stand to polish his footwork, he proved during his brief stints with Cincinnati that he could hold his own defensively in the majors right now.
Weaknesses: Dawkins regressed offensively last year. He made less contact, hit for less average and power and wasnt as much of a factor on the bases as he had been in 1999.
The Future: With Barry Larkin signed through 2003, Dawkins may be blocked in Cincinnati. He can use another minor league season to improve offensively but may be ready in 2002with no job awaiting.
9. John Riedling, rhp
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSPompano Beach, Fla., 1994 (22nd round). Signed by: Mike Mangan.
Background: Switching from starting to relieving in 1999 revived Riedlings career. In 2000, the only question mark surrounding him was why he wasnt called up earlier. Cincinnati summoned him on Aug. 28 when Scott Williamson went on the disabled list, and Riedling breezed through his first big league stint.
Strengths: When Riedling joined the Reds, catcher Jason LaRue compared his stuff to that of closer Danny Graves. Skeptics scoffed at first, then quickly agreed once they saw Riedling pitch. He has a quick, darting fastball that indeed rivals Graves, and a sharp breaking ball. Riedlings makeup also thrills Cincinnati.
Weaknesses: Riedling needs no help with his pitches but he could benefit from a little more consistent command in the strike zone. Hell need to cut down on his walks to maintain his effectiveness.
The Future: Its virtually a given that Riedling will open the season in Cincinnatis bullpen. His late-season effectiveness seeded trade rumors involving Scott Sullivan, the workhorse set-up artist whose arbitration-eligible status might make him too expensive for the Reds.
10. Chris Reitsma, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HSCalgary, 1996 (2nd round). Signed by: Gary Rajsich (Red Sox).
Background: Acquired from the Red Sox with lefthander John Curtice in the Aug. 31 Dante Bichette trade, Reitsma has overcome a broken elbow he suffered while pitching in 1997. He developed a stress fracture in his elbow the following year that set him back. Finally healthy in 2000, he pitched nearly as many innings as in his first four years as a pro.
Strengths: Able to touch 95-97 mph before his injuries, Reitsma has pushed his fastball back into the low 90s. Like some hard throwers who lose their blazing stuff, Reitsma has survived by improving his offspeed deliveries, including a pitch described as a power changeup. The Reds like his ability to set up batters and work both sides of the plate.
Weaknesses: Robbed of close to two seasons of development, Reitsma needs innings to complete his big league entrance exam. The Reds wouldnt mind if a little more of his velocity would return, too.
The Future: Some optimists think that Reitsma can pitch in the majors this year. Since he never has pitched above Double-A, that might be a little unrealistic. Nevertheless, hes clearly the organizations top pitching prospect in the upper levels of the minors.
Rest of the Best:
11. Jackson Melian, of
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