Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Chris Haft
1. Austin Kearns, of
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSLexington, Ky., 1998 (1st round). Signed by: Robert Koontz.
Background: Kearns ranked ahead of Adam Dunn as a prospect entering the 2001 season, but Dunn left him in his dust when Kearns tore a ligament in his right thumb. A strong finish at Double-A Chattanooga (.346-3-17 in his final 15 games) and a torrid Arizona Fall League performance (.371-4-31 in 33 contests) restored the Reds faith in him. Before the season, Kearns asserted his presence in the organization by improving his power numbers annually while maturing overall at the same impressive rate.
Strengths: Though Kearns injury affected his performance, it didnt spoil his approachwhich is why hes the organizations top prospect for the second year in a row. Other Reds who earned the No. 1 distinction in consecutive years were Reggie Sanders (1991-92) and Pokey Reese (1994-96). His ability to hit to all fields and maintain command of the strike zone long has impressed the organization. He is also a precise outfielder who takes good routes on fly balls and has an above-average arm. If anything, Kearns injury bolstered his status in the organization. His speedy recovery, along with the determination he showed, announced he could handle the adversity that ultimately strikes even the games biggest stars.
Weaknesses: No one would label Kearns lazy, but because success has come easily to him, some in the Reds inner sanctum fear he wont always apply himself as diligently as they might hope. Establishing a daily routine involving on- and off-field preparationsomething the Reds try to stress throughout the organizationremains essential to Kearns improvement. Like other hitters rising through the minors, he needs the savvy that comes with facing more experienced pitchers. His AFL stint should help in that regard.
The Future: Kearns just might find himself in a Cincinnati uniform on Opening Day as a member of the starting lineup. The Reds insistence on trying to win now on their drastically limited budget will force them to trade at least one player from among Sean Casey, Reese and Dmitri Young for pitching help. Unless Kearns regresses, his arrival in Cincinnati probably will occur no later than midseason.
2. Ty Howington, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSVancouver, Wash., 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Howard Bowens.
Background: Arthroscopic elbow surgery in late March delayed the start of Howingtons season, but he recovered smoothly to excel at both Class A levels and perform respectably in Double-A. That followed a 5-15, 5.27 pro debut in 2000 at Class A Dayton, during which the Reds were pleased that he gained experience and showed durability by making every start.
Strengths: Howington aroused concern at the start of his pro career with his complicated delivery, but he has streamlined his mechanics. Proof comes in his fastball, which regularly travels at 92-93 mph. Howingtons curveball and changeup are both effective when he finishes his delivery, giving them late life.
Weaknesses: Howington still needs the sheer repetition of performing a fundamentally sound delivery. Not only will that increase the effectiveness of his pitches, but it also will help him avoid future arm trouble. He must devote attention to his pickoff move.
The Future: Howington is tentatively slated to open 2002 at Double-A Chattanooga. Hes almost certain to reach Triple-A at some point.
3. Wily Mo Pena, of
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by: Gordon Blakeley (Yankees).
Background: The Reds longed for Pena as far back as the spring of 1999, when he signed a $3.7 million major league contract with the Yankees. They werent heartbroken to part with third-base prospect Drew Henson, whom they knew they couldnt keep away from a potential NFL career, because Pena came in return.
Strengths: The Reds figured Pena could flourish if they left him in one place for an entire season and allowed him to settle in. His impressive build, which prompts comparisons to Sammy Sosa, magnifies his five-tool skills. So did Penas performance, which made him one of three minor leaguers with 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Penas work ethic and enthusiasm are almost as impressive as his physical gifts.
Weaknesses: Pena needs to stop swinging at everything, especially breaking pitches off the plate. Defensively, he still needs work on reading the angles of batted balls, which should come once he learns to get better jumps.
The Future: Penas contract requires him to open 2003 in the majors or be exposed to waivers. The Reds must hope he accelerates his development, aware that hes doomed to be rushed to the bigs.
4. Ricardo Aramboles, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by: Gordon Blakeley (Yankees).
Background: Aware they couldnt afford to retain reliever Mark Wohlers in 2002, the Reds sent him to the Yankees for Aramboles, who has recovered from Tommy John surgery in 1999, though he was shut down with a strained elbow shortly after the trade.
Strengths: Aramboles thrilled the Reds because theyve recently had so few pitchers like him. He has an uncanny ability to adjust to changes in game situations, with a fastball that regularly travels at 93-94 mph, an excellent changeup and a decent curveball. He was the clubs top pitcher in instructional league.
Weaknesses: Aramboles must stay on top of all of his pitches and resist the temptation to push off the rubber too quickly so he can drive down off the mound more forcefully. His results arent as overpowering as his stuff because he trusts his changeup too much.
The Future: After bouncing around with four teams in 2001, Aramboles could benefit from some stability in Double-A.
5. Dustin Moseley, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSTexarkana, Ark., 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Jimmy Gonzales.
Background: The Reds didnt have money for Moseley in their 2000 signing budget, so he signed that November after their 2001 fiscal year began. They figured he was mature enough to begin his professional career in low Class A in 2001, and his performance justified the decision.
Strengths: Invited to big league camp in 2001, Moseley endured volleys of good-natured razzing from veterans who asked if he had his drivers license. He demonstrated an excellent feel for pitching, despite his youth, guiding his pitches through the strike zone and past hitters. Moseleys fastball can hit 92 mph, which isnt overpowering but is hard enough when he hits his spots with late movement. His curveball and changeup were effective more often than not.
Weaknesses: With his beanpole build, Moseley must gain the strength that will enable him to reach the 200-inning level in coming years. Polished as he is, he can tweak his delivery by staying over the rubber a little longer, which will help him maintain better balance.
The Future: The Reds dont need to rush Moseley. They know hell progress quite nicely on his own. For now, moving up to high Class A Stockton will suffice, though he could finish the season in Double-A.
6. Ben Broussard, 1b
Age: 25. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 220. Drafted: McNeese State, 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Johnny Almaraz.
Background: Adam Dunn deservedly got most of the headlines, but Broussard also had a productive 2001 season. He led the Southern League in hitting and slugging percentage (.592), while ranking second in on-base percentage (.428) and fifth in home runs. Broussards performance erased the disappointment of a 2000 season that was marred by a wrist injury.
Strengths: The Reds hopes that Broussard would cut down on his strikeouts were fulfilled. Like Sean Casey, Broussard hasnt yet developed overwhelming power but compensates by using the entire ballpark. Broussard uses nice quick hands in his swing, the key to his versatility as a hitter.
Weaknesses: Broussard played primarily first base in 2001 after drifting between there and left field the previous two seasons. Hes barely adequate at both spots.
The Future: The focus on Broussard will intensify now that hes on the 40-man roster. The Reds emphasis on employing young, inexpensive talent could afford him the opportunity to reach the majors soon, though hell also have to deal with a logjam at his positions.
7. David Espinosa, ss
Age: 20. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HSMiami, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Greg Zunino.
Background: Like Moseley, Espinosa spent the summer of 2000 negotiating and made his debut in full-season Class A in 2001. The cash-strapped Reds signed him to an unusual eight-year major league contract worth a guaranteed $2.75 million, but no bonus. He started shakily at Dayton before righting himself.
Strengths: Espinosa is a switch-hitter with some pop, and he has the speed to be a threat on the bases. He also draws walks, so he could fit at the top of a lineup. Despite committing 48 errors, Espinosa actually improved markedly on defense as the 2001 season progressed. He moved back to shortstop after trying second base briefly.
Weaknesses: Though Espinosa has slightly more pop in his bat as a lefthanded hitter, he maintains the same aggressive approach from both sides. He often is too aggressive, as his strikeout total indicates. He struggled at times with his throwing because he lacked a consistent arm angle and polished footwork.
The Future: Some Midwest League observers project Espinosa as a second baseman and center fielder. The Reds will keep him at shortstop in 2002, which hell open in high Class A.
8. Gookie Dawkins, ss
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSChappells, S.C., 1997 (2nd round). Signed by: Steve Kring.
Background: Having spent part of the last three years in Double-A, Dawkins appears stuck in neutral. Yet the Reds maintain faith in his ability. Bothered by a right knee injury at the end of 2000, Dawkins had barely recovered when he sprained a ligament in the same knee rounding third base in April. His 2001 season essentially didnt begin until mid-May.
Strengths: As a veteran of the 1999 Pan American Games and the 2000 Olympics, Dawkins has a well-rounded understanding of the game. His knee injuries havent ruined his speed and quickness, which he uses in the field and on the basepaths. His range and strong arm help him make difficult plays look routine.
Weaknesses: The Reds arent sure what has kept Dawkins in a two-year offensive funk, which he started to come out of in the Arizona Fall League. He tends to drift into pitches, resulting in a lot of awkward swings and the sense that pitchers can knock the bat out of his hands.
The Future: Dawkins is a strong candidate to open in Triple-A, though a return to Double-A isnt out of the question. Though shortstop is Dawkins natural position, he has experience at second base and could move to form a double-play combination with Pokey Reese.
9. Dane Sardinha, c
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Pepperdine, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Craig Kornfeld/Butch Baccala.
Background: Sardinha signed a deal similar to Espinosas, getting no bonus but a six-year big league contract worth at least $1.75 million. In his pro debut at high Class A, he gave the Reds about what they expected. He sparkled defensively and continued to need help offensively.
Strengths: The Reds believe Sardinha could survive defensively in the majors right now. He gets rid of the ball quickly and with plenty on his throws, finishing second in the California League by nabbing 38 percent of basestealers in 2001. While his offense wasnt overwhelming, he does have power to the gaps.
Weaknesses: To avoid becoming branded as a defensive specialist, Sardinha must keep refining his offensive approach, particularly by getting himself in decent hitting position as he uncorks his swing. He also has to refine his strike zone. Quiet by nature, he needs to assume more of a take-charge attitude behind the plate.
The Future: With Jason LaRue establishing himself in the majors, veteran Kelly Stinnett serving as his backup and Corky Miller becoming a factor, Sardinha should be allowed to progress at a comfortable pace. Hell move up to Double-A in 2002.
10. Ranier Olmedo, ss
Age: 20. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 155. Signed: Venezuela, 1999. Signed by: Johnny Almaraz.
Background: Olmedo plays the most exciting infield defense the organization has seen since Reese was ascending through the system in the mid-1990s. In Olmedos native Venezuela, the comparisons he draws are to that nations other great shortstops.
Strengths: Olmedo has the quickness, deft footwork, arm strength and range of an elite shortstop. With those gifts, his flashiness is no surprise. Asked to try switch-hitting in 2001, Olmedo accepted the task and held his own when he batted lefthanded for the first time. He used his speed to lead the organization in stolen bases.
Weaknesses: Olmedo occasionally is too slick for his own good and needs to make routine plays more routinely. He has work to do offensively, because he doesnt walk or make contact often enough for the singles hitter that he is. He also needs to refine his basestealing technique after getting caught 17 times.
The Future: The Reds are confident Olmedo, who has an unquenchable work ethic, can hone his game while receiving a promotion to Double-A. Though Cincinnati has a glut of middle infielders, Olmedo may force the organization to make room for him.
Rest of the Best:
11. Ryan Snare, lhp
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