Weekend Preview: April 25-27
THIS WEEK: 1. No. 1 Virginia visits No. 4 Florida State in one of the marquee series of the season. 2. Rather than rebuild, New Mexico reloaded, and the Lobos [...]
Reds Prospects 2-10
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Richmond, 2001 (7th round). Signed by: Perry Smith.
Background: A former backup quarterback at Richmond, Basham posted an ugly 0-7, 6.39 record as a Spiders junior but showed enough the previous summer in the Cape Cod League to intrigue the Reds. Theyve allowed him to attend spring classes in each of the last two years, so he didnt report to Dayton until late May last year. He hurled three consecutive shutouts at Daytonincluding two 78-pitch outingsand finished the year with a dominating performance in the high Class A California League championship game.
Strengths: Basham made a rapid transition from raw thrower to pitcher. He had a short spring training but showed aptitude by incorporating mechanical adjustments on the fly. He fills the zone with a lively 90-93 mph fastball, two-plane slider, plus knuckle-curve and fosh changeup.
Weaknesses: He has a complex delivery, so Basham will have to work to maintain consistency. He worked to correct his flaws, and judging by his strikeout-walk ratio, he wont have much trouble.
The Future: Basham will start the year at Double-A Chattanooga. After an encouraging trip to the Arizona Fall League and considering the Reds need for pitching, he could get through the upper levels in a hurry.
3. Wily Mo Pena, of
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by: Gordon Blakeley (Yankees).
Background: Pena had deals with the Marlins and Mets nixed before he turned 16. He eventually signed a four-year, major league pact for $3.7 million with the Yankees, then was traded to the Reds in spring 2001 for Drew Henson. He tore his hamstring in the Arizona Fall League and had surgery that will keep him out at the beginning of spring training.
Strengths: Pena is compared to Sammy Sosa at the same stage of their careers. He has similar raw power and may have more than anyone in the minors. He put on a home run display before the Futures Game last year. Pena is the fastest athlete in the system and projects as a prototypical right fielder with a cannon arm.
Weaknesses: Pena has to be kept on the 25-man roster or be exposed to waivers, where he certainly would be lost. He needs more minor league at-bats because hes ultra-aggressive and hasnt grasped the idea of selectivity yet, but hes not going to get them.
The Future: The Reds may buy a little time by sending Pena to the minors on a rehab assignment at the start of the season. After that, hell have to learn on the job in the major leagues.
4. Edwin Encarnacion, 3b/ss
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HSCaguas, P.R., 2000 (9th round). Signed by: Sammy Melendez (Rangers).
Background: The Rangers considered Encarnacion a throw-in to the Rob Bell-Ruben Mateo trade two years ago, but the Reds insisted on his inclusion in the deal. He has blossomed while Bell and Mateo have floundered. Encarnacions athleticism enticed the Reds into moving him to shortstop late in 2002.
Strengths: Encarnacion combines outstanding bat speed with natural loft in his swing to drive the ball with authority. He covers the plate well and can make hard contact even on pitches out of the zone. His hands are quick at the plate and in the field, and his arm is the best in the system.
Weaknesses: While he has the toolsplus arm strength, first-step quickness and great handsto be an asset in the field, Encarnacion committed 40 errors last year. He tends to rush his throws, and needs to square up and get his feet set. Hes a slightly below-average runner. His bat will be even more dangerous when he stops trying to pull everything and displays more patience.
The Future: He was drafted as a shortstop, so its not out of the realm of possibility for Encarnacion to stay there. Most scouts say hes better suited for third base, and his bat will allow him to play there.
5. Dustin Moseley, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSTexarkana, Ark., 2000 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Jimmy Gonzales.
Background: Moseley signed for $930,000 as a 2000 supplemental first-rounder, but because the Reds ran out of money in their draft budget, the deal wasnt finalized until the start of their 2001 fiscal calendar that November. His late start hasnt bothered him at all.
Strengths: Moseley has shown a great feel for pitching since his high school days. His fluid delivery and arm action allow him to fire three pitches for strikes. His fastball is gaining velocity, and hell dial his two-seamer up to 92-93 mph. He regularly sits at 90-91 with good life. His 76 mph curveball is a plus pitch, ranking with Josh Halls for the systems best. Moseley has improved his mechanics and does a better job staying back over the rubber.
Weaknesses: Moseley shows a good feel for his changeup, but could improve it and incorporate it more frequently. He also has worked hard to develop his lower-body strength this offseason.
The Future: Moseley got knocked around after his promotion to Double-A, so hell return in 2003 in a prospect-laden rotation that will include Basham, Ty Howington, Ricardo Aramboles and Hall.
6. Ty Howington, lhp
Age: 22. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSVancouver, Wash. 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Howard Bowens.
Background: Considered the top southpaw in the 1999 draft, Howington has been stymied by injuries since signing for $1.75 million. He overcame arthroscopic elbow surgery in the spring of 2001 but wasnt as successful trying to work through shoulder tendinitis last year. He was shut down in April, returned in June, then had his season end in early August.
Strengths: The Reds expect Howington to regain the velocity on his plus fastball. He threw 92-94 mph prior to 2002, when he still got to 89 with a dead arm. His pitches have life down in the strike zone. He flashes an above-average curveball and good fading changeup.
Weaknesses: Howingtons mechanical flaws are probably the root of his injuries. He was cutting his delivery off, putting unnecessary stress on his arm. More consistent mechanics not only will keep him healthy, but also will improve the quality of his three pitches.
The Future: Howington was back throwing darts in instructional league, hitting 89-91 mph without pain. At 22, hes still on schedule and will try to re-establish himself in Double-A.
7. Ricardo Aramboles, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 230. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by: Gordon Blackley (Yankees).
Background: Like Pena, Aramboles signed with the Yankees after Major League Baseball voided his first contract with the Marlins because he was too young. He had Tommy John surgery in 1999 and was traded for Mark Wohlers in 2001. Aramboles hasnt been able to get through a full season since 2000. Last year, he strained a thumb ligament swinging a bat in spring training and came down with a tender elbow during the season.
Strengths: Aramboles has major league-caliber stuff. His deceptive changeup is a plus pitch and makes his 92-94 mph fastball that much better. He backs those pitches up with a power 78 mph curveball with depth.
Weaknesses: He has a big league body, but Aramboles must prove he can pitch a full season without injury. He has a good delivery and clean arm action, but needs to gain more consistency. He has worked with pitching instructor Sammy Ellis to fine-tune his mechanics.
The Future: He was on the cusp of the majors last spring and could impress the big league staff in the same manner again. Aramboles might be better served getting consistent innings in Double-A before being rushed. He was at full strength in instructional league.
8. Brandon Larson, 3b
Age: 26. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Louisiana State, 1997 (1st round). Signed by: Bob Filotei.
Background: After transferring to Louisiana State from Blinn (Texas) JC for his junior season, Larson finished second in NCAA Division I to Rices Lance Berkman with 40 homers and was the College World Series MVP in 1997. Years of knee, ankle and wrist surgeries slowed his progress as a pro and led to his removal from the 40-man last spring. Then his bat heated up at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Strengths: Larson is a dead-red fastball hitter, geared to yank heat out of the park. He made adjustments to hit offspeed stuff last year and became a more complete hitter when he started using the whole field. He also had laser eye surgery, which coincided with his improved pitch recognition. Hes average at the hot corner.
Weaknesses: Larson is a full-effort hacker with a lot of preswing movement. He has an aggressive mentality that doesnt lend itself to working counts and leaves him susceptible to offspeed pitches.
The Future: After trading Todd Walker, the Reds will move Aaron Boone to second base to make room for Larson at third. At 26, he needs to seize his opportunity.
9. Josh Hall, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSLynchburg, Va., 1998 (7th round). Signed by: Bo Trumbo.
Background: The Reds agreed to a trade that would have sent Hall and position prospects Alan Moye and David Espinosa to the Rangers for Kenny Rogers last July, but Rogers nixed it. Hall sustained a minor knee injury in high school and had reconstructive shoulder surgery that cost him all of 1999 and most of 2000. Since then, he has quietly emerged as one of Cincinnatis best pitching prospects.
Strengths: Hall is similar to Moseley. Neither is overpowering, though Hall has touched 94 mph. His fastball is usually average at 88-90, but he keeps it down and hits his spots with pinpoint command. His 12-to-6 curveball is a strikeout pitch, and his changeup is also a plus offering. Hes poised on the mound.
Weaknesses: Hall has little margin for error and will have to be fine with his control. His feel for his offspeed pitches is so advanced that he should be able to keep hitters off balance without blowing them away.
The Future: Hall was forced to rebuild his mechanics after surgery, and his rehab could be a blueprint for injured arms. Hall should return to Double-A and could find himself in Triple-A before the end of 2003.
10. Mark Schramek, 3b
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Texas-San Antonio, 2002 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Jimmy Gonzales.
Background: The Reds say they landed the best college hitter in the draft by taking Schramek, the Southland Conferences 2002 MVP and defensive player of the year. That didnt stop them from taking a hardline negotiating approach, which spurred Schramek to work out for Japans Orix Blue Wave and agree to a deal with the independent Atlantic Leagues Long Island Ducks. The Reds finally got him in December for $200,000, which tied for the lowest bonus in the first three rounds.
Strengths: Schramek has a pure line-drive stroke with quickness and strength through the zone. He has the tools to project as a potential Gold Glover at third base. The Reds coveted his arm as a pitcher in high school, and its an asset from the hot corner.
Weaknesses: Schramek tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the 2001 Southland Conference tournament, had reconstructive surgery and played last season with a brace. That caused some teams to back off of him, but scouts say he has regained his mobility and has no lingering effects.
The Future: Schramek should hit the ground running at the Reds new high Class A Potomac affiliate.
Best of the Rest
Not only do the Reds say they landed the best college hitter in the 2002 draft crop by taking Mark Schramek 40th overall, but they also believe they grabbed his high school counterpart in catcher Joey Votto, who went four picks later. While other scouting directors would disagree, Schramek has a pure lefthanded stroke and made the top 10. Vottos defense is still in question, but his bat should carry him. He put on an impressive power display at a predraft workout, then led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with 25 extra-base hits.
Schramek and the emergence of Brandon Larson prompted Edwin Encarnacions shift from third base to shortstop. It certainly didnt happen because the Reds lack slick-fielding middle infielders. Rainer Olmedo, Gookie Dawkins, William Bergolla and Hector Tiburcio all fit that description. Olmedos glovework elicits comparisons to Omar Vizquel, as does his .645 on-base plus slugging percentage at the same stage of his development. Dawkins has been an enigma since a breakthrough season in 1999. His wheels and defensive versatility likely will allow him to land a big league utility job. Bergolla has the most advanced bat of the group, but he has yet to prove himself above Rookie ball and is less gifted defensively than the others. Tiburcio possesses phenomenal shortstop actions but needs to step up his offensive production.
Back to page one.
The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of Opening Day 2003.