|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
J.J. Cooper at 3 p.m. ET
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
|1.||Homer Bailey, rhp Born: May 3, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 190|
| Drafted: HS--LaGrange, Texas, 2004 (1st round) • Signed by: Mike Powers|
|Background: Bailey finally got his training wheels taken off in 2006, and he seemed to enjoy the freedom. Shackled to a 75-pitch limit in a tandem-starter system under previous general manager Dan O'Brien, he handled an increased workload with aplomb in 2006. He was allowed to work six innings in an outing 11 times, compared to just once the year before. The longer starts forced Bailey to rely more on his secondary stuff. The seventh overall pick in 2004, when he was also Baseball America's High School Player of the Year, he pitched the best baseball of his pro career following a midseason promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. While Bailey impressed scouts and prospect-watchers all season, he popped up on the national radar with a Joel Zumaya-esque inning at the Futures Game. Bailey threw 20 pitches, topping out at 98 mph and not dipping under 92. He has good secondary pitches, but decided to challenge hitters with his heat at the prospect all-star game.|
Strengths: Bailey's stuff is as good as anyone's in the minors. He has an athletic frame and a free and easy motion that makes it seem like he's just playing catch even when he's lighting up the radar gun. His fastball sits at 92-96 mph and touches 98. Because of its late life, his heater seems to have an extra gear, exploding on hitters just before it reaches the plate. He has learned to work the bottom of the zone. His curveball is also a plus pitch. He can throw a 12-to-6 hammer or as a slower, loopier version with 11-to-5 break. It's effective both as a knee-buckler for righthanders and as a backdoor pitch that sneaks over against lefties. While it will always be his third best offering, Bailey's changeup has improved and shows some potential. He throws it with good arm speed, generating some deception and a little sink. He has good control for a power pitcher. He also has impressed the Reds with his competitive nature.
Weaknesses: Finding weaknesses in Bailey's pitching is nitpicking at best. He needs to continue to refine his changeup and sharpen the command of his fastball, though he already works both sides of the plate well. He has just started working on hitting and bunting in preparation for his role as a National League starter, but he's a good athlete and already looks comfortable with the bat. He can quicken his delivery to the plate and hold runners better, but he did show improvement in those facets in 2006.
The Future: The Reds resisted the temptation to call Bailey up in September, when he might have given their rotation a boost or bolstered their bullpen. They're not going to be able to hold off too much longer, and he could win a spot in the Cincinnati rotation during spring training. It's more likely that he'll head to Triple-A Louisville for some final polish before a midseason callup. In time, he should become a true No. 1 starter.
|2.||Jay Bruce, of Born: April 3, 1987 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 206|
| Drafted: HS-Beaumont, Texas, 2005 (1st round) • Signed by: Brian Wilson|
|Background: The low Class A Midwest League was loaded with outfielders last year—including fellow 2005 first-round picks Cameron Maybin, Colby Rasmus and Justin Upton—but it was Bruce who ranked as the circuit's No. 1 prospect. The youngest player in the MWL all-star game, he came away with the MVP award, and led the league in doubles and extra-base hits (63).|
Strengths: Bruce quickly has established himself as the best hitting prospect in the system and one of the best in the minors. He has quick hands and a smooth swing path that allow him to keep the bat in the strike zone for quite a while. Scouts were impressed that he could turn on 95-mph fastballs with his plus bat speed, and he also knows how to go the other way if pitchers try to work the outside corner. He projects to be an above-average hitter with above-average power. His two-strike approach is also impressive. In the outfield, Bruce gets good jumps to go with his slightly above-average speed. He can handle center field, though most scouts expect he'll end up as a strong-armed right fielded once he fills out. He's also a gamer who enjoys coming to the ballpark every day.
Weaknesses: He can show more plate discipline, but the Reds will happily live with some strikeouts if Bruce continues to pound the ball. A pulled quadriceps muscle helped lead to a late-season slump, but he has shown no long-term effects from the injury.
The Future: The Reds took a cautious approach with Bruce in 2006, letting him remain in low Class A all season even as he dominated. He'll likely begin this year at high Class A Sarasota, but he could start to move quickly and reach Cincinnati at some point in 2008.
|3.||Joey Votto, 1b Born: Sept. 10, 1983 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 200|
| Drafted: HS--Toronto, 2002 (2nd round) • Signed by: John Castelberry|
|Background: Votto bounced back from a difficult 2005 season to emerge as the Double-A Southern League's MVP last year. He led the SL in batting, on-base percentage and slugging, as well as runs, hits, total bases (278), extra-base hits (70), doubles and walks. He showed signs of his turnaround by earning all-star recognition in both the 2005 World Cup and regional Olympic prequalifier while playing for Team Canada.|
Strengths: Votto has the ability to drive the ball to all fields, especially to left-center when he's locked in. His hands are quick enough that he can punish pitchers if they try to bust him inside. Votto benefited from the Reds scrapping a rule that had hitters take the first pitch in all situations, improving his average and power while also maintaining his discerning batting eye. A hard worker, he devoted time to his baserunning and stole 24 bases in 31 tries last year despite just average speed.
Weaknesses: A catcher when he signed, Votto still is a little raw at first base. He sometimes goes too far into the hole on balls, leaving him out of position. He also can improve his footwork and throwing accuracy. Like many young lefthanded hitters, he struggles against southpaws, batting .262 and slugging .399 against them last year.
The Future: Votto is the Reds' first baseman of the future--and that future could begin as soon as this year. He'll head to Triple-A and be in line for a September callup, though he could accelerate that timetable with a strong start. Jay Bruce and Votto should anchor the 3-4 spots in Cincinnati's lineup for years to come.
|4.||Johnny Cueto, rhp Born: Feb. 15, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 192|
| Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004 • Signed by: Johnny Almaraz|
|Background: Cueto was the first player the Reds signed in the Dominican after revitalizing their nearly dormant Latin American scouting program. In his first extended taste of full-season ball, he went 15-3, 3.00 and allowed just one run in his final 30 innings in high Class A.|
Strengths: The 5-foot-10, 192-pounder doesn't look like he has a big arm, but Cueto throws a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96 mph. He does so with a relatively free and easy high three-quarters delivery, and he commands his heat to both sides of the plate. During spring training, former Reds ace Mario Soto taught Cueto a changeup that quickly became a major league average pitch with tailing life. He also throws a slider that overmatches hitters at times.
Weaknesses: Cueto's size doesn't lend itself to durability, but Cincinnati believes he'll be able to remain a starter. He has long arms that give him good leverage, so he doesn't wear himself out by throwing hard. He needs to get more consistent with his secondary pitches. While he likes to challenge hitters up in the zone, that won't work as well at higher levels.
The Future: His stuff would also play very well as a closer, but for now Cueto will remain a starter. He could open 2007 in Double-A at age 21.
|5.|| Drew Stubbs, of Born: Oct. 4, 1984 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 200|
| Drafted: Texas, 2006 (1st round) • Signed by: Brian Wilson|
|Background: A borderline first-round talent with questionable signability coming out high school in 2003, Stubbs was set to sign for $900,000 as a third-rounder until the commissioner's office talked Astros owner Drayton McLane out of the deal. Stubbs starred in three years at Texas, winning the 2005 College World Series and the 2006 Big 12 Conference co-player of the year award. He signed for $2 million after the Reds took him eighth overall in June. His younger brother Clint turned down a 49th-round offer from the Rangers to follow his brother's footsteps with the Longhorns.|
Strengths: Stubbs has evoked comparisons to Dale Murphy as a tall speedster with plus power, speed and Gold Glove ability in center field. He has light-tower power and is a 70 runner on the 20-to-80 scale, clocking in at 4.1 seconds from the right side of the plate to first base. He has an average arm.
Weaknesses: Since high school, there have been concerns that Stubbs' long swing would lead to strikeouts and extended slumps. He struggles at times to make contact, and a smart pitcher can take advantage of his difficulties with breaking balls. He was hobbled by turf toe in his pro debut but played through it and is healthy now.
The Future: Stubbs probably always will strike out a lot, but he could develop into a Mike Cameron/Torii Hunter type, which would more than satisfy the Reds. They'll be patient with him, which means he'll start 2007 at low Class A Dayton.
|6.||Travis Wood, lhp Born: Feb. 6, 1987 • B-T: R-L • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 165|
| Drafted: HS--Alexander, Ark., 2005 (2nd round) • Signed by: Mike Keenan|
|Background: Wood became a rare find as an Arkansas high school pitcher with some polish. The Reds were intrigued enough to draft him in 2005's second round and entice him from his college commitment to Arkansas with a $600,000 bonus. He dominated the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Pioneer leagues in his debut, then handled low Class A well as a teenager last year.|
Strengths: Wood boasts the system's top changeup, and it's one of the best in the minors. It's nearly impossible to discern that it's not a fastball coming out of his hand, and it has good sink right before it crosses the plate. He also has the confidence to throw it in any count, and his overall approach is extremely advanced for his age. He regularly topped out at 93-94 mph with his fastball as a high school senior and in his debut, though he pitched at 87-91 in 2006. He's a good athlete who repeats his delivery well and throws strikes.
Weaknesses: After two years of trying, Wood still is seeking a consistent curveball. There's some effort to his delivery and he doesn't have the biggest frame, so Cincinnati will have to watch him closely. He needs to add some strength, which could help him reclaim his former velocity.
The Future: The curve will be the key ingredient in Wood becoming a No. 3 or 4 starter. He'll focus on his breaking ball this year in high Class A.
|7.||Sean Watson, rhp Born: July 24, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 215|
| Drafted: Tennessee, 2006 (2nd round) • Signed by: Perry Smith|
|Background: Watson teamed with fellow Reds 2006 draftee on the U.S. national team that won the 2001 World Youth Championships in Mexico. At Tennessee, Watson began his career as a member of the weekend rotation but shifted to the closer's role as a sophomore. He and Todd Helton are the only Volunteers to record 10 saves in a season. A second-round pick in June, he signed for $670,000.|
Strengths: Watson has two plus offerings. He has a 92-93 mph fastball that touches 95, and he pairs it with an 82-85 mph knuckle-curve that's a true out pitch. It's a hard tumbler with tilt and depth. He goes after hitters with an aggressive approach that serves him well in a closer's role.
Weaknesses: Watson's mechanics are inconsistent, so his pitches are as well. He sometimes struggles to locate his fastball, which is why he got hammered in low Class A. He'll need to come up with a changeup if he's going to be a starter, and his slider needs improvement as well.
The Future: With two above-average pitches, a tough mindset and some effort to his delivery, Watson has strengths and weaknesses that seem to point him to a future in the bullpen. For now, however, the Reds will let him build up innings and refine his arsenal as a starter. He'll probably return to low Class A to open 2007.
|8.||Milton Loo, ss Born: April 2, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 185|
| Drafted: Yavapai (Ariz.) CC, D/F 2005 (9th round) • Signed by: Jeff Morris/Tom Wheeler|
|Background: The Reds had to draft Loo twice and wait for his Yavapai (Ariz.) CC team to finish up at the 2006 Junior College World Series before they could sign him as a draft-and-follow for $200,000. He hit three homers and stole home at the Juco World Series, where Yavapai finished second. He barely played after turning pro because of lingering elbow pain.|
Strengths: Loo is a tremendous athlete who flashes five-tool potential. He has good life in his bat, allowing him to hit for average and giving him power potential. He's also a plus runner with the actions, hands and arm strength to play almost anywhere on the diamond.
Weaknesses: Loo's biggest hurdle is proving that he can stay healthy. He was able to participate in instructional league, but he also missed time in 2005 with ankle and thumb injuries. While his swing and frame project power, he has yet to show he can drive the ball with a wood bat.
The Future: Though he eventually may move to third base or center field, the Reds want to keep Loo at shortstop for now. They also need to play 2006 third-rounder Chris Valaika at short, so they may push Valaika to Sarasota and put Loo at Dayton.
|9.||Paul Janish, ss Born: Oct. 12, 1982 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 180|
| Drafted: Rice, 2004 (5th round) • Signed by: Mike Powers|
|Background: A member of Rice's 2003 College World Series champions, Janish was just starting to get his bat going in pro ball in 2005 when he blew out his throwing elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He picked up where he left off when he returned last year, hitting .304 with 14 homers while reaching Double-A.|
Strengths: Janish is a major league caliber shortstop. His range and quickness are average but play up because he's an expert at positioning and has nearly flawless footwork, soft hands and a plus arm. He has made strides at the plate, learning to use the entire field and to drive the ball for occasional power. He always has controlled the strike zone well. He's a natural leader who inspires his teammates.
Weaknesses: Janish will go as far as his bat allows him. He may not do much more than make contact and likely always will be a bottom-of-the-order hitter, but that should be sufficient considering his defense.
The Future: Set to return to Double-A, where he finished 2006, Janish once again will need to prove that his bat can handle the jump to a higher level. The Reds need a long-term shortstop, and they suddenly have three candidates in Janish and 2006 signees Milton Loo and Chris Valaika.
|10.||Chris Valaika, ss Born: Aug. 14, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 195|
| Signed: UC Santa Barbara, 2006 (3rd round) • Signed by: Rex de la Nuez|
|Background: Valaika has extensive experience with USA Baseball, playing on national youth, junior and college teams. He was a Freshman All-American in 2004, but missed most of his sophomore season with a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his right knee. He had a brilliant pro debut after signing for $437,500 as a third-round pick, setting a Pioneer League record with a 32-game hitting streak and winning league MVP honors.|
Strengths: Valaika uses quick hands and a short stroke to spray liners to all fields. His bat was his calling card coming out of college, and he showed even more hitting ability than expected with a dominant debut. Some Pioneer League managers compared him to Bobby Crosby as an offensive shortstop. Valaika also has advanced pitch recognition and gap power. Defensively, he offers a strong arm and good hands.
Weaknesses: As with fellow UC Santa Barbara product Michael Young, there were questions about Valaika's position coming out of college. His below-average speed limits his range at shortstop, and one day he may end up sliding over to second base. The Reds are content to leave him at shortstop until he plays his way off the position.
The Future: Milton Loo needs to play shortstop in low Class A. Unless Cincinnati moves Valaika to another position, he'll probably skip a level. Based on his pro debut, his bat should be able to handle the jump to high Class A.
|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
Photo Credits: Bailey (Sports on Film)
Bruce, Cueto: Paul Gierhart
Votto, Wood, Janish: Steve Moore
Loo: Bill Mitchell