Cincinnati Reds: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Cincinnati Reds: Scouting Reports




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after 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 April 1, 2009.

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Cincinnati Reds

The minute Walt Jocketty was added as a special adviser to Reds president and CEO Bob Castellini in early 2008, the running assumption was that the former Cardinals general manager eventually would take over the same job in Cincinnati.

What was surprising was how quickly that happened.

Just 21 games into the season, Castellini pulled the trigger, firing Wayne Krivsky and turning the franchise over to Jocketty, who had won six division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series title in St. Louis. Krivsky could argue that he got dumped just when some of his handiwork was starting to pay off.

The Reds were a disappointing 9-12, but rookie Johnny Cueto had turned in three quality starts in four outings, an auspicious beginning for a team that had spent nearly a decade trying to produce a homegrown starting pitcher. Edinson Volquez, acquired by Krivsky in an offseason trade for Josh Hamilton, had allowed three runs in four starts. He finished the season with a 3.21 ERA—the best by a Cincinnati starter since Elmer Dessens in 2002. Joey Votto had taken over at first base and Jay Bruce could have done the same in right field but had to wait until late May for a callup.

The Reds finished the year at 74-88, a two-win improvement over 2007 but their eighth consecutive losing season and their 13th straight without reaching the playoffs. Jocketty traded away pending free agents Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr., who had been the cornerstones of the team for much of the decade. The youth movement continued with center fielder Chris Dickerson and catcher Ryan Hanigan making cases for everyday jobs by playing regularly and playing well down the stretch.

For a club that spent the early part of the decade getting little or no help from the farm, it was an encouraging sign. Partly in recognition of the system's success, Jocketty retained Krivsky's farm director, Terry Reynolds, and scouting director, Chris Buckley.

Cincinnati is in limbo as it prepares for 2009. On one hand, the development of Bruce, Cueto, Volquez and Votto gives the Reds a solid young nucleus to build around. But on the other hand, their offense ranked 12th and their pitching staff 13th in the National League last year.

Any significant improvements will have to come from within than from player acquisitions, as they're unlikely to make a big splash like Krivsky did the previous offseason when he signed Francisco Cordero to a $46 million contract.

One thing that would help is if righthander Homer Bailey made good on his potential. The seventh overall pick in 2004 has been bombed in five big league stints over the past two years, and his stuff, command and confidence all went backward last season. The Reds reportedly have shopped him to other clubs, something that would have been unthinkable a year ago.

The farm system won't be able to produce as much quality in 2009 as it did last year, when Bruce, Bailey, Votto and Cueto graduated to the majors from the first four spots on this list. But their Triple-A Louisville and Double-A Carolina affiliates should be stocked with potential big league contributors, giving the Reds improved depth if injuries crop up during the season.

1.  Yonder Alonso, 1b   Born: April 8, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Drafted: Miami, 2008(1st round)Signed by: Tony Arias
Yonder AlonsoBackground: Alonso's father Luis played and coached for the Havana Industriales of Cuba's Serie Nacional. When Luis brought his family to the United States in 1995, it was baseball that helped Alonso learn English as he played in pickup games with friends around the neighborhood. He established himself as a prospect as a four-year starter at Coral Gables (Fla.) High, the same school that produced Mike Lowell. A 16th-round pick of the Twins out of high school, Alonso opted to head to Miami instead. He showed his ability to hit with wood bats by batting .338 with a 468 on-base percentage in the Cape Cod League in 2007. He followed up by finishing second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in homers (24), slugging percentage (.777) and OPS (1.311) as a junior, trailing only College Player of the Year Buster Posey. The Reds drafted Alonso seventh overall in June and the negotiations went down to the wire. He wanted a $7 million bonus, and friend Alex Rodriguez offered to let him stay in A-Rod's New York apartment while playing independent ball to prepare for the 2009 draft. In the end, Alonso agreed to a five-year, $4.55 million big league contact that included a $2 million bonus. He made a brief cameo in the high Class A Florida State League before heading to Hawaii Winter Baseball for his first extensive pro experience. He batted .308/.419/.510 with the Waikiki Beach Boys to earn HWB all-star honors.

Strengths: Alonso is the rare hitter who has both plus power and the swing and pitch awareness to hit for a high average as well. He has good balance and a loose, short stroke that allows him to drive the ball to all fields. His best power is to the alleys, which fits perfectly with Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark. Unlike most sluggers, Alonso is allergic to strikeouts. He drew 172 walks while fanning just 103 times in his college career. The Reds also are excited by his workaholic makeup.

Weaknesses: Offensively, Alonso has yet to prove that he can recognize and hit a quality breaking ball, though Cincinnati thinks he'll be able to do just that. The bigger question is how the Reds eventually will fit him and Joey Votto into the same lineup. They had flirted with the idea of letting Alonso play some third base, his high school position, but they have decided to leave him at first. He's a below-average athlete and runner whose range lack of range would have made him a liability at the hot corner. He's no Gold Glover at first base either, though his soft hands and adequate arm should allow him to develop into at least an average defender.

The Future: Though Cincinnati already had Votto established at first base, Alonso's polished bat, and especially his patience at the plate, was too good to pass up. He was one of the most big league-ready hitters in the 2008 draft and could start 2009 at the Reds' new Double-A Carolina affiliate. Because he's already on the 40-man roster, it's not inconceivable that he'll play in the majors by September. He could battle for an everyday job in Cincinnati in 2010, with Votto possibly moving to left field.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Sarasota (HiA)
.316
.440
.368
19
1
6
1
0
0
2
5
5
0
 
2.  Todd Frazier, 1b/ss/3b   Born: Feb. 12, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215.
 Drafted: Rutgers, 2007 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Jeff Brookens.
Todd FrazierBackground: The third brother in his family to get drafted, Frazier first hit the national stage when he led Toms River, N.J., to the 1998 Little League World Series title. Frazier played four positions and hit well at two Class A stops in his first full season.

Strengths: Frazier has above-average raw power and translates it well into games. While he has an unconventional swing, he clearly understands it and knows how to make adjustments. Since turning pro, he has learned to quicken his stride, enabling him to get his left foot down quicker and handle fastballs that previously gave him trouble. Though his future defensive home remains in doubt, his soft hands and strong arm should fit at third base and he has looked solid in limited time in left field. He has average speed and is a good athlete for his size.

Weaknesses: Frazier's extends his front arm early in his swing, and though he has shortened the arm bar as a pro, it still leads some scouts to wonder if he'll be able to handle inside fastballs in the big leagues. His range is substandard at shortstop, and his versatility has meant that he's competent at many positions but a master of none.

The Future: Frazier likely will begin at Double-A and could get his first big league time late in 2009. He profiles best at third base but the Reds have more holes in the outfield.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Dayton (LoA)
.321
.402
.598
112
25
36
10
0
7
20
15
28
4
Sarasota (HiA)
.281
.357
.451
366
62
103
20
3
12
54
41
84
8
 
3.  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.
Drew StubbsBackground: When the Reds signed Stubbs for $2 million as the eighth overall pick in 2006, they knew he was a stellar athlete but would need some time to adjust to pro ball. Things started to click for him last season, when he regained his speed after having surgery for a turf-toe injury.

Strengths: Stubbs has excellent bat speed, above-average raw power, a plus arm and plus-plus speed that allows him to steal bases and run down everything in center field. He made significant strides at the plate by widening his stance, cutting down his swing a little bit and improving his already solid selectivity. His home run production diminished as a result, but scouts believe it was a wise tradeoff, as his power will re-emerge as he continues to make solid contact.

Weaknesses: The biggest concern with Stubbs always has been strikeouts, and he probably never will hit for a high average. He could help his cause if he were a better bunter, but he hasn't mastered the skill. While he's very good in the outfield, he seems uncomfortable going back to the wall on balls.

The Future: The Reds have an opening in center field that Stubbs may be able to fill in the second half of the season. First, he'll head to Triple-A for some final tuneups.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Sarasota (HiA)
.261
.366
.406
303
49
79
21
4
5
38
50
82
27
Chattanooga (AA)
.315
.400
.402
92
12
29
8
0
0
9
11
21
3
Louisville (AAA)
.293
.354
.480
75
14
22
4
2
2
10
6
20
3
 
4.  Chris Valaika, ss   Born: Aug. 14, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: UC Santa Barbara, 2006 (3rd round). Signed by: Rex de la Nuez.
Chris ValaikaBackground: Valaika broke into pro ball by fashioning a 32-game hitting streak and winning the MVP award in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, and he hasn't stopped hitting.

Strengths: The Reds love Vailaika's instincts and his desire to outwork everyone else, which help explain why he's an above-average hitter despite tools that don't blow scouts away. His swing is easily maintainable and he's comfortable hitting to the opposite field. He has a tick above-average bat speed, which should allow him to slug 15 homers annually in the big leagues. He's an average runner. Valaika continues to survive at shortstop and has the bat to profile at second base.

Weaknesses: Valaika doesn't have the quick feet clubs want in a shortstop, though his quick release and strong arm do help make up for his lack of range. His aggressiveness leads to strikeouts. His swing isn't picture-perfect, as he sometimes drops his shoulder and collapses on his backside.

The Future: Valaika has exceeded expectations and has proven he can be a solid-hitting regular in the middle infield. Second base seems like his best fit, but that's occupied by Brandon Phillips. Cincinnati has a greater need at shortstop, and Valaika might get the chance to fill it by the end of 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Sarasota (HiA)
.363
.393
.585
135
20
49
9
0
7
31
7
28
2
Chattanooga (AA)
.301
.352
.443
379
58
114
19
1
11
50
28
74
7
 
5.  Yorman Rodriguez, of   Born: August 15, 1992. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 185.
 Signed: Venezuela, 2008. Signed by: Tony Arias.
Yorman RodriguezBackground: The Reds scouted Rodriguez for three years before signing him in August for $2.7 million, the largest bonus ever for a Venezuelan prospect. He signed too late to play last season, so his first pro experience came in instructional league. In Rodriguez and Dominican outfielder Juan Duran, Cincinnati believes it got the equivalent of two extra first-round picks in 2008.

Strengths: No one doubts Rodriguez's athleticism. He projects to hit for above-average power, already has gained 10 pounds during his short time in the United States and should continue to get stronger as he matures. He has plus-plus speed and uses it well in center field, where he's an above-average defender. He showed off the best outfield arm in the system during instructional league.

Weaknesses: Multiple scouts from other teams say that Rodriguez is helpless against breaking balls right now because he gets caught lunging for the ball instead of staying back and trusting his hands. He also has next to no experience against pro-caliber pitching, so his bat could take time to develop.

The Future: Rodriguez didn't look lost against older pitchers in instructional league, but Cincinnati sees no reason not to start him off slowly. He'll open the 2009 season in extended spring training before seeing his first game action in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did not play—Signed 2009 contract
 
6.  Kyle Lotzkar, rhp   Born: Oct. 24, 1989. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200.
 Drafted: HS—Delta, B.C., 2007 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Bill Bychowski.
Kyle LotzkarBackground: Lotzkar set the stage for going 53rd overall in the 2007 draft when he touched 96 mph with Team Canada in the World Junior Championships the previous fall. His 2008 season ended when he came down with a small stress fracture in his elbow in August. However, he was back throwing on the side a month later and showed no ill effects when he participated in instructional league.

Strengths: Before he got hurt, Lotzkar had confirmed his status as the Reds' most promising young pitcher. He has the potential to have three above-average major league pitches. His fastball sits at 91-93 mph with excellent life, and his free and easy delivery allows it to jump on hitters. Unlike many young pitchers, he trusts his secondary pitches, a power curveball that gets strikeouts and a changeup.

Weaknesses: Health is the biggest concern with Lotzkar, who also was held back in extended spring training until June because he had a sore neck. His control and command need refinement, and his curveball and changeup lack consistency.

The Future: If he can stay healthy and add polish, Lotzkar could end up becoming a No. 2 starter. At age 19, he'll still be on track if he returns to low Class A Dayton in 2009 and pitches a full season.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Dayton (LoA)
2
3
3.58
10
10
0
0
37.2
29
2
24
50
.215
 
7.  Neftali Soto, 3b   Born: Feb. 28, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: HS—Manati, P.R., 2007 (3rd round). Signed by: Tony Arias.
Neftali SotoBackground: Soto was supposed to spend 2008, his first full pro season, at Rookie-level Billings. But when Dayton third baseman Brandon Waring fractured his thumb in early July, Soto moved up to low Class A and never left. His .500 slugging percentage would have ranked second in the Midwest League if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

Strengths: Soto broke Juan Gonzalez's youth home run records in Puerto Rico. His raw strength and bat speed give him 60-65 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. Though he has a long, vicious swing, he has hit for average and made contact thanks to his excellent hand-eye coordination. He has a strong arm at third base.

Weaknesses: Soto's speed is well below average and his athleticism isn't much better. He moved from shortstop to third base last year, and he may need a less challenging position in the future. He struggles to charge bunts and slow rollers, his range is limited, his footwork is rough and his throws sometimes lack accuracy. He has a solid gameplan at the plate but needs to show he can take a walk when pitchers work around him.

The Future: Soto was held back in Billings because of the Reds' logjam at third base, which also could mean that he starts 2009 back in low Class A. His bat is ready for a bigger challenge, but Cincinnati wants to keep him at the hot corner as long as possible.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Billings (R)
.388
.423
.746
67
12
26
10
1
4
11
4
10
1
Dayton (LoA)
.326
.343
.500
218
26
71
15
1
7
36
7
36
1
 
8.  Juan Francisco, 3b   Born: June 24, 1987. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004. Signed by: Juan Peralta.
Juan FranciscoBackground: Johnny Cueto's emergence was the Reds' first significant Latin American success story since Mario Soto starred in the early 1980s. Next in line is Francisco, who led the Midwest League with 25 homers in 2007 and Cincinnati farmhands with 23 in 2008. He appeared in the Futures Game last year, wowing observers with his power.

Strengths: Francisco's game is all about power, and he can drive the ball out of any part of any park. He has a quick bat and his long arms give him tremendous leverage. He also owns a strong arm that rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Though he's expected to outgrow third base, he does have a solid first step and decent speed.

Weaknesses: Francisco has a long stroke that isn't conducive to consistent contact. His plate discipline is poor and he gives away too many at-bats by being overly aggressive. Scouts are worried that he could grow to Dmitri Young proportions if he doesn't stay on top of his conditioning. His range already is below average at third base, and he'll probably wind up at first base rather than the outfield.

The Future: The Reds eventually will have to sort through all their third-base candidates, but for now, Francisco appears headed to Double-A to man the hot corner. They're worried less about his defense and more with him learning to lay off pitches out of the strike zone.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Sarasota (HiA)
.277
.303
.496
516
71
143
34
5
23
92
19
123
1
 
9.  Juan Duran, of   Born: Sept. 2, 1991. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 190.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007. Signed by: Tony Arias.
Juan DuranBackground: The Reds exploited a loophole to sign Duran before other teams realized he was eligible. He didn't reach the minimum age of 16 until two days after the international signing period ended in 2007, but Cincinnati assistant GM Bob Miller knew rules permitted a player to sign if he'd turn 17 before the end of his first season. The Reds landed Duran in February for $2 million and assigned him to the Pioneer League, where the season ended Sept. 5.

Strengths: Duran already has the best raw power in the system. His swing has natural loft and the ball carries off his bat to all fields. His massive frame has room for another 40-50 pounds of strength. He has a balanced approach and a fluid swing. He has plus speed, though he'll slow down as he fills out. That likely will mean he'll move from center field to right, and he has the arm for the latter position.

Weaknesses: Duran grew six inches in the span of a year, and he's still getting adjusted to his newfound height. He's more gawky than fluid at this point and sometimes looks awkward on the bases and in the outfield. He has a balky elbow, possibly related to his growth spurt.

The Future: Duran's rough performance in the DSL shows that he's still raw and needs time to develop. He's still just 17 and will be well ahead of the development curve in the Gulf Coast League this summer.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
DSL Reds (R)
.215
.340
.319
135
15
29
3
4
1
14
24
47
8
 
10.  Devin Mesoraco, c   Born: June 19, 1988. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200.
Drafted: HS—Punxsutawney, Pa., 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Lee Seras.
Devin MesoracoBackground: Mesoraco blew out his elbow pitching as a sophomore in high school, but recovered from Tommy John surgery to become a first-round pick. The first backstop drafted in the first round by the Reds since Dan Wilson in 1990, he signed for $1.4 million. Injuries to his thumbs have nagged him in pro ball, the result of diving headfirst into bases.

Strengths: Mesoraco has outstanding tools for a catcher. He has natural strength and a strong arm, and he's a better runner and athlete than most backstops. Once his thumbs healed, he was Cincinnati's best player in instructional league. The Reds believe his desire to succeed will help him work through the adjustments he has to make.

Weaknesses: Several scouts said that Mesoraco was one of the more disappointing players in the Midwest League last year. They felt he had gained some bad weight and showed bad body language on the field. He has yet to produce much at the plate and his bat seemed to slow as the season went along, though his thumb injuries contributed. He got too mechanical in his throwing and erased just 17 percent of basestealers.

The Future: Mesoraco might benefit from repeating low Class A. He's young enough that it wouldn't put his development behind, and catchers generally have a slower path to the majors anyway.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Dayton (LoA)
.261
.311
.399
306
29
80
13
1
9
42
20
64
2

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits: David Stoner (Alonso)
Brian Bissell (Rodriguez, Duran)