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Reds Top 10 Prospects

By Josh Boyd
February 12, 2003

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Prospect Handbook
Does 10 prospects per team only whet your appetite? How does 30 sound? If you want the more of in-depth information you're finding here on three times as many players, Baseball America's 2003 Prospect Handbook is for you.

Three years ago, the Reds acquired one of the game’s best and most recognizable superstars. Over the last two seasons, they’ve added two of baseball’s brightest young prospects to their outfield. In 2003, they’ll move into Great American Ball Park. So why aren’t things rosy in Cincinnati?

While revenue will increase, ownership isn’t planning to put much of that money into an already tight payroll. Jim Bowden still has to look for creative ways to field a contender. The Reds’ budget constraints have reduced him to combing the bargain basement for reclamation projects. Cincinnati’s efforts have yielded quality starters like 15-game winner Jimmy Haynes and Elmer Dessens, who pitched well before pricing himself out of Cincinnati. Bowden dealt him to the Diamondbacks in a four-team deal that netted Felipe Lopez, Barry Larkin’s eventual replacement at shortstop.

Last year, with the Reds within reach of their first division title since 1995, Bowden was thwarted by ownership in his attempts to acquire pitching reinforcements. He got Ryan Dempster but wasn’t allowed to add the salary of Chuck Finley or Scott Rolen. Bowden settled for Shawn Estes and Brian Moehler as Cincinnati fell by the wayside.

Now more than ever, the Reds need to rely on their farm system to supply major leaguers at low cost. It has already delivered Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns, products of a terrific 1998 draft, to flank Ken Griffey in the outfield. The team is counting on third baseman Brandon Larson, a 1997 first-rounder, to pay dividends in 2003.

While the lineup looks promising, pitching is another issue. Dessens’ departure weakens an already shaky rotation. Luke Hudson isn’t far away from helping the bullpen, but the Reds may rush Bobby Basham, Dustin Moseley, Ty Howington and Ricardo Aramboles out of necessity.

A political atmosphere in the front office led to the exodus of several executives. Director of pro scouting Gary Hughes, one of the game’s best judges of talent, took a similar job with the Cubs. Doc Rodgers, who had been reassigned from assistant GM to special assistant, became Baltimore’s farm director. Kasey McKeon, who had been bumped down from scouting director to major league scout, joined the Rockies as a special assistant. DeJon Watson, who preceded McKeon as scouting director and selected both Dunn and Kearns before being demoted to big league scout, joined the Indians as director of pro scouting.

Top Prospects
Of The Past Decade

1993 Willie Greene, 3b
1994 Pokey Reese, ss
1995 Pokey Reese, ss
1996 Pokey Reese, ss
1997 Aaron Boone, 3b
1998 Damian Jackson, ss/2b
1999 Rob Bell, rhp
2000 Gookie Dawkins, ss/2b
2001 Austin Kearns, of
2002 Austin Kearns, of

Prospect Archives

1999 Top 10 Prospects
2000 Top 10 Prospects
2001 Top 10 Prospects
2002 Top 10 Prospects
• Top 10 Prospects Since 1983
• Top Prospects for all 30 teams
1. Chris Gruler, rhp

Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS–Brentwood, Calif., 2002 (1st round). Signed by: Butch Baccala.

Background: The Reds were split on which high school pitcher to draft with the third overall pick in 2002: Gruler or Scott Kazmir. The consensus was that Kazmir had a higher ceiling, but his price tag was considered much higher as well. Gruler, who got a club-record $2.5 million bonus, wasn’t purely a signability pick, though. After his predraft workout, Johnny Bench said Gruler’s breaking ball and changeup were better than Tom Seaver’s. Gruler’s stock soared leading up to the draft as his velocity increased from the upper 80s to the mid-90s. With nine Reds scouts on hand for his final prep start, he hit 95 mph in the seventh inning. Upon reporting to Rookie-level Billings, Gruler was shut down after his first start as a precaution. He threw pain-free for the rest of the season, highlighted by six no-hit innings in the low Class A Midwest League. But his shoulder was sore during instructional league and doctors discovered fraying in his rotator cuff. Instead of having surgery, Gruler was ordered not to throw for two months and concentrated on rebuilding his shoulder strength.

Strengths: Gruler has two plus pitches to go with a clean and effortless delivery. His fastball explodes out of his hand and he pumped 89-94 mph fastballs with boring action in on righties. He snaps off nasty curveballs from the same arm slot, generating hard downward bite through the zone. While he toyed with a splitter in high school, Gruler shelved it in favor of a changeup, which has the makings of a reliable pitch. He has been a sponge since signing, soaking up knowledge from veteran pitching instructor Sammy Ellis and video work.

Weaknesses: The biggest hurdle for Gruler is his rotator-cuff injury. The fear is that while he has avoided surgery for now, six months of rehab won’t repair the fraying and an operation is inevitable. He needs to hone the command of his fastball and continue to develop his changeup.

The Future: Gruler’s shoulder ailment could keep him out of action until May, and the Reds will monitor him closely. Provided he returns at full strength, he’ll return to low Class A Dayton after a stint in extended spring training. He should move fast if he’s healthy.

2002 Club (Class)














Billings (R)














Dayton (A)














Click here for prospects 2-10.

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