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

TThe Reds have been in rebuilding mode for a decade, even if they don't realize it.

Cincinnati hasn't finished with a winning record since 2000, though it's hard to pinpoint a time at which the club truly cashed in and planned for tomorrow. A fallow farm system in the first half of the decade made it almost impossible to build from within. Even now that the system has started to produce players, the Reds have continued to teeter in the no-man's land between being competitive and building for the future.

It was much the same story in 2009. On July 4, the Reds sat a game above .500 and two games out of first place in the National League Central. For a moment, it appeared the Reds would be a part of a pennant race for the first time since Barry Larkin was their shortstop.

But it was just a mirage. Edinson Volquez went down in early July with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Jay Bruce broke his wrist in the middle of the month, and Chris Dickerson was lost soon afterward with back spasms. The team quickly fell apart, going 8-19 in July to drop to 10 games out of first place.

Owner Bob Castellini wants to see a winner sooner than later, so instead of being sellers at the trade deadline, Cincinnati decided to buy. The Reds traded their top pitching prospect (Zach Stewart) and their best relief pitching prospect (Josh Roenicke) to upgrade from 26-year-old Edwin Encarnacion to 34-year-old Scott Rolen at third base. The move was intended to bring a veteran bat and leadership, but it required a steep price in prospects to bring in Rolen and get the Blue Jays to pay the remainder of his 2009 salary.

Predictably, the trade did nothing to turn around Cincinnati's season. The Reds finished 13 games behind the Cardinals, something they could have done without Rolen.

But more importantly, the addition of the veteran third baseman strained the team's already tight budget. Cincinnati has $59.25 million committed to seven players (including Rolen's $11 million) for 2010—even though the team was expected to cut up to $5 million from its $71 million payroll.

That means that there is little choice but to look to the farm system to fill several glaring holes.

While they weren't rebuilding, the Reds did try out 17 rookies in 2009 thanks to injuries and necessity. Veterans Ramon Hernandez and Willy Tavares were expensive busts, so Ryan Hanigan and Drew Stubbs had displaced them by season's end. Paul Janish and Adam Rosales got most of the playing time on the left side of the infield, with less success. Despite that, Janish headed into the offseason as the favorite to be the team's 2010 shortstop because of his steady glove.

The most important development was the apparent breakthrough of Homer Bailey, who ranked No. 1 on this list in 2005-07 but had trouble making the jump to the majors. He went 4-1, 2.08 over his final seven big league starts to secure a spot in the Reds' 2010 rotation.

With Bruce, Stubbs and Joey Votto forming the core of the lineup, and Bailey and Johnny Cueto headlining the pitching staff, Cincinnati has a good nucleus to build around. But with an owner and a fan base itching to move past a decade of losing and a surplus of prospects at already-occupied positions, the Reds seemed poised to dispense their prospects in trades to make a push in 2010 rather than build a long-term foundation from within.

1.  Todd Frazier, of/2b/3b   Born: Feb. 12, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 215
 Drafted: Rutgers, 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Lee Seras
Todd FrazierBackground: Frazier first stood out on the diamond when he starred for 1998 Little League World Series champion Toms River (N.J.), going 4-for-4 with a homer in the championship game. He was the third brother in his family to play pro ball, following Charlie (a former outfielder in the Marlins system) and Jeff (a Triple-A outfielder for the Tigers last season). After he set records for single-season (22) and career (47) home runs at Rutgers, the Reds drafted him 34th overall in 2007 and signed him for $875,000. As a pro, Frazier has played all four infield spots as well as left field. In 2009, he impressed the big league coaching staff in spring training, leading to a decision to make him an everyday left fielder and shore up a position that appeared thin in Cincinnati. The emergence of Chris Dickerson and Johnny Gomes eased those concerns, so Frazier moved to second base full-time at the end of July. David Bell, his manager at Double-A Carolina, said Frazier was more advanced than Bell's former teammate Jeff Kent was at the same point in his transition to second base

Strengths: Frazier's excellent strength and line-drive stroke combine to produce bushels of doubles, and he tied for third in the minors with 45 last season. Though he has a pronounced arm bar in his swing, he has had no problems hitting inside pitches because he's strong and his hands work well. His ability to make adjustments should allow him to hit for average with solid-average power in the major leagues. Frazier has average arm strength that plays up both in the infield and outfield thanks to his quick release and accuracy. He positions himself well and has a knack for reading balls off the bat. His speed and range are average. The Reds have been willing to move him around because he has excellent makeup and is receptive to coaching.

Weaknesses: Because he has changed positions so often, Frazier is a jack of all trades but a master of none. He doesn't have the range to be an everyday shortstop, though he makes plays on the balls he gets to. He's raw at second base, with problems turning double plays and playing around the bag. His doubles power doesn't fit the offensive profile for first base. His best position and destiny may be third base, but he has played just 18 games at the hot corner in his career, and only four in 2009 largely because he's been paired almost everywhere with third baseman Juan Francisco. The Reds believe he'll eventually be a solid defender wherever he winds up, but scouts from other clubs are reserving judgment.

The Future: The Reds were planning to send Frazier to Puerto Rico for winter ball to continue his development as a second baseman, although a minor knee injury will likely derail those plans. If he shows he can be even adequate defensively, his bat would make him a valuable regular there. He may be a better fit at third base, where he projects as a solid hitter and defender. With Scott Rolen's contract expiring after 2010 and Brandon Phillips locked up through 2011, Frazier's initial big league opportunity would seem to more likely come at third base or left field. He'll head to Triple-A Louisville in 2010 for some final polish.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Carolina (AA) .290 .350 .481 451 59 131 40 2 14 68 42 67 7
Louisville (AAA) .302 .362 .476 63 9 19 5 0 2 9 6 12 2
2.  Yonder Alonso, 1b   Born: April 8, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Drafted: Miami, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Tony Arias
yonder AlonsoBackground: With the No. 7 overall pick in the 2008 draft, the Reds narrowed their choices to Alonso and Gordon Beckham. They chose Alonso in part because they considered him easier to sign, then watched Beckham sign more quickly for less money. While Beckham reached the big leagues in 2009, Alonso was slowed by a broken hamate bone.

Strengths: Alonso is the purest hitter in the system and has above-average power. He has a good understanding of the strike zone, working counts in his favor to get a pitch he wants. He has a balanced swing that allows him to drive the ball to all fields.

Weaknesses: Alonso has struggled to hit lefthanders in college and pro ball. Some scouts think he should be more aggressive, as he sometimes lays off pitches he could drive. His well-below-average speed (35 on the 20-80 scouting scale) limits him to first base. Cincinnati has toyed with playing him at third base, but his limited range would be a liability.

The Future: The hamate injury sapped Alonso's power and slowed down his timetable, postponing a difficult decision. He plays the same position as Joey Votto, the Reds' best big league hitter, and Cincinnati will either have to move Votto to left field or trade one of them. Alonso likely will spend all or most of 2010 in the minors, but his bat could hasten his path.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Sarasota (Hi A) .303 .383 .497 175 21 53 13 0 7 38 24 30 0
Carolina (AA) .295 .372 .457 105 12 31 11 0 2 14 14 15 1
GCL Reds (R) .133 .278 .133 15 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 1 0
3.  Mike Leake, rhp   Born: Nov. 12, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 190
 Drafted: Arizona State, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Clark Crist
Mike LeakeBackground: Leake didn't receive the hype of No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, but he was just as dominant during the spring, going 16-1, 1.71 at Arizona State. Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy said Leake could have been the team's best defensive third baseman or shortstop. The eighth overall pick in June, Leake signed at the Aug. 17 deadline for $2.27 million.

Strengths: Leake's feel for pitching and command are outstanding. He keeps hitters off balance by throwing five pitches (fastball, cutter, slider, curveball and changeup) for strikes. He can run his fastball up to 94 mph, but it's more effective when he pitches at 88-92 with better run and sink. His changeup is deceptive, and his curve and slider are two distinct breaking pitches that play well off each other. He fields his position like an extra infielder on the mound.

Weaknesses: Generously listed at 6-foot-1 and with a mostly average fastball, Leake has little margin for error and a lower ceiling than his college dominance might indicate. Few pitchers can master a five-pitch arsenal, so it's possible he'll have to drop an offering or two as he moves through the minors. For now, Cincinnati will let him use his full repertoire.

The Future: The Reds drafted Leake in part because he fit in their budget, but also because he was one of the most advanced pitchers in the draft. He likely will begin his pro career in high Class A and could challenge for a big league spot by the end of the season.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
4.  Chris Heisey, of   Born: Dec. 14, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 190
 Drafted: Messiah (Pa.) 2006 (17th round)Signed by: Jeff Brookens
Chris HeiseyBackground: Until he tagged along with a friend to tryout camps before his junior year at Division III Messiah (Pa.), Heisey wasn't assured of a baseball career. Four years later, he was playing in the Futures Game, earning a midseason promotion to Triple-A and ranking among the minor league leaders in hits (162) and total bases (269).

Strengths: Heisey could be termed a "cheap five-tool player." None of his tools is overwhelming, but all of them are at least fringe-average. At the plate, he uses the entire field and makes his living driving the ball back up the middle. He shows solid bat speed and surprising power, nearly equaling his previous career total with 22 homers in 2009. He's an above-average runner with instincts that enhance his speed, and he is 53-for-58 stealing bases in the past two years. He has a slightly above-average arm and makes accurate throws. He's a plus defender on the outfield corners.

Weaknesses: In Triple-A, Heisey struggled initially when veterans spotted their breaking balls for strikes. Though he played mostly in center field last season, he's better defensively as a corner outfielder. He'll have to maintain his newfound power to be a regular on a corner.

The Future: If the Reds part ways with arbitration-eligible Johnny Gomes, Heisey could compete for a spot in a left-field platoon with Chris Dickerson.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Carolina (AA) .347 .426 .572 271 54 94 18 2 13 40 34 34 13
Louisville (AAA) .278 .323 .465 245 37 68 17 1 9 37 14 43 8
5.  Juan Francisco, 3b   Born: June 24, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004Signed by: Juan Peralta
Juan FranciscoBackground: Francisco gave the big league team a taste of his prodigious power in its preseason exhibition, crushing a Francisco Cordero fastball and clearing the visitor's clubhouse that sits beyond right field at Carolina's ballpark. Francisco has led the Reds system in home runs in each of the past two seasons.

Strengths: Francisco has plenty of strength and his hands work well at the plate. He can turn on most any fastball and his long arms not only generate excellent leverage, but they also let him reach pitches outside of the zone. He also has one of the strongest arms in the organization and has more athleticism than is readily apparent.

Weaknesses: Francisco still strikes out too much, though he has made more consistent contact the last two years. He has problems recognizing changeups and almost refuses to be walked. He showed improvement in his range at third base, but it's still below-average, as are his hands and speed.

The Future: Francisco's best position may be first base, but that position is blocked by Joey Votto and Yonder Alonso. Third base currently belongs to Scott Rolen, so Francisco will spend 2010 in Triple-A, and he may see more time in left field.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Louisville (AAA) .359 .384 .598 92 17 33 5 1 5 19 4 24 0
Cincinnati .429 .520 .619 21 4 9 1 0 1 7 3 7 0
6.  Yorman Rodriguez, cf   Born: Aug. 15, 1992B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 175
 Signed: Venezuela, 2008.Signed by: Tony Arias
Yorman RodriguezBackground: The Reds made their biggest splash in Latin America in years when they signed Rodriguez for a Venezuela-record $2.5 million in 2009. Though the plan was to let him make his debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Cincinnati felt comfortable promoting him when injuries left a void at Rookie-level Billings.

Strengths: Rodriguez is the system's best athlete. His arm and speed are plus tools, and he has excellent range and instincts in center field. He has the bat speed and frame to eventually hit for power.

Weaknesses: Because he's young and inexperienced, Rodriguez is raw in all phases of the game. At this point, there isn't a fastball, breaking ball or bowling ball that Rodriguez won't swing at. He struggles with pitch recognition and is often caught trying to pull pitches he should hit the other way. Though he's fast, his big swing slows him down coming out of the batter's box, so he doesn't get many infield hits. He must learn how to read pitchers to become a better basestealer. He needs to get a lot stronger, and there's room for another 50 pounds on his frame.

The Future: Rodriguez will play most of the 2010 season at 17, so another year at Billings isn't out of the question, but he'll head to spring training with a chance to earn a spot in low Class A Dayton. His ceiling is the highest among Reds farmhands, but he's a long way from fulfilling it.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Reds (R) .274 .347 .321 84 9 23 2 1 0 2 10 23 5
Billings (R) .219 .259 .344 183 21 40 10 2 3 17 9 61 5
7.  Travis Wood, lhp   Born: Feb. 6, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 165
 Drafted: HS—Alexander, Ark., 2005 (2nd round)Signed by: Mike Keenan
Travis WoodBackground: Wood lost some of his luster as he battled shoulder problems and lost velocity. After posting a 7.09 ERA in the Double-A Southern League in 2008, he returned last season to win the circuit's ERA title (1.21) and pitcher of the year award.

Strengths: Wood's dramatic turnaround resulted from improved health and his mastery of a cutter. His fastball regained its previous 88-91 mph velocity, making it easier to set up his plus-plus changeup with fade. Righthanders used to crowd the plate and look for pitches on the outer half, but Wood now can bust them inside with his cutter. He also improved his command this season, which is necessary for a pitcher with average stuff.

Weaknesses: When the Reds signed Wood, he ran is fastball up to 94 mph at times, but he has struggled to gain weight and strength to maintaing anywhere close to that velocity. Partly because of his thin frame, he has had durability problems. Scouts still wonder if he'll be more than a No. 5 starter because of his fringy velocity and his lack of a second plus pitch. His curveball is mediocre, so he doesn't project as a lefty specialist.

The Future: Wood will go into spring training with a chance to make Cincinnati's rotation. The Reds don't have an established lefty starter (though he'll be battling fellow prospect Matt Maloney), which helps his chances.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Carolina (AA) 9 3 1.21 19 19 1 0 119 78 2 37 103 .189
Louisville (AAA) 4 2 3.14 8 8 0 0 49 43 4 16 32 .240
8.  Matt Maloney, lhp/strong>   Born: Jan. 16, 1984B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 210
 Drafted: Mississippi, 2005 (3rd round)Signed by: Mike Stauffer (Phillies)
Background: A shoulder impingement in high school threatened Maloney's career. He ended up at Mississippi and blossomed into a third-round pick in 2005. Traded by the Phillies for Kyle Lohse in mid-2007, Maloney made his big league debut last June and earned his two major league victories in September.

Strengths: Though Maloney has piled up strikeouts throughout his career, he's not a power pitcher. He gets outs by locating and mixing his pitches: an 86-89 mph fastball that touches 91, a slow curveball, a slider and a changeup. Like several other Reds farmhands, he added a cut fastball in 2009. The cutter helped him reduce his ERA by 1.60 in his second full season in Triple-A.

Weaknesses: Lacking average velocity and a swing-and-miss pitch, Maloney has a slim margin for error. He threw strikes in the big leagues but saw that he can be hit hard when his command isn't there, giving up nine homers in 41 innings.

The Future: Maloney will head into spring training as a candidate for the back of the Reds' rotation. His ceiling isn't much higher than that, but his 50 Triple-A starts make him a relatively finished product and give him an edge over Travis Wood for 2010.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Cincinnati 2 4 4.87 7 7 0 0 41 43 9 8 28 .281
Carolina (AA) 0 0 1.29 1 1 0 0 7 3 1 2 5 .136
9.  Brad Boxberger, rhp   Born: May 27, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Drafted: Southern California, 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Rex de la Nuez
Background: Boxberger followed in his father Rod's footsteps by pitching at Southern California, for whom his dad was the College World Series MVP in 1978. He nearly emulated his dad as a first-round pick as well, going 43rd overall in the 2009 draft and signing at the Aug. 17 deadline for $857,000.

Strengths: Boxberger has the best fastball in the system. He sat at 91-93 mph as a starter and worked at 94-96 mph as a reliever in college. He has the makings of four pitches, with his slightly above-average slider his second-best offering. He also throws a spike curveball and is developing feel for a changeup.

Weaknesses: There's a lot of debate in scouting circles whether Boxberger profiles better in the rotation or bullpen. Like they did with since-traded Zach Stewart, the Reds will give him a chance to succeed as a starter. In that role, his velocity sometimes dips to 88-91 mph in later innings and he tends to battle his command. He hasn't proven yet that he can command his curve well enough to make pro hitters take it seriously.

The Future: If Boxberger moved to the pen, his fastball would pave the way for a quick trip to the big leagues. He'll need more work as a starter, but after getting his feet wet in the Arizona Fall League, Boxberger is polished enough to begin 2010 in high Class A.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
10.  Zack Cozart, ss   Born: Aug. 12, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 185
 Signed: Mississippi, 2007 (2nd round)Signed by: Jerry Flowers
Zack CozartBackground: Like Todd Frazier, Cozart was an All-America shortstop in college and a member of the 2006 U.S. college national team. Questions about his bat dropped Cozart to the second round of the 2007 draft, but he has eased those concerns by showing more pop than expected and improving his plate discipline.

Strengths: Cozart's defense remains his biggest asset. He has a quick first step, plus range, soft hands and average arm strength. He has worked hard to modify the all-or-nothing swing he had in college, and now uses the whole field and manages the strike zone better. His power should be close to average and is better than that of most shortstops. He's an average runner with the instincts to steal 15 bases annually in the majors.

Weaknesses: Despite his average arm and a quick release, Cozart doesn't get enough on his throws to make many highlight plays from deep in the hole. While he has improved his offensive profile, he's a career .265 hitter in pro ball and may never hit for a high average.

The Future: Cincinnati needs a shortstop for 2010, but Cozart isn't refined enough at the plate to skip Triple-A and take the job. He's more likely to start the year at Louisville and could push for a midseason callup. He has a limited window of time to earn the big league starting job because the lower levels of the system are filled with shortstops.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Carolina (AA) .262 .360 .398 462 72 121 29 2 10 59 63 87 10

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Photo Credits: Sports On Film (Frazier)
Nikolaus Johnson, Carolina Mudcats (Alonso, Heisey, Wood, Cozart)