Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

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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, 2011.

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Cincinnati Reds

The future finally arrived.

After nine years of losing records, the youth movement that had been building in Cincinnati paid off in 2010. Despite an Opening Day payroll of $71.8 million that put them near the bottom of baseball's middle class, the Reds returned to the playoffs by winning the National League Central. The Phillies swept them in the Division Series, but simply making the postseason was an accomplishment for a team that has made only three playoff trips since 1980.

Like the rest of baseball's middle class, Cincinnati's hopes rest on its ability to develop homegrown talent. Before the 2007 season, Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Drew Stubbs and Travis Wood occupied the first six spots on our Reds' prospect list. In 2010, Votto became the NL MVP; Bailey, Cueto and Wood all pitched in the major league rotation; and Bruce and Stubbs formed two-thirds of the starting outfield as the Reds won 91 games.

Now Cincinnati has to prove it can build on success. The team appears to be built to remain in playoff contention, and it goes into 2011 with a surplus of starting pitching, a lineup relatively set at six positions and plenty of candidates for the other two spots.

They Reds also will head into the upcoming season with Aroldis Chapman poised as top rookie-of-the-year candidate, either as the hardest-throwing reliever in baseball or as a fireballing starter. Signed to a $30.25 million contract, the Cuban defector took the baseball world by storm when he made his major league debut last August. In September, he threw the fastest pitch ever recorded, at 105.1 mph.

Behind its stars, Cincinnati also has developed solid depth. Its Triple-A Louisville affiliate, for example, fielded solid prospects at most every position by the end of 2010. The newfound pitching depth is especially good news for an organization that went more than a decade without developing a reliable starter. The Reds got 97 starts from homegrown pitchers in 2010, and four of them—Bailey, Cueto, Wood and Mike Leake—were 24 or younger.

Cincinnati further added to its stock of prospects with a solid 2010 draft in which it was more aggressive than usual. The Reds gave catcher Yasmani Grandal, their first-round pick, a major league contract worth $3.2 million and also went over slot to sign high schoolers Drew Cisco and Kyle Waldrop.

At the minor league level, not all the news was good. When the Myrtle Beach Pelicans swapped their high Class A affiliation from the Braves to the Rangers, it led Lynchburg to shift from the Reds to the Braves. With no other options, Cincinnati was left with Bakersfield in the California League. Many teams try to avoid the Cal League because it's a difficult one for pitchers, and Eastern teams in particular prefer to be closer to their affiliates.

The Bakersfield situation is particularly bad. The stadium is considered by many to be the worst in the minors and doesn't meet Minor League Baseball's facility standards. Several Cal League managers have called the park's infield unfit for professional baseball, and league officials have said publicly that they're trying to get the team moved elsewhere.

1.  Aroldis Chapman, lhp   Born: February 28, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 185
 Signed: Cuba, 2010Signed by: Chris Buckley/Tony Arias/Miguel Machado
Aroldis ChapmanBackground: When Chapman was in Cuba, his talented left arm was coveted by major league scouts, even if he was off limits and never exhibited much consistency. He first tried to defect in 2008 but got caught and was left off Cuba's Olympic team as punishment. He rejoined the national team for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, where he sat in the mid-90s and touched 100 mph with his fastball. Chapman bolted from the team at the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands that July and became a free agent after establishing residency in Andorra. He signed with the Reds last January, received a six-year, $30.25 million major league contract that included a $16.25 million bonus. Chapman's adjustment to the United States wasn't always easy. He had to get used to a new culture and deal with the daily grind of pro ball. He was surprised to learn that MLB organizations practiced every day, and he never had done any video work. After spending his first two months at Triple-A Louisville as a starter, he took off after moving to the bullpen in mid-June. Cincinnati called him up in August, and he made history on Sept. 24 by throwing the fastest recorded fastball in big league history at 105.1 mph. He took the loss in Game Two of the Division Series when the Phillies roughed him up for three unearned runs in the seventh inning.

Scouting Report: Any discussion about Chapman begins with his fastball. It's a freak of nature, arguably the hottest heater ever seen. The 20-80 scouting scale fails to fully encapsulate the pitch, because at its best it's 7-8 mph harder than an 80 fastball. He sits at 99-100 mph and touches 103-105 as a reliever. Even as a starter, he can work at 95-96 mph and get to 101. Hitters can't try to sit on his fastball because Chapman has a plus-plus slider, a mid-80s dart with sharp break. He also throws a below-average changeup with too much velocity, though that pitch became less important when he moved out of the rotation. His fastball and slider are good enough to get both lefthanders and righthanders out. Chapman is a premium athlete, but he struggled with his tempo and with repeating his delivery as a starter. He likely never will have plus command, partly because his fastball has so much life at times that it runs out of the strike zone, though more consistent mechanics would help. He didn't have much of a grasp of the nuances of pitching—fielding his position, covering first base, holding runners—but improved over the course of the season.

The Future: The big question is whether Chapman will be a starter of reliever. Reds GM Walt Jocketty already has stated publicly that Chapman won't return to the minor leagues, making it more likely that he'll be a bullpen weapon. Cincinnati has a multitude of rotation candidates, and barring a massive step forward in spring training, he would need to add more polish before he could succeed as a big league starter. The needs of a contender often trump developmental concerns, and Chapman could supplant Francisco Cordero as the Reds' closer before the all-star break.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Louisville (AAA) 9 6 3.57 39 13 1 8 96 77 7 52 125 .218
Cincinnati 2 2 2.03 15 0 0 0 13 9 0 5 19 .196
2.  Billy Hamilton, ss/2b   Born: Sept. 9, 1990B-T: B-RHt: 6-1Wt: 160
 Drafted: HS—Taylorsville, Miss., 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Tyler Jennings
Billy HamiltonBackground: Hamilton's hometown of Taylorsville, Miss., has produced four NFL players despite a population of less than 2000, but he's the town's first-ever baseball draftee. He was headed to Mississippi State as a wide receiver until the Reds signed him for $623,000 as a second-rounder in 2009. He led the Rookie-level Pioneer League with 48 steals and rated as the circuit's top prospect last summer.

Scouting Report: Hamilton's speed ranks among the best in the minors. A switch-hitter, he has been timed in 3.9 seconds to first base on a swing from the right side, and in 3.5 seconds on a bunt from the left. Like Ichiro Suzuki, he'll run into his swing, slapping the ball the other way while racing down the line. He's already a dangerous basestealer, reading pitchers well and getting good jumps. Hamilton has well below-average power, but his speed allows him to accumulate doubles and triples. He has solid strike-zone awareness for his age. His quickness gives him plenty of range for either middle-infield position, but his average arm strength and low arm slots have some scouts questioning whether he throws well enough at shortstop. He spent most of his time in 2010 playing second base.

The Future: Hamilton again will play mostly second base when he heads to low Class A Dayton in 2011. He could be the leadoff hitter Cincinnati has sought for years.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Billings (R) .318 .383 .456 283 61 90 13 10 2 24 28 56 48
3.  Devin Mesoraco, c   Born: June 19, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 220
 Drafted: HS—Punxsutawney, Pa., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Jeff Brookens
Devin MesoracoBackground: When the Reds made Mesoraco the 15th overall pick in the 2007 draft and signed him for $1.4 million, they thought he'd be a power-hitting catcher. They just didn't know it would take this long. After slugging a combined .368 while battling wrist and finger injuries in his first three years as a pro, he broke out in 2010 by batting .302/.377/.587 while climbing from high Class A Lynchburg to Louisville.

Scouting Report: Mesoraco's swing has some uppercut to it, but he has a good load and hits from a strong base. Add in his bat speed and hand-eye coordination, and he should hit for a solid average to go with his plus power. He's athletic for a catcher and has average speed. Reviews of Mesoraco's performance behind the plate are mixed. He has a strong arm with consistent 1.95-2.0 second pop times, and he threw out 41 percent of basestealers last year. But he struggles at times to handle velocity cleanly, a noticeable problem late last season after he hurt his left index finger. He allowed 10 passed balls in 18 Arizona Fall League games.

The Future: Mesoraco ranks ahead of 2010 first-rounder Yasmani Grandal both athletically and developmentally. Ticketed for Triple-A this season, Mesoraco could take over in Cincinnati before long if he can stay healthy.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lynchburg (Hi A) .335 .414 .620 158 24 53 11 2 10 31 19 29 2
Carolina (AA) .294 .363 .594 187 42 55 11 3 13 31 18 37 1
Louisville (AAA) .231 .310 .462 52 5 12 3 0 3 13 6 14 0
4.  Yonder Alonso, 1b   Born: April 8, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Drafted: Miami, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Tony Arias
Yonder AlonsoBackground: The seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft, Alonso proved to be much more difficult to sign then expected, holding out until the Aug. 15 deadline for a $4.55 million major league contract. His bat has been as good as advertised, though he slumped early in 2010 while getting over his disappointment of starting the season at Double-A Carolina. He responded to a Triple-A promotion by hitting .335/.415/.561 in the second half to earn his first big league callup.

Scouting Report: Alonso's approach impresses scouts. He uses the entire field and has a good feel for the strike zone. He struggled early last season when fed steady diet of offspeed pitches away, but he adapted. He also made good adjustments against lefthanders. He shows the potential to hit for average with plus power and on-base ability. With National League MVP Joey Votto at first base in the majors, Cincinnati has tried and failed to find Alonso another position. A spring-training trial at third base quickly proved futile, and his well below-average speed makes him a liability in left field. He's adequate at first base and has some arm strength.

The Future: If Votto gets hurt, Alonso is ready to step in and play first base. Otherwise, he doesn't have a spot in Cincinnati. He'll head back to Triple-A for a third time to start the 2011 season.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Carolina (AA) .267 .388 .406 101 19 27 5 0 3 13 19 16 4
Louisville (AAA) .296 .355 .470 406 50 120 31 2 12 56 37 76 9
Cincinnati .207 .207 .276 29 2 6 2 0 0 3 0 10 0
5.  Yorman Rodriguez, of   Born: Aug. 15, 1992B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Drafted: Venezuela, 2008Signed by: Tony Arias
Yorman RodriguezBackground: Rodriguez signed for $2.5 million in 2008, setting a since-broken record for a Venezuelan amateur bonus and paving the way for a significant influx of Latin talent in the system. He has one of the highest upsides among Reds farmhands, and though he repeated Billings in 2010, he was still the Pioneer League's youngest regular at age 17.

Scouting Report: Rodriguez showed a more mature approach in his second stint at Billings. He did a better job of using the whole field and made more consistent contact. He still has a ways to go at recognizing breaking balls, and there's still more swing and miss in his swing than scouts would like. He has a quick bat and above-average raw power to all fields. If he tightens his strike zone as he matures, he should hit for a solid average. His plus speed makes him a threat to steal, though he'll likely slow down a little as he continues to get bigger. Mostly a center fielder in his pro debut, Rodriguez saw more action in right field last season. Because of his size, he profiles better in right, and he easily has enough arm strength for the position.

The Future: The Reds initially viewed Rodriguez as a potential five-tool center fielder, but as he has filled out, he now looks more like a prototypical right fielder. He'll head to low Class A Dayton for his first taste of full-season ball.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Billings (R) .339 .361 .456 171 25 58 8 3 2 39 8 30 12
6.  Yasmani Grandal, c   Born: Nov. 8, 1988B-T: B-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Drafted: Miami, 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Tony Arias
Yasmani GrandalBackground: Much like Alonso, Grandal was born in Cuba but emigrated to Florida and played collegiately at Miami. He was one of the top high school catcher available in the 2007 draft, but his $1 million asking price dropped him to the Red Sox in the 27th round. He more than tripled that when he went 12th overall last June and signed a $3.2 million big league contract with a $2 million bonus at the Aug. 16 deadline.

Scouting Report: His scouting report is similar to Devin Mesoraco's. Grandal has a little less pop, arm strength and athleticism, but he's more polished and a better overall defender. A switch-hitter, Grandal uses the whole field and has good plate discipline. He projects as a plus hitter with perhaps 20-25 homers per season. He's a solid receiver, though his long release takes away from his average arm strength and results in pop times as slow as 2.1 seconds. Like most catchers, he doesn't run well and will slow down further as he piles up games behind the plate.

The Future: He's relatively advanced for a player fresh out of the draft, but Mesoraco's development means the Reds have no reason to rush Grandal. He'll spend his first full pro season at Cincinnati's new high Class A Bakersfield affiliate.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Reds (R) .286 .394 .321 28 4 8 1 0 0 1 4 4 0
7.  Juan Francisco, 3b   Born: June 24, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004Signed by: Juan Peralta
Juan FranciscoBackground: Francisco was a surprise addition to the Reds' Opening Day roster in 2010. His stay lasted only a week and he missed two months in Triple-A following an appendectomy, but he spent much of the final two months of the season in Cincinnati and made the postseason roster.

Scouting Report: Francisco has the best raw power in the system and destroys balls when he squares them up. He'll never be selective at the plate, but he gradually has improved his approach and now works counts. His swing has several moving parts, with a waggle and a toe-tap timing mechanicism, but he has shortened his stroke. He has struggled throughout his career to hit lefties, who limited him to a .216 average last year. Francisco has 30-plus homer potential but needs to find a defensive home. He has below-average range at third base, though his plus-plus arm makes up for some of his deficiencies. First base isn't an option because of Joey Votto and Yonder Alonso, and Francisco's well below-average speed doesn't play well in left field.

The Future: Francisco needs to stay in shape to continue to be an option at third base, where he's currently blocked by Scott Rolen. He may need a trade to get regular big league playing time in the near future.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Cincinnati .273 .322 .382 55 3 15 3 0 1 7 4 20 0
Louisville (AAA) .286 .325 .565 308 46 88 24 4 18 59 16 81 1
8.  Zack Cozart, ss   Born: Aug. 12, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 195
 Drafted: Mississippi, 2007 (2nd round)Signed by: Jerry Flowers
Zack CozartBackground: When Cozart starred at Mississippi and with Team USA, scouts liked his glove but wondered if he'd hit enough with wood bats. The Reds believed in his offensive potential because they thought he could make adjustments, and he has exceeded expectations at the plate while continuing to provide steady defense and reaching Triple-A.

Scouting Report: Cozart has tweaked his swing as a pro to get his legs more involved. The result is surprising pop for a shortstop, as he has reached double figures in home runs in each of his three full pro seasons, including a career-high 17 last year. He does strike out some, so he might not hit for a high average or post a gaudy on-base percentage. An average runner, he stole 30 bases in 34 attempts in 2010 thanks to his ability to read pitchers. Cozart projects as a useful offensive player who makes all the routine plays at shortstop. He has quick feet, soft hands and a solid, accurate arm. He led International League shortstops with a .977 fielding percentage last year.

The Future: Newly added to the 40-man roster, Cozart will head to spring training with a chance to wrest the Cincinnati's starting shortstop job from Paul Janish. Cozart offers more offensive upside and similar defensive ability, though Janish has a better arm.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Louisville (AAA) .255 .310 .416 553 91 141 30 4 17 67 40 107 30
9.  Todd Frazier, 3b/of/1b   Born: Feb. 12, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 220
 Drafted: Rutgers, 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Lee Seras
Todd FrazierBackground: The star of the Toms River (N.J.) team that won the 1998 Little League World Series, Frazier followed his brothers Charles and Jeff into pro ball when the Reds signed him for $875,000 as the 34th overall pick in the 2007 draft. No. 1 on this list a year ago, he experienced the worst slump of his career when he batted .197/.274/.369 in the first two months of last season. He recovered to hit a more typical .288/.362/.486 the rest of the way.

Scouting Report: Frazier's aggressive approach did him no favors when Triple-A pitchers gave him offspeed pitches on the outer half of the plate. He eventually adjusted, standing taller and using the opposite field more, and still showed plus power even while slumping. Some scouts question whether he'll hit enough to profile as a regular left fielder, however. Frazier has average speed, range and arm strength. He's a better defender than Juan Francisco at third base, but Francisco's lack of other options has limited Frazier's time there. He has seen action at all four infield positions.

The Future: The best-case scenario is that Frasier ends up as a Ben Zobrist type who hits for power and decent average while playing multiple positions. Placed on the 40-man roster in November, he appears blocked from playing anything more than a utility role in Cincinnati, which could mean a third stint in Triple-A.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Louisville (AAA) .258 .333 .448 480 71 124 32 4 17 66 45 127 14
10.  Kyle Lotzkar, rhp   Born: Oct. 24, 1989B-T: L-RHt: 6-4Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Delta, B.C., 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Bill Byckowski
Kyle LotzkarBackground: The Reds have had to be very patient with Lotzkar. A sandwich pick in 2007, he went down with a stress fracture in his elbow in 2008 and required Tommy John surgery when he tore an elbow ligament the following year. He missed all of 2009 before returning last June and showing the same stuff he had before the injuries.

Scouting Report: Lotzkar features a 90-94 mph fastball with good life. He has a hard curveball that he can bury for strikeouts as well as a slower curve that he uses as a get-me-over pitch, and his breaking stuff seemed better after his layoff. His changeup shows promise, as does his cutter. He showed improved feel for pitching in his return to action and now does a better job of working both sides of the plate. Lotzkar used to pitch with a high elbow in his delivery, which many suspected led to his injuries. He since has toned down his mechanics and lowered his elbow by breaking his hands quicker in his windup.

The Future: If Lotzkar can stay healthy, he has the biggest upside of any pitcher in the system other than Aroldis Chapman. Still relatively young at age 21, he'll try to prove he can make a full season's worth of starts at Dayton in 2011.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Reds (R) 1 1 3.33 8 6 0 0 24 20 1 12 27 .230
Billings (R) 2 0 0.45 4 4 0 0 20 8 1 2 33 .119

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