- Full name David Dewitt Bailey
- Born 05/03/1986 in La Grange, TX
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 223 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School La Grange
- Debut 06/08/2007
Drafted in the 1st round (7th overall) by the Cincinnati Reds in 2004 (signed for $2,300,000).
View Draft ReportBailey and Maryland righthander Nick Adenhart were running neck and neck as the top prep prospects in the draft before Adenhart succumbed to elbow problems, leaving Bailey as the undisputed class among the nation's high school crop. Even with an increasing bias against prep righties in the first round--only two went that high in 2003--Bailey is certain to be selected with one of the first 5-10 choices. A University of Texas recruit, he threw 94 mph in his first scrimmage this spring and has been lights out every time he has taken the mound. He was 12-1, 0.39 on the season with 10 walks and 168 strikeouts in 72 innings. He has the best fastball (92-96 mph), the best righthanded breaking ball (a hard downer curveball), the best command and the most polish among high schoolers in the draft. He still has plenty of room for projection at 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, and though he throws effortlessly the ball explodes out of his hand. Bailey will need to improve his changeup and get stronger, but that's true of almost every prep pitcher.
Organization Prospect Rankings
No. 1 on this list after his first three seasons in pro ball, Bailey wouldn't have qualified again had a lingering groin injury not sidelined him for most of the second half of 2007. Once he was healthy again in September, Bailey was back throwing in the mid-90s with his fastball and buckling knees with his curveball. They're both already well above-average major league pitches, and he has shown the ability to take a little off his heater. He's also added a high-80s cutter to give him a pitch with more lateral movement. Bailey has no shortage of pure stuff, but he still has to refine his control and command to get big league hitters out and to work deeper into games. He threw strikes on only 58 percent of pitches in the majors. His changeup is still below average. The groin injury meant that his route to the front end of Cincinnati's rotation was delayed by a year. Bailey has all the ingredients to become the Reds' first homegrown ace since Mario Soto.
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 mid-season 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. 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 a slower, loopier version with 11-to-5 break. It's effective both as a kneebuckler 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. 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 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 mid-season callup. In time, he should become a true No. 1 starter.
Bailey has been pitching in pressure games since before he started shaving. He out-dueled Ryan Wagner in the Texas 3-A state championship game as a freshman, and capped his high school career with a second state title as a senior. He ranked No. 1 on this list a year ago after signing for a $2.3 million bonus as the seventh overall pick in 2004, when he was also named BA's High School Player of the Year. The Reds are exercising extreme caution with him, hoping he can avoid the injury bug that has claimed so many of their best pitching prospects in recent years. He pitched just 12 innings after signing in 2004, and was limited by a tandem-starter system with a strict 75-pitch limit in 2005. He worked six innings in a start only once all season and went as many as five innings in just five other outings, yet still managed to claim the title of top pitching prospect in the low Class A Midwest League. He was sidelined for a couple of weeks in April as he worked back from minor knee surgery, a problem that had nagged him since high school. While his first full season was unremarkable statistically, he showed glimpses of his promise in the final month with a pair of scoreless five-inning outings, including an 11-strikeout two-hitter. Bailey has front-of-the-rotation stuff. He's armed with two plus pitches--a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96-97 with good life, and a hard 12-to-6 curveball with potential to be a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He pounds the bottom of the strike zone and usually hits his spots. His control will be another plus. Though he did issue more than his share of walks in 2005, the Reds attribute that to their insistence that he work on his secondary pitches. A former basketball player, Bailey is a natural athlete with an effortless arm action and clean delivery that bode well for future projection. He should get stronger, as there's room to pack more weight on his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. Bailey's changeup always will lag behind his two knockout pitches. It's presently a below-average pitch with just a little sink. He did make it a point to throw the changeup more in 2005, and he did a better job of delivering it with the same arm speed he uses with his fastball. Bailey doesn't always stay on top of his curveball. He also needs to improve his consistency and show that he can pitch effectively on nights where he doesn't have his best stuff. Like many dominant high school starters, he didn't have to work on such nuances as holding runners and quickening his move to the plate. He has made steady improvement in both areas, and he has addressed his rhythm and tempo on the mound. Bailey has admitted that baseball is more of a job than a passion. To achieve his potential as an ace, he'll have to stay focused as he moves up the ladder. While the Reds have yet to turn Bailey loose, they may challenge him with a jump to Double-A Chattanooga in 2006. Though he's not required to be on the 40-man roster until after the 2007 season, he has been invited to big league camp to get a taste of what awaits him. He could be poised for a breakthrough season.
A boot-wearing, drawling cowboy, Bailey plays the role of fireballing Texas righthander well. He grew up on an egg farm, and is an avid hunter who keeps a collection of the tusks of wild boar he has killed in his room. He also maintains that image on the mound. He established himself as a winner as a high school freshman, beating Forney High and current Reds reliever Ryan Wagner to win the state 3-A championship for La Grange High. Entering 2004, Bailey already was considered a certain top-10 draft pick, and scouts respected how he rose to that challenge as well as being the pitcher others teams gunned for during his entire prep career. He capped a tremendous senior season by leading La Grange to another state title, striking out 14 (including 10 of the last 12 outs). He was Baseball America's High School Player of the Year, though that in itself is far from a guarantee of future success. Three other righthanders have won it: Matt White in 1996, Matt Harrington in 2000 and Jeff Allison in 2003--none of whom won a game in Organized Baseball in 2004. The Reds believe Bailey's maturity and track record of dealing with success will set him apart from that disappointing trio. They gave him a $2.3 million bonus, the second-largest in organization history. Bailey has the frame and arm speed to throw hard, and he does so consistently. His fastball sits at 92-97 mph when he's at his best, and it has good life as well. Scouts considered it the best fastball in the draft among high school pitchers, not just because of its velocity but also because he consistently throws it for strikes. Bailey's command also rated as best among prep pitchers. He's more polished than the average high school pitcher, though he won't be confused with Kansas City's Zack Greinke, either. The fastball is his best pitch, but he gets plenty of strikeouts with his plus downer curveball as well, the best bender available in the prep ranks in 2004. Athletic and projectable, Bailey should be able to throw harder and maintain his delivery as he fills out. Bailey was used conservatively in his first pro season, and Cincinnati didn't get a long look at him in instructional league. He injured his right knee during the 2003 Area Code Games, leaving a game after just four pitches, and he tweaked the knee again in instructs. The Reds and Bailey decided it would be best if he had arthroscopic surgery to head off any long-term problems. He was back to full speed in December, beginning his offseason workouts. Now he needs to show he can pitch a full season. His changeup needs work to become a legitimate third pitch. Bailey's combination of power and polish should allow him to move quickly. The Reds have had little success with taking high school pitchers in the first round as of late--Ty Howington (1999) and Chris Gruler (2002) have had repeated injury problems--so they'll be careful with Bailey. He'll be in their tandem-starter system, most likely at low Class A Dayton, which should keep him fresh. He could start to take off toward Cincinnati in 2006.
Minor League Top Prospects
While Bailey got out of whack in his delivery, didn't throw enough strikes and went winless after April, he still had a couple of things going for him: his age and his stuff. The 22-year-old was the youngest rotation regular in the IL, a full eight months younger than Wade Davis. When he's right, Bailey has explosive life on a 93-95 mph fastball, especially when he throws it in the upper or lower regions of the strike zone. At other times, his fastball flattens out in the middle of the zone at 89-91. Scouts say an arm wrap in back of his delivery might affect his release point and thus his command. Bailey can put plus spin on a power curveball, and he's nearly unhittable when he's working ahead of batters and throwing the pitch for strikes. His changeup and cutter have average potential. The Reds opted not to recall him after the IL playoffs, letting him end his season on a high note after he struck out eight in six shutout innings in a playoff start against Durham.
Still just 21, Bailey opened the season in Triple-A with just three months experience in Double-A. The Reds called him to the majors in early June, and he won two of his first three starts but eventually was battered for a 6.99 ERA in 28 innings and returned to the minors. He pitched sparingly in the second half because of a groin injury. Bailey was as hard to hit as ever in the IL, changing batters' eye levels with two swing-and-miss pitches, a plus 91-95 mph fastball he likes to throw up in the zone and an above-average 12-to-6 curveball. He made progress throwing the breaker for strikes, after Triple-A hitters laid off anything spinning out of his hand. Bailey mixes in an average slider and a changeup he uses as his fourth pitch. He showed the same effortless delivery and excellent downward plane that made him the seventh overall pick in 2004. A stabbing arm action Bailey uses in back during his windup doesn't affect his release point. Like most young pitchers, Bailey struggled at times to command his fastball and to control the running game. He also got away with a lot of high fastballs that more experienced hitters punished. But he still offers true No. 1 starter potential.
In a league dominated by pitching, Bailey seemed to have it all: a dominating fastball he can command right now, and a hard-breaking curveball that gives hitters something else to worry about. Coming into the season, he still was considered a talented but erratic fireballer. By sharpening his command of his fastball, he took a big step forward to becoming a potential future ace. "That's a guy you look at it and it's a no-brainer," Palm Beach manager Pop Warner said. "You have the body, the free and easy delivery, the good hammer curve, electric stuff. And he's young and going to get better." Bailey's fastball sits at 94-95 mph and touches 97-98. It has good life, showing a little extra hop as it nears the plate. He showed improved command and hit his spots consistently. His curveball is a hard-breaking 12-to-6 pitch that could give him a second out pitch. On the rare occasions where he got into trouble, though, it was because he hung his curve. His changeup has potential as well, but it is clearly a third pitch and he didn't use it much because he didn't need it to get FSL hitters out.
Bailey took a step forward and put himself on the short list of the game's best pitching prospects after rocketing through the Florida State League to Chattanooga, making a Futures Game appearance along the way. He pitched better after his promotion and didn't take his first SL loss until his final regular-season start. Bailey was on cruise control for the rest of his time in Double-A, living off a lively mid-90s fastball that tops out at 97 mph. He has uncanny command of his heater, pounding the bottom of the strike zone while showing effortless arm action in a fundamentally sound delivery. Bailey's second plus pitch is a hard 12-to-6 curveball, though he seemed to be in love with his fastball and seldom went to his secondary stuff. When he threw the curve, he often changed speeds with it--softer for bigger, loopier break and harder for more slider-like action. His arm speed on his changeup is outstanding, though he needs to use it more to give him a third above-average offering.
Bailey and Burlington's Luis Cota had the most electric arms in the league, but there was no comparison between them as pitchers. While Cota relies mainly on sheer arm strength, Bailey shows more aptitude and consistency. He has a legitimate chance to become a No. 1 starter in the majors. He has a lean but strong frame and an arm stroke that almost looks too easy to be delivering one 92-94 mph fastball after another to the bottom of the strike zone. When he stays on top of his curveball, it's a dynamic 12-to-6 breaking ball. Like most teenagers, he's still refining his changeup and his command. The Reds haven't been able to keep their top pitching prospects healthy, so they've turned to a tandem-starter system in the lower minors. They exercised extreme care with Bailey, who worked just 104 innings and was allowed to go as many as five innings in just six outings--earning victories in each.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Curveball in the Cincinnati Reds in 2008
- Rated Best Fastball in the Cincinnati Reds in 2008
- Rated Best Curveball in the Cincinnati Reds in 2007
- Rated Best Fastball in the Cincinnati Reds in 2007
- Rated Best Pitching Prospect in the Florida State League in 2006
- Rated Best Fastball in the Florida State League in 2006
- Rated Best Curveball in the Cincinnati Reds in 2006
- Rated Best Fastball in the Cincinnati Reds in 2006
- Rated Best Curveball in the Cincinnati Reds in 2005
- Rated Best Fastball in the Cincinnati Reds in 2005