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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.
Bruce went from unknown to prospect during the summer of 2004, and his surge continued last spring as he emerged as the cream of a quality crop of Texas high school outfielders. He went No. 12 to the Reds and signed for $1.8 million. He ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in his debut. Bruce draws comparisons to Larry Walker and Jeremy Hermida for his sweet stroke, above-average arm and athleticism. He profiles as a power-hitting right fielder, but the Reds intend to keep him in center until he grows out of the position. He can turn on a fastball, but he also has shown the ability to use the entire field with good bat speed. He has plus speed and good overall instincts. Like many young players, Bruce needs to work on the finer aspects of the game, such as reading pitchers and honing his basestealing technique. He occasionally gets antsy at the plate instead of sitting back and waiting on pitches to drive. Bruce will make his full-season debut at low Class A Dayton. A five-tool talent, his bat will dictate how rapidly he advances.
Wood is the highest-drafted Arkansas high school pitcher since the Reds took Dustin Moseley in 1999's supplemental first round. Wood intrigued teams by reaching 95 mph with his fastball as the draft approached, and he dominated two Rookie leagues after signing for $600,000. Wood's changeup drops off the table and already rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He fools hitters by repeating the same arm speed and motion as when he throws his fastball. He regularly hit 93-94 mph and threw to both sides of the plate with good life during the summer. He also features a cutter. Wood's curveball isn't as developed as his other pitches. The Reds have made refining his curve a point of emphasis, and they promoted him to Rookie-level Billings to work with curveball specialist Butch Henry. Wood has some effort in his delivery. Wood aced his introduction to pro ball and seems more than ready for low Class A. He has considerable upside, though coming up with a reliable breaking ball will be crucial.
A two-sport star at Princeton, Szymanski was the football team's leading receiver and led the baseball team to the Ivy League title as a junior in 2003-04. Already lacking experience thanks to his dual-sport commitment, he has been hampered by injuries as a pro. A quadriceps injury shortened his 2004 debut, and he missed time in 2005 because of arthroscopic knee surgery and a broken hand. When healthy, Szymanski showcases three impact tools, including explosive raw power from both sides of the plate. He has 30-homer potential in the majors. A chiseled athlete, he can fly around the bases and cover the gaps in center field. His arm is average. Szymanski's swing gets long, and strikeouts and a lower batting average will be a tradeoff for his power. He's still raw and must improve in the fine points of the game, such as getting jumps and running the bases. Injuries have limited him to just 272 pro at-bats. Coming into 2005, Szymanski looked poised for a breakout season. Ticketed for high Class A Sarasota, he's again a prime candidate if he can stay in the lineup.
With his September callup, Denorfia ensured his title as the top male athlete in Wheaton (Mass.) College history. He earned Division III all- America honors in 2002, when he batted .467. He doesn't have overwhelming tools, but Denorfia has surprised scouts with his improved hitting and power the last two seasons. He displays a good feel for the strike zone and works counts in his favor. He's a solid runner with enough range to play center field. He's average defensively in center field and he has enough arm strength to play right. Denorfia doesn't have many glaring weaknesses. He doesn't have exceptional bat speed and his swing doesn't naturally produce loft power. He's already getting everything out of his ability, so there isn't much projection left to him. Denorfia is ready to contribute in Cincinnati after a strong Arizona Fall League performance. He may not be more than a fourth outfielder, especially with the Reds' position depth.
Gonzalez signed with the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic in 2003, but that deal was voided because he was a U.S. citizen who had played at Manhattan's George Washington High before moving to the Dominican as a junior. After signing for $315,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2004, he disappointed the Reds by showing up out of shape for spring training, leaving him unprepared to handle low Class A. His stuff is just a tick behind Homer Bailey's for the best in the system. Gonzalez throws 92-94 mph and peaks at 97, and he also shows a plus curveball and an average changeup at times. Gonzalez has a soft, thick lower half and struggles to keep his weight under control. His stamina and stuff suffered in 2005 until he dedicated more time to cardiovascular work. His secondary pitches and control are very inconsistent. The Reds hope Gonzalez learned his lesson and will be better equipped to succeed in low Class A in 2006. He flashes top-of-the- rotation stuff but must dedicate himself to realize his potential.
Though he has hit just .240 above Rookie ball, Perez made his big league debut before he turned 22 in September. His defensive ability has helped him land jobs in the Venezuela Winter League the past two offseasons. Perez is the organization's best defensive catcher, with well above-average throwing and receiving skills. He erased 44 percent of basestealers in 2005 and likes to pick off runners with snap throws to first base. He handles pitchers well and runs well for a catcher. Perez' bat hasn't caught up with his catch-and-throw skills and may relegate him to a backup role. He has limited power (eight homers in five pro seasons) and plate discipline, though the Reds think he could hit 10-15 homers annually. When he keeps his hands back, he does a better job of driving the ball. After his short September audition, Perez will go to Double-A in 2006. With the productive tandem of Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin, the Reds don't need to rush Perez.
Cincinnati acquired lefties Phil Dumatrait and Pelland from the Red Sox for Scott Williamson at the July 2003 trade deadline. While Dumatrait has been waylaid by Tommy John surgery, Pelland quickly emerged as the top lefty in the Reds system. After posting an 8.66 ERA in low Class A in 2004, he made a successful transition to full-season ball, jumping to high Class A, in 2005. Pelland throws his four-seam fastball at 92-93 mph and can dial it up to 95 at times, and he also has a lively two-seamer. He commands his fastball well, and shows the ability to spin a plus curveball. He's a good athlete who has dominated in spurts. Pelland's curve is inconsistent. When it's not on, hitters can sit on his fastball because his circle changeup is below average and hasn't developed as expected. At 22, he's still far from a refined product, as his control numbers suggest, although as a Northeastern pitcher, he doesn't have many innings on his arm. Pelland has a fresh arm, but needs to take a significant step forward as he approaches Double-A. If he can't improve his secondary pitches, a future in the bullpen awaits him.
The Reds tried to cut costs in the 2002 draft with disastrous results, as Denorfia and Votto are the lone bright spots from that crop. After establishing himself as the system's best power prospect, Votto had a disappointing 2005 and continued to struggle in the Arizona Fall League. Votto can launch balls out of sight in batting practice. He drew 90 walks in 2004, showing a disciplined, mature approach. For a big man and former catcher, Votto runs the bases well, and he has grown into a solid defensive first baseman with an above-average arm for the position. Votto lacks plus bat speed and his swing lengthened in 2005. Perhaps too passive in the past, he seemed to start guessing, finding himself behind fastballs and ahead of offspeed offerings. He especially struggled against lefties, hitting .193 with a .315 slugging percentage. Votto's prospect stock has taken a hit, though he's still the top first-base prospect in the system. He needs to rediscover his short stroke and trust his natural hitting instincts in Double-A in 2006.
Four years into his pro career, Chick has played for three organizations. A little-known Marlins prospect when he was traded for Ismael Valdez in 2004, he quickly blossomed for the Padres and was one of the surprises of spring training in 2005. After he stalled in Double-A, San Diego sent him and Justin Germano to Cincinnati for Joe Randa last July. Though Chick's velocity was down in 2005, he still had a 91-92 mph fastball that touched 94. His hard slider has good bite and is an average pitch with above-average potential. Chick has a solid pitcher's frame. After dominating low Class A in 2004, Chick couldn't handle jumping to Double-A. He was a victim of big innings all season, unable to get out of jams. His slider was inconsistent, while his changeup remained below-average. He's more of a thrower than a pitcher. Chick has to hone his slider and maintain his mechanics to get back on track. He'll probably repeat Double-A in 2006. Unless his changeup develops, he projects as a power middle reliever.
Bergolla has been groomed to be the Reds' second baseman of the future, but the offseason acquisition of Tony Womack was an indication they didn't think he was ready yet. He got his first taste of the big leagues in 2005, as he was called up for two short stints. Bergolla's glove is major league ready, thanks to his fluid actions, good range and average arm. He can slide over to shortstop in a pinch, but his arm is a little short to handle the position every day. At the plate, Bergolla has a compact swing that allows him to spray line drives to all fields. Though the Venezuelan has gained 25 pounds since coming to the States, Bergolla is strictly a singles hitter with little gap power. He doesn't strike out much, as his bat control allows him to fight off tough pitches. He's working on improving his bunting ability. He doesn't walk a lot, which is a concern for a player whose speed is his best asset. Bergolla is one of the Reds' best basestealers, with above-average wheels and a knack for reading pitchers. After averaging 61 steals from 2002-04, he didn't swipe as many bases last year, partly because he was on the shuttle back and forth to Cincinnati, but he still stole at an 84 percent clip. Bergolla still could earn a backup role in Cincinnati with a strong spring, but the Reds wouldn't be dismayed if he spent a little more time at Triple-A Louisville.
Acquired from the Red Sox in the Scott Williamson trade in 2003, Dumatrait was one of the system's top prospects before he was derailed by Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2004 season. He encouraged the Reds by staying fully healthy and showing that his stuff was starting to bounce back last year. He throws a high-80s fastball that touches 91 and has good life, an average changeup and an average curveball. He's athletic and has an easy delivery that he repeats well. While Dumatrait's stuff came back, his command did not. He never had exceptional control, but he struggled to throw strikes all season, struggling through deep counts and way too many walks. He did show the ability to battle without great stuff, and he kept the ball down, allowing just four homers. Dumatrait's solid-average repertoire and ability to hamstring lefties give him the ability to be a solid lefty reliever if needed, but he'll have several more chances to prove he can be a starter. Command is often the last thing to return after Tommy John surgery, and Cincinnati hopes he'll show more this year in Triple-A.
Ward hardly attracted a second look coming out of high school, but jumped from a mid-80s project as an incoming freshman to a mid-90s fireballer in the course of one year after Gardner-Webb coaches worked on developing his arm strength. He dominated the Cape Cod League in 2004 and became Gardner-Webb's highest-drafted player ever as a third-rounder in 2005. After being used heavily in the spring, Ward didn't pitch in the minors after signing for $420,000. When he did take the mound during instructional league, the Reds were impressed with his 93-94 mph fastball and his plus slider, which sits around 86- 87 mph. His changeup has a long ways to go, though it could become a usable third pitch. The concerns about Ward stem from his mechanics. Ward has a "bow-and-arrow" delivery in which he simply rears back and fires. He also short-arms the ball, reminding some scouts of Red Sox reliever Keith Foulke. Despite that, Ward was durable in college and has a strong frame. The Reds plan to see if he can develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter. If that doesn't work, his fastball-slider combo could make him a closer or late-inning setup man. He'll probably make his pro debut in low Class A.
Janish probably wishes he could have skipped 2005 altogether. He got off to a slow start in low Class A, and just as he started to come out of it with a 17-for-43 stretch, he tore an elbow ligament in a collision at first base on June 5. He was shut down for the remainder of the year and had to have Tommy John surgery. Before the injury, Janish's arm strength was one of his best tools--he hit 93 mph off the mound in the past--and he also had great hands and good actions at shortstop. If his arm bounces back as expected, Janish has few questions about his ability to handle shortstop. He also has outstanding leadership ability. The questions start at the plate. Janish never will be a top-of-the-order threat, but he has to get stronger to be even a useful No. 7 or 8 hitter. He has a long swing and lacks power. To his credit, he'll take pitches the other way and he has a good understanding of the strike zone. He's an average runner. The natural progression would be for Janish to move up to high Class A, but Adam Rosales also is ready for that level after an outstanding pro debut.
Rosales was the Reds' first-day find of the 2005 draft. Area scout Rick Sellers was adamant that the Western Michigan senior was being sold short, and Cincinnati was able to take Rosales in the 12th round. Rosales made Sellers look wise, batting .325 with 14 homers and a system-best .946 on-base plus slugging percentage in his pro debut after hitting .309 with six homers as a college senior. Some area scouts questioned whether Rosales would hit with wood bats, but he showed the ability to center the ball and hit for power. He has solid bat speed and his swing is compact, but it isn't pretty. He swings on a downward plane, yet is able to loft the ball when needed. He also has average speed and plus arm strength. Rosales' range at shortstop could be a question as he gets older and bigger, but he has good hands and currently covers enough ground. He far exceeded expectations in his first pro year, which should earn him a promotion to high Class A.
Gardner, the Reds' 2004 minor league pitcher of the year, didn't seem right at the start of last season. He didn't have his usual good stuff and was rocked on a regular basis by Double- A batters. At first, Cincinnati thought he just had a tired arm. Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek eventually found a cyst in Gardner's shoulder that had to be removed, performing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in early August. The Reds hope he'll be back on the mound by the middle of 2006, though Luke Hudson missed an entire season after similar surgery in 2003. This is just the latest setback in a hard-luck career for Gardner, who was slowed by mononucleosis and then by a concussion during his time at Santa Rosa (Calif.) JC. Before his shoulder problems he was the most polished pitcher in the system, with three above-average pitches: a 90-94 sinker, a slider and a changeup. As good as his pitches were, Gardner's feel for pitching and solid makeup impressed the organization even more. The Reds left him off of their 40-man roster, a further indication that he won't return to the mound for some time.
Like Richie Gardner, Pauly entered 2005 as one of the system's top pitching prospects and ended it on the mend after shoulder surgery. After his torn labrum was repaired in May, the Reds initially thought he'd be back for instructional league but ultimately shut him down until 2006. Growing up, Pauly was a swimmer who happened to play baseball on the side. As a high school junior, he converted from an outfielder into a sidearm pitcher. That was enough to get him into Princeton, where head coach and former big league catcher Scott Bradley moved his arm slot back up to overhand. He was one of the three main subjects in Jim Collins' 2004 book "The Last Best League," which portrayed Pauly as a very smart but somewhat goofy pitcher with one of the best fastballs in the Cape Cod League. Pauly was primarily a reliever until his junior season at Princeton, but he quickly settled into a starting role with the Reds, leading the high Class A Carolina League in strikeouts in 2004. Before his injury, Pauly featured one of the system's best fastballs, a 91-93 mph heater that had good life. He also had a potentially plus if erratic changeup and a similarly promising slider. The recovery rate from labrum surgeries isn't particularly good, which explains why Cincinnati left Pauly off its 40-man roster after the season.
Roberts is a case where the Reds believe they may have gotten more than they paid for. When they signed him for $137,000 as a seventh-round pick last June, they viewed him as a speedy leadoff hitter. Most scouting reports knocked his defense and arm strength, but Cincinnati was pleasantly surprised to find that he gets decent jumps and covers gaps well enough to be an average center fielder, with enough of an arm (45 on the 20-80 scouting scale) to stay there. That's important, because Roberts' speed game doesn't profile as well on an outfield corner. He gets from the left side of the plate to first base in 4.0 second and can run a 6.4-second 60-yard dash. He stole at will at Billings, succeeding in 32 of 39 attempts. Roberts understands how to make best use of his quickness. He bunts well and tries to work the ball to the left side of the field, and he has enough speed to hit .290-.300 by keeping the ball on the ground. He has enough functional strength to be more than just a slap hitter and bolstered his stock by leading the Alaska League with a .373 average in the summer of 2004 while using wood bats. He'll move up to Class A this year.
Dickerson has had one of the highest ceilings in the Reds system since signing in 2003, but the Reds are still waiting for him to turn that potential into production. Dickerson showed signs of putting it all together during the first half of last season. He won the MVP award at the high Class A Florida State League all-star game, and he reached double digits in both homers and steals by the end of June. But his early power surge actually may have hurt his development, as he got pull-happy and stopped going with pitches. Dickerson hit just .212 with one homer over the final two months. He needs to get a better feel for the strike zone and pitch recognition, as pitchers got him to chase pitches out of the zone. While he scuffled in the second half of the season, there still are reasons for hope. Dickerson is the best athlete and the best defensive outfielder in the system, and he has basestealing ability. He has range in all directions in center field, as well as an average arm. Dickerson's struggles leave the Reds with an interesting decision. With B.J. Szymanski ready for high Class A and Jay Bruce slated for low Class A, Dickerson would fit best in Double-A but has yet to show he can handle advanced pitching.
Valiquette is both one of the most raw and most intriguing players in the system. A native of Pierrefonds, Quebec, he's blessed with an uncommon left arm. Despite a very slight, 6- foot, 175-pound frame and relatively easy motion, he can touch 95 mph with his fastball. But he's still pure projection and has no usable secondary pitches yet, as his curveball and changeup are well below average. As a Canadian high school product, he has few innings under his belt, though he did pitch for the Canadian junior national team. A visa shortage kept Valiquette from making his pro debut until 2005, when the Reds inexplicably sent him to low Class A to begin his career. Predictably, he was torched by older hitters who feasted on his one-pitch approach. Cincinnati thought he had the makeup to risk the lofty assignment, and he seemed to hold up mentally. A native French speaker, he also has handled the language adjustment well. Valiquette is years away from the majors, but the Reds believe he's athletic enough to pick up solid secondary pitches. He'll likely return to low Class A this year.
Picked up with Travis Chick in the Joe Randa deal from the Padres at last year's trade deadline, Germano is pretty close to a finished product. He made his major league debut at 21 two years ago but failed to establish himself in opportunities to join the San Diego rotation. None of his pitches stands out, though he'll flash a plus curveball. He has good movement on a high-80s fastball and an average changeup. Germano's strength is his feel for pitching, as he'll add or subtract velocity to get outs. He's a solid athlete with a fluid delivery and excellent command. That command got him in trouble at the major league level, as he nibbled too much. If he can improve his curveball, he has a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter. Unless injuries crop up to create an opening with the Reds, he's slated to start 2006 in Triple-A.
Avery is one of three Canadians on this top 30 list, and like Joey Votto and Philippe Valiquette he played for the national junior team. Unlike those two, Avery was scouted in the United States before the Reds signed him. A Saskatchewan native, he got exposure in three years at Niagara University and in the Cape Cod League before signing as a fifth-round pick last June for $170,000. He impressed Reds officials with a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 94, and an above-average changeup. He flashed an average 12-to-6 curveball after signing, but his inability to develop consistency with that pitch as an amateur kept him from going higher in the draft. Avery showed good mound presence in his pro debut. While many scouts thought he profiled as only a reliever coming out of college, Cincinnati thinks he'll have the three-pitch repertoire necessary to start. He's strong enough to handle the role, which he'll fill with one of the Reds' Class A affiliates this year.
After serving as the No. 2 starter on the Texas team that lost in the 2004 College World Series championship series, LeCure was slated to be the Longhorns' ace last year. But he was declared academically ineligible just before the season and missed out on Texas' national championship. The Reds kept scouting him, took him in the fourth round and signed him for $260,000. He shook off the rust of inactivity, sitting at 90-91 mph with his fastball. He touched 93 at times while showing the ability to add and subtract as needed. His slider is average as well, while his changeup projects as a potentially average pitch. He showed the ability to pound the zone at the knees and throw strikes with a clean delivery. He'll get his first taste of full-season ball in 2006. Because he has strong mound presence and polish, he could end up in high Class A before too long.
Among the several Cincinnati pitching prospects who have been hampered by injuries, Basham has had the quickest rise and fall. After his dominating performance in low Class A in 2002, several Reds officials considered him the system's top pitching prospect. But his velocity and his once-dominating slider disappeared in 2003. An MRI found no damage, though eventually he was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his shoulder. He has surgery to repair that tear and to remove bone spurs, sidelining him for the entire 2004 season. When he returned to the mound last year, the former Richmond backup quarterback showed steady progress. He built up arm strength, working at 87-90 mph for most of the season and touching 92-93 mph in his later starts. He had a 90-93 mph fastball before he got hurt. His slider wasn't as nasty as it once was, but it was showing signs of being at least an average pitch. His changeup is usable, and he threw strikes with his usual ease. Basham pitched well in Double-A in the second half, earning his first shot at Triple-A in 2006.
Moran, righthander Elizardo Ramirez and lefty Joe Wilson came to the Reds when they sent Cory Lidle to the Phillies in August 2004. His first full season in the Cincinnati system was just like his first two in pro ball. He hit for average and stole some bases, but drew few walks and showed even less power. He split time between center and left field in high Class A, largely because he was on the same team as Chris Dickerson, one of the system's top center fielders. But Moran has the range to play center field, albeit with a slightly below-average arm. He needs to improve his patience and basestealing ability to truly profile as a leadoff hitter. His instincts on the bases aren't as good as his speed. He does bunt well and make contact, spraying line drives around the field. Moran will play in Double-A this year.
Shafer pitched with Oakland's Rich Harden at Central Arizona Junior College in 2001, then was part of a Junior College World Series championship in 2002 before signing as a draft-and-follow. He got off to a quick start last year, not allowing a run in 10 high Class A outings to earn a promotion to Double-A, where he held his own. He was effective as a parttime closer, but his 88-92 mph fastball, average slider and improving changeup mean that he profiles more as a setup man or middle reliever. Shafer keeps the ball down and did a good job of throwing strikes before he got to Double-A. He has a resilient arm that has stood up well to the rigors of bullpen work. Shafer doesn't have a high ceiling, but the Reds need relief help and he could contribute in the near future.
The Astros put Burns on waivers while trying to clear space on their 40-man roster in November, and the Reds picked him up and will give him the chance to win a spot in their bullpen. A 30th-round pick, Burns is an overachiever who breezed through Houston's system as a starter until hitting the wall in Double-A in 2003. He returned to that level, became a full-time reliever and earned Texas League all-star honors in 2004, then spent most of last year in Houston's bullpen. Burns' best assets are his control and his competitive makeup. His go-to offering is his slider, which has a quick, short break. He also works with an average 89-92 mph fastball that lacks movement, and an erratic but deceptive curveball. His changeup is a below-average pitch, which has led to troubles with lefties.
Few pitchers in the system made more strides in 2005 than Medlock. In his first taste of high Class A the year before, he struggled to keep the ball down and showed little feel for his curveball. In his return trip, he dominated batters with a live 88-92 mph fastball that seemed to jump on hitters. He showed added arm speed and tweaked his arm angle. That allowed him to get more downward plane on his fastball, always a challenge for the 5-foot- 10 righthander. His curveball returned to effectiveness, his changeup improved and he threw more strikes than ever. Used mostly as a starter, Medlock better fits the profile of a middle reliever. But he has earned the right to remain in the rotation as he advances to Double-A.
One of the few Reds prospects signed out of Latin America during the latter days of the Jim Bowden era, Gutierrez has been one of the system's most consistent hitters since the day he first put on a pro uniform. His hand-eye coordination and discriminating batting eye rank with the best among Cincinnati farmhands. In his first taste of full-season ball last year, Gutierrez earned Midwest League all-star recognition after finishing second in the batting race. He has gained 45 pounds since signing, but his hitting approach hasn't changed and thus he has yet to develop power. He sprays line drives to all fields, which has led to high averages and on-base percentages. The Reds believe he can become a power hitter if he'll focus more on using his legs more and driving the ball. Gutierrez is a good defensive first baseman with surprising agility for his size, and he's an average runner. He'll move up to high Class A this year.
Ramirez is one of the rare pitchers who may throw too many strikes. Picked up with Javon Moran and Joe Wilson from the Phillies in the Cory Lidle trade in August 2004, he has earned short stints in the majors during each of the past two seasons. The results haven't been pretty, primarily because big leaguers have discovered that he's always around the plate with hittable stuff. He currently lacks an out pitch, and he doesn't do a good job of expanding the zone to get batters to chase pitches. He especially has troubles against lefties, who hit .386 off him in the majors and .303 in Triple-A in 2005. But Ramirez does have three very usable pitches: an 88-92 mph fastball, an average curveball and an average changeup. He throws them all with a loose and easy motion and nearly flawless mechanics. He's working on adding a cutter or developing some sink to his fastball. He'll work on refining his stuff in Triple-A to begin the season.