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Texas has been very good to the Reds. In successive years, they used first-round picks on Lone Star State products Homer Bailey, Bruce and Drew Stubbs, who occupy three of the first five spots on this list. The 12th overall pick in 2005, Bruce signed for $1.8 million and has met every expectation, while drawing comparisons to the likes of Larry Walker, Jeremy Hermida, Jim Edmonds and even Ken Griffey Jr. When he was 9, Bruce called the Seattle Kingdome and asked to speak to Griffey, but he couldn't get past the switchboard operator. Now he has a chance to play beside Griffey in Cincinnati's outfield. After ranking ahead of fellow 2005 first-round picks Cameron Maybin, Colby Rasmus and Justin Upton as the top prospect in the low Class A Midwest League in 2006, Bruce figured to split 2007 between high Class A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga. But when he moved up to Triple-A Louisville in July for what was supposed to be a brief injury fill-in, he homered in his first game and never looked back. He finished the season with a .319 average and 80 extra-base hits, and he would have earned a September callup had he been on the 40-man roster. He did travel to Cincinnati to receive Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year award. Bruce combines tremendous bat speed with an excellent swing plane. He has a knack for deciphering and correcting flaws in his swing between at-bats and sometimes even between pitches. He has the natural ability to hit for average and power even if he didn't work hard, but he does have the drive of a baseball rat--he's the first person to the ballpark and the last to leave. Every one of Bruce's tools is better than average. On the 20-80 scouting scale, his bat rates as a 65, his power as a 65-70, his speed as a 55, his defense in center field as a 55 (60 if he moves to right field) and his arm as a 60. As impressive as his tools are, he also has exceptional instincts and exceptional makeup. He's a leader in the clubhouse and has the awshucks humbleness to be the public face of the franchise. Bruce has few faults. He strikes out a lot, but the whiffs are an acceptable tradeoff for his production. Some Triple-A teams busted him inside, but that doesn't appear to be a long-term problem. While he's capable of playing center field, he still projects to end up in right as he fills out. Staying in center also might hinder his ability to add the weight that will bring extra home runs in his late 20s. He has enough speed and savvy to steal 15-20 bases a season, but he wasn't aggressive on the bases in 2007. Bruce is ready for the big leagues, but there isn't a clear spot for him after the Reds picked up Adam Dunn's option. All three of their regular outfielders from 2007 return, so they could let Bruce ripen a little more in Triple-A, especially considering he doesn't have to be protected on the 40-man roster until after the 2009 season.
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.
Votto was the Double-A Southern League's MVP in 2006 and the Triple-A International League's rookie of the year in 2007. He didn't watch any Reds games or highlights in 2007 because he vowed to see the Great American Ballpark in person by earning a promotion, then went 3-for-3 with a homer in his first big league start in September. Votto has turned himself into a tough out. He uses the entire field, has natural power to both power alleys and has developed a feel for the strike zone that allows him to lay off pitches off the plate. He makes good adjustments, which allowed him to fix his swing after he hit .197 in April. He shortened his stroke and closed off some holes. He projects as a .270-280 hitter with 25 home runs. Votto does most of his damage against righthanders, but he has been decent against lefties. His speed is slightly below average. Though Votto has done everything he can in the minors, the Reds picked up the 2008 option on starting first baseman Scott Hatteberg. Votto will challenge for Hatteberg's job in spring training.
Cueto was the first player signed out of the Dominican Republic after Cincinnati reworked its international scouting department in 2004. Thanks in part to working with former Reds star Mario Soto, Cueto hasn't taken long to become one of the system's gems. Cueto pitches like a 10-year major league veteran, not a fresh-faced 21-year-old. He features a 93-94 mph fastball that touches 96, a tight 83-88 mph slider and a solid changeup that he learned from Soto. His makeup is impeccable, which is why the Reds have felt comfortable keeping him on the fast track. Cueto has above-average control but he sometimes struggles with command in the strike zone. He found in his brief exposure to Triple-A that more advanced hitters will punish pitches up in the strike zone, even 94-mph fastballs. The Reds plan on acquiring a veteran starter this offseason, which would leave Cueto without a clear spot in the rotation. He could bide his time waiting for an opening by helping out the Cincinnati bullpen.
After winning a College World Series championship at Texas, Stubbs went eighth overall in the 2006 draft and signed for $2 million. Stubbs' athleticism jumps out at first glance. He combines plus raw power with a gliding stride that swallows up giant swaths of real estate in the outfield. Though his speed was limited in 2007 by a nagging turf-toe injury, he's a plus-plus runner when healthy and has excellent instincts on the basepaths. For a college product, Stubbs still has an extremely raw bat, which explains why the Reds left him at low Class A Dayton all season. He never has made consistent contact and he has struck out 206 times in 185 pro games. A late-season switch to choking up on the bat gave him better bat control. He fanned just twice in his first 42 at-bats after the switch and hit .366 with four homers in 24 games after the adjustment. If Stubbs' improvement was for real, he has a chance to be a superstar because his power, speed and defense are all above-average. If he continues to strike out, he still should be a big leaguer, albeit with a lower ceiling and average. He'll open 2008 in high Class A.
Limited to DH duty in 2006 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Mesoraco flew up teams' draft boards with an outstanding senior year that culminated in Punxsutawney Area High's first-ever Pennsylvania state title. It's a stretch to call Mesoraco a five-tool player, but he stands out as a catcher who doesn't have a below-average tool. He has the bat speed to hit for average and power. He used his plus-plus arm to throw out 33 percent of basestealers in his pro debut, and he also has soft hands and good footwork. He won't be a stolen-base threat, but he does have average speed. He's a leader on the field. Mesoraco showed a tendency to pull off the ball in his pro debut, when he seemed to press after he got off to a bad start. Despite his struggles, the Reds aren't concerned that it was anything more than a rough introduction to pro ball. Injuries to both thumbs didn't help his cause and limited him to 28 games behind the plate. Cincinnati doesn't plan on rushing Mesoraco, a potential all-star. He'll get every opportunity to earn a spot in low Class A Dayton, but he coud begin the season in extended spring training.
Frazier comes from a successful baseball family (older brothers Jeff and Charlie both were drafted) and first made a name for himself by homering in each of the final three games of the 1998 Little League World Series to lead Toms River, N.J., to the title. A supplemental first-round pick in June, he signed for $825,000 and ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Frazier has above-average raw power, and if he can make some tweaks to his swing, he has the size and strength to hit 20-25 home runs per year. His drive to succeed and his instincts have allowed him to exceed expectations wherever he's played. Frazier could quicken his path to the ball if he quieted his hands, leading to concerns about his swing, and he also could use his legs more. Scouts give him little chance to stay at shortstop because he lacks the first-step quickness, range and actions for the position. The Reds like prospects to play their way off a position, so Frazier will remain at shortstop in 2008. With his advanced pedigree, he should be able to handle high Class A in his first full pro season.
One of the products of the Reds' renewed emphasis in pursuing Latin American talent, Francisco led the Midwest League with 25 homers. A temporary requirement that he choke up on the bat helped improve his bat control, and he hit 10 homers in the final month. Francisco has long arms that generate exceptional leverage and raw power that compares with that of Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. He also has the system's best infield arm, a cannon that allows him to turn infield hits into outs. He also has good first-step quickness and is an average to slightly above-average runner. When pitchers don't challenge Francisco, he's so aggressive that he'll get himself out by chasing pitches out of the zone. He'll have to cut down on his strikeouts to keep his average up as he faces more advanced pitching. As he fills out, he'll lose some of his speed and will have to watch his weight if he's to remain at third base. Francisco is developing nicely and will head to high Class A at age 20. The Reds are shaping up to have a logjam at the hot corner, with Edwin Encarnacion in the majors and Todd Frazier, Francisco and Pioneer League home run champ Brandon Waring in the minors.
Roenicke originally went to UCLA as a wide receiver, but after failing to catch a pass in two seasons he chose to emulate his father Gary and uncle Ron, former major league outfielders. After signing for $20,000, Roenicke has flown through the system, reaching Double-A in his first full pro season. Roenicke dominates hitters with a live 93-95 mph fastball that he'll run up to 98 mph on occasion. His fastball has late movement that adds to its effectiveness. He pairs it with an 87-89 mph cutter that has so much action that one opposing manager described it as a splitter. He's an excellent athlete and has the fearless approach to close games. As expected from a recently converted outfielder, Roenicke is still an unpolished pitcher. His control is just adequate and he'll have to sharpen his command before he makes it to the big leagues. He's still learning about setting up batters and proper pitch selection. He's already 25, but Roenicke is making up for a lot of lost time with his rapid rise. He could be in Cincinnati by September and should be at least a big league set-up man with a chance to develop into a closer.
After acquiring Kyle Lohse for the 2006 stretch drive, the Reds sent him to the Phillies last July in exchange for Maloney, who immediately became the system's top lefthander. The deal seemed to energize him, as he struck out 62 in 45 innings afterward. Maloney is the typical crafty lefty who knows how to pitch. His 87-91 mph fastball has enough sink to keep hitters honest, especially since he combines it with a plus changeup and a slightly above-average slider. He does a good job of pitching downhill and keeps hitters off balance with his outstanding feel for pitching. He has solid command to both sides of the plate. Though he hit 92-93 mph in college, Maloney's fastball straightens out and his command suffers when he tries to muscle up to that kind of velocity now. As a lefty who's around the plate without overwhelming stuff, he's prone to giving up longballs. Maloney is nearly ready for the big leagues but lacks much upside, profiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Lotzkar was one of the biggest risers in the 2007 draft, climbing draft boards after adding 15 pounds of muscle before his senior season. He showed off his improved physique with a fastball that touched 96 mph against Cuba in the World Junior Championships in the fall of 2006, and also was impressive while touring with a Canadian team in April. When he pitched well in front of several scouts in Florida, he became a possible first-rounder, then cooled off a little and went 53rd overall, signing for $594,000. Lotzkar maintained his stuff in the humidity of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, showing a 91-94 mph fastball, a potential plus changeup and a promising 78-82 mph curveball. Lotzkar's feel for pitching was surprising considering his youth and his relative inexperience. He sometimes struggles to command his stuff partly because it has outstanding life. He's a long ways from the big leagues, but Lotzkar's stuff, frame and pitchability give the Reds reason to believe he could develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He'll likely start 2008 in low Class A.
After seeing him in the Arizona Fall League in 2006, the Reds were thrilled to get the chance to pick up Burton in the major league Rule 5 draft. He may not be as big a coup as fellow Rule 5 pickup Josh Hamilton, but Burton also proved to be an outstanding addition. He walked all three batters he faced in his major league debut and missed time early in the season with back and hamstring problems. But once he settled down, he became Cincinnati's most reliable set-up man. Burton pairs a 93-96 mph fastball with a hard 86-89 mph slider. He has thrown a changeup in the past, but as a one-inning reliever he's most effective when he sticks with his power stuff. His command is still somewhat shaky, and he sometimes has trouble finding his release point. Nevertheless, Burton has the stuff and composure to continue to provide reliable relief.
Like fellow 2006 draftees Drew Stubbs, Justin Turner and Danny Dorn, Valaika was a college product with a long track record of success against high-level competition. He was an honorable-mention selection for the top 15-year-old player in the nation in Baseball America's Baseball for the Ages feature and was a fixture on USA Baseball teams for years. He has bounced back from a torn elbow ligament during his freshman year in high school and a blown anterior cruciate ligament during his sophomore season at UC Santa Barbara. Valaika stands out most for his bat and his makeup. He has slightly above-average hitting skills and power. He'll need to tighten his strike zone against more advanced pitching, but the bigger question is his defense. A tick below-average runner, he lacks the range to be a full-time shortstop in the majors, though he could fill in there. He moved over to second base while playing in Hawaii Winter Baseball and showed aptitude for the position. His average arm plays well at second base, while his feet and pivot are quick enough to get the job done. He has some previous experience at the position, as he was named the all-star second baseman at the 2001 World Youth Championships. Valaika's bat should pave his way to the big leagues, where he profiles as an offensive second baseman or utilityman. His performance in spring training and the Reds' decision on what position to play him at in 2008 will determine whether he returns to high Class A or advances to Double-A.
Soto broke Juan Gonzalez' youth home run record in Puerto Rico, and he showed off his power potential during his pro debut. Scouts considered his bat relatively polished for a Puerto Rican high schooler, and he showed that by displaying the ability to work counts to go along with excellent hand-eye coordination. He has above-average bat speed to go with a smooth stroke and should develop into a 25-30 homer threat as he fills out and matures. Soto will stick at shortstop until he proves he can't play the position, but it's hard to find anyone who believes he won't have to move. He's an average runner at best, and as he matures, he'll likely outgrow the position. His average arm might be enough to allow him to slide over to third base, but if not, his bat has enough potential to allow him to be a corner outfielder. In that way, he's much like Reds first-rounder Todd Frazier. Soto may be able to handle a jump to low Class A this season.
Viola took a long and winding road to prospectdom. He originally used a cousin's birth certificate to shave three years off his age when he originally signed for $20,000 as an outfielder with the Giants, but they released him after discovering his subterfuge. The Reds subsequently signed him for $1,000 as a 22-year-old lefthander and quickly discovered they had nabbed an intriguing arm. Because he's older, Cincinnati was aggressive in promoting Viola during his U.S. debut in 2007, and he rocketed all the way to Double-A while posting a 1.42 ERA. His calling card is a 92-95 mph fastball with some life, and he complements it with an average slider and fringy changeup. He was especially nasty against lefties last year, holding them to a .167 average with 45 strikeouts in 107 at-bats, and righties weren't much more successful. Viola did show signs of fatigue in the Arizona Fall League and he sometimes drops down and struggles to maintain his release point, but he established himself as a promising reliever who isn't that far away from the big leagues. If he were younger he would get a shot as a starter, because he has three pitches and a solid frame, but the Reds are going to move him quickly as a reliever. He could open 2008 in Triple-A and make his major league debut later in the year.
Watson had top-five-round talent coming out of high school, but concerns about his signability and his makeup caused him to slip to the 21st round. He turned down the Giants to attend Tennessee, where he began his career as a weekend starter and ended it as the team's closer. After drafting him in the second round, the Reds have moved him back into the rotation, though he still projects as a reliever in the big leagues. Watson's fastball sat at 89-92 mph last season when he was a starter, though he added 2 mph when he worked out of the bullpen late in the year to keep his innings down. He showed improved command of his heavy fastball to both sides of the plate. His knuckle-curve was his calling card in college, but he struggled with the feel of it in 2007 and largely junked it in favor of an average slider. He also throws a fringy changeup. Watson's biggest concern is his body. He has a tendency to put on weight and needs to take a more professional attitude and stay in shape. Because of his weight issues, he has a tendency to wear down. Cincinnati has to decide how long it wants to leave him in the rotation. He'll move quicker once he moves to the bullpen for good, and could start the season in Double-A and possibly finish it in the majors if that shift comes in 2008.
Tatum's career hit a detour in his first full pro season in 2005, when he went down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. But he regained his prospect status with a strong 2007 season that carried over into a solid Arizona Fall League performance. The Reds always have liked Tatum's defensive work. He has soft hands, blocks balls in the dirt and handles pitchers well. His arm has bounced back fully from elbow reconstruction, as he was ripping off 1.90-1.95 second pop times again and threw out 32 percent of basestealers last season. Cincinnati believes his defense will be enough to earn him a backup big league job, and his bat will determine whether he can play a larger role. Tatum has a short, quick swing and does a good job of using the entire field, which should allow him to hit for average, but he doesn't have much power potential. He's a well below-average runner. Tatum struggled in a late-season promotion to Double-A, so he'll likely return to Chattanooga to see if he can build off his AFL stint.
Cozart could stake a claim to being the best defensive shortstop in college baseball last spring, and after he signed for $407,250 as a second-round pick, he became the best the system has had since the days of Gookie Dawkins. But as there were with Dawkins, there are plenty of questions about Cozart's bat. His pull-happy approach doesn't fit well with his below-average power. He has a tick above-average speed and would be better served if he stopped looking to yank everything and used the entire field. He'll have to make adjustments, as he's easy meat for good pitching right now and has a tendency to chase pitches off the plate. Defensively, he's already an excellent shortstop with fluid actions, soft hands and a quick first step. As a heady baseball rat with good instincts, he fits the profile of many other recent Reds draftees. He's also durable, as he never missed a game during his three years at Mississippi. Cincinnati believes his bat will catch up to his glove, and he'll get a second chance in low Class A to get comfortable at the plate.
Janish was the system's best defensive shortstop from the day he signed in 2004 until Zach Cozart joined the organization last June. As with Cozart, no one questions Janish's glove, yet questions about his bat have followed him since he turned pro. He was supposed to spend 2007 in Double-A, but injuries led to a July promotion to Triple-A, where he looked over-matched. His 14 homers the season before were an aberration, as he doesn't profile as anything more than a contact hitter at best. His strikeout rate rose last year, and he also looked helpless against righthanders, batting just .204 against them. He does draw some walks and can steal an occasional base with his savvy and average speed. Janish has only average first-step quickness and range, but he plays well at shortstop because he almost never takes a false step, reads balls off the bat, has solid footwork and uses his plus arm well. In addition to above-average pure arm strength--he has made a full recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2005--he has a quick release and good accuracy. But his defensive prowess will go for naught if he can't improve offensively. He figures to return to Double-A in an attempt to get his bat going.
As a high school outfielder, Fisher went to the Padres in the 15th round of the 2001 draft. He opted for college, and after realizing he couldn't hit pitching at that level, he moved to the mound as a sophomore at Citrus (Calif.) JC to take advantage of his above-average arm. The Reds signed him as an 11th-rounder in 2005 after he spent two years at NAIA power Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). When he's on, Fisher's 90-93 mph heavy sinker and cutter are enough to completely handcuff hitters. He knows how to work down in the zone and induces plenty of grounders. Though he has worked primarily as a starter in his three pro seasons, Fisher's high-effort delivery and arm action are better suited for relief. He wore out in the second half of 2007, posting a 1.58 ERA through his first 14 starts and a 6.14 ERA in his final 14. Coming out of the pen, Fisher could simplify his repertoire and junk his fringy changeup. He'd also probably add 2-3 mph to his fastball. He'll return to Double-A this year.
Wood has been one of the system's most polished young pitchers from the day he signed for $600,000, but with every year there are more concerns as to whether he'll ever develop the stuff to complement his outstanding changeup. He has a small, skinny frame, and he battled shoulder problems that dropped his fastball into the mid-80s for much of 2007. Even at his best, Wood walks a tightrope. His fastball, which touched 94-95 mph just before the 2005 draft, is now fringe-average at 88-91 mph when he's healthy. He bounced back to that range during instructional league. If he can just maintain that velocity, he could be a big leaguer, because his changeup is still a plus-plus pitch with excellent deception, consistent arm speed and sink that can induce strikeouts or groundouts. His curveball still hasn't developed into an average pitch, which is another worry. After a lost season, he'll try to get back on track when he returns to high Class A.
Don't be misled by the fact that Rosales spent most of the 2007 season playing first base. It was a temporary move to rest his sore throwing elbow. He had another good year at the plate and was able to return to third base full-time in the Arizona Fall League. That's good news because his righthanded bat doesn't profile nearly as well at first base. Area scout Rick Sellers sold the Reds on Rosales when he was a senior at Western Michigan. His swing isn't particularly pretty with a downward cut to it, but it's relatively quick and his discerning batting eye helps him to work into counts where he can get pitches to drive. A shortstop during his first two pro season, Rosales has just average speed and his lack of range forced a move. He has enough lateral quickness to stick at third base. When healthy, his arm is one of his best tools, as it's above-average with good accuracy. Rosales profiles more as an offensive-minded utilityman but has exceeded expectations ever since he signed. It's not out of the question that he could develop into a regular third baseman.
In each of the past three years, the Reds have seen an unheralded college draftee turn into a star at Rookie-level Billings. Adam Rosales came first in 2005 and was followed by Chris Valaika and then Waring. After a broken wrist ruined his sophomore season in 2006, Waring finished second in NCAA Division I with 27 homers last spring. Five came during the Southern Conference tournament as he led ninth-seeded Wofford to the title. Signed for $94,000 as a seventh-round pick, Waring continued his power display in his debut. He led the Pioneer League with 20 homers, including 10 in a span of 10 games. He generates above-average bat speed from his large frame and can catch up to quality fastballs. He has a level swing, but he's prone to chasing pitches out of the zone. He also can get pull-happy at times, which is unnecessary because he has shown opposite-field power. Waring's speed is below-average and his athleticism is fringy, so he'll have to work to stay at third base. He has enough agility and arm strength, though he'll have to improve his footwork to avoid a move to first base or an outfield corner. Cincinnati sent Rosales and Valaika to low Class A after their big debuts, and likely will do the same with Waring.
LeCure was supposed to be Texas' ace in 2005, but while the Longhorns were winning the College World Series, he was stocking gas stations with beer for a local distributor. He was declared academically ineligible before the season, and an appeal citing a learning disability caused by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was denied. The Reds looked past that setback and signed him for $260,000 as a fourth-round pick. If LeCure were ice cream, he'd be a scoop of vanilla. There's not a whole lot to get excited about but, like America's favorite ice cream flavor, he's very reliable. He throws three pitches, all of which grade out as average. His 87-91 mph fastball, his slider and his changeup are enough to keep hitters off balance, largely because he has clever pitch selection to go with solid command. More advanced hitters have given him more trouble because he lacks a true out pitch, which causes him nibble too much. A strained oblique muscle forced him to miss most of May, but his solid frame and clean delivery have allowed him to be very durable otherwise. LeCure profiles as no more than a No. 5 starter or swingman, but his makeup and feel for pitching make it likely he'll reach that low ceiling. He'll get his first exposure to Triple-A in 2008.
A year ago, Castro was an afterthought in the Mets system. But after he returned to switch-hitting, Castro turned himself into a prospect and caught the eye of the Reds, who picked him up along with Sean Henry in an August trade for Jeff Conine. Resuming switch-hitting did wonders for Castro's bat, as he was hitting .348 before he hurt his hand (an injury that had bothered him before this year as well) at the end of June and hit .312 overall, including a stint in Double-A. Helpless to the tune of a .206 average against righthanders in 2006, he batted .321 from the left side against them last year. One opposing manager thought Castro's lefty swing even looked smoother and more natural than his righty stroke. He's a tremendous contact hitter, though he offers no power (three homers in three pro seasons) and lacks the instincts and pure speed to be a basestealing threat. A slightly above-average runner, he was caught 10 times in 18 steal attempts last year. Defensively, Castro has the loose actions that scouts look for in a shortstop. He has enough arm for the position, shows a quick first step and reads balls off the bat well. He turned the double play effectively as a second baseman in Rookie ball before moving back to his natural position in 2006. Castro has the defensive ability to make it to the big leagues as a middle infielder, though his lack of power and blazing speed make it more likely he'll be a utilityman than a regular. He'll open 2008 in Double-A.
In November, the Reds faced decisions on both lefthanders they acquired in the trade that sent Scott Williamson to Boston in 2003. They placed former first-round pick Phil Dumatrait on waivers to remove him from the 40-man roster and lost him to the Pirates. Meanwhile, they added Pelland to the roster after he had succeeded following a full-time move to the bullpen in May. His new role allowed him to junk his fringy changeup and rely primarily on his 90-92 mph fastball and tight slider. Durability also became less of an issue, and he responded better to short stints as a reliever. His command issues and his lack of an adequate third pitch always kept him from reaching his potential as a starter. Pelland's fastball/slider combination proved nearly unhittable for lefthanders (.130 batting average with 32 strikeouts in 80 at-bats) last year, but he didn't have nearly the same success against righthanders (.275). Pelland has a future as a lefty reliever, though his ceiling is much less than it was when Cincinnati envisioned him as a future No. 3 starter. The Reds have multiple lefty bullpen options, so Pelland figures to begin the season in Triple-A.
The Reds have been extremely patient with Dickerson, largely because it's easy to dream about the system's best athlete. A cousin of NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson and former college teammate of Kevin Kouzmanoff at Nevada, Dickerson has the best combination of strength and speed among Cincinnati farmhands, though his baseball skills never have caught up to his raw tools. When he puts the ball in play, he has outstanding raw power. When he gets on base, he can take advantage with his plus speed and his ability to read pitchers and get good jumps. He also plays an outstanding center field and his average arm allows him to play all three outfield slots. But Dickerson doesn't put the ball in play very often. He struck out once every 2.7 at-bats in Triple-A and has whiffed once every 3.2 at-bats in pro ball. At times he shows a short, quick swing, but too often he gets pull-happy and lengthens his stroke in an attempt to hit home runs. Dickerson's defense, speed and ability to hit righthanders eventually should earn him a spot on a big league roster as a backup outfielder, but even after five years in the system he still has a long way to go to develop into a big league regular.
Dorn teamed with fellow Reds prospect Justin Turner to help Cal State Fullerton win the 2004 College World Series title in 2004. Dorn drew Garrett Anderson comps early in his college career, but a nagging shoulder injury and concerns about his effort led him to drop to the Devil Rays in the 23rd round in 2005. Tampa Bay made him a competitive offer, but he returned to help Fullerton to another CWS appearance and became a steal as the Reds' 32nd-round pick. Signed for $1,000, Dorn has proven to be a much better hitter and a better competitor than scouts expected. His solid lefthanded stroke should allow him to hit for average with gap power. His bat will have to carry him, because his speed, left-field defense and arm strength are all slightly below-average, though he does have good instincts. Dorn projects as a platoon left fielder/first baseman and will return to Double-A after a strong final month there in 2007.
Like Chris Valaika and former Cal State Fullerton teammate Danny Dorn, Turner is a pure baseball player with outstanding instincts, a love of the game and an ability to turn every ounce of his potential into production. Turner's father John was a childhood friend of former Titans assistant coach Rick Vanderhook and Justin served as a Fullerton batboy, so there was no question as to where he would go to school. Turner helped Fullerton reach three College World Series and win the 2004 national title, and former coach George Horton compared him to Titans great Mark Kotsay for his leadership and baseball savvy. A relatively inexpensive senior sign for $50,000, Turner quickly has established himself with his solid bat and above-average defense. He's an average runner but knows how to take an extra base. Turner turns the double play well and his range is good enough to fill in at shortstop, though his fringy arm plays much better at second. He likely never will hit for much power, but his ability to produce for average while doing all of the little things gives him a chance to make it to the big leagues as a second baseman or utilityman.
Valenzuela's beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Braves didn't bother to protect him on their 40-man roster because they thought his stuff was average and he posted a 7.00 ERA in 2007 while getting his first taste of full-season ball. The Reds pounced on him in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, however, because their reports gave Valenzuela the chance to have three above-average pitches. They clocked his fastball at 91-96 mph--Atlanta had him at 86-93--and graded his changeup as plus and his slider as having the potential to get to that level. A pitcher with that arsenal seemingly would have to have more success than Valenzuela, whose stats remained uninspiring in the Mexican Pacific League this winter (3.78 ERA, 12-13 K-BB ratio in 33 innings). The Braves weren't upset at all to lose Valenzuela, while Cincinnati thinks he can develop into a big league starter. The Reds will stash him in their bullpen this season, as they have to keep him on their 25-man roster. Before they could send him to the minors, he'd have to clear waivers and be offered back to Atlanta for half of the $50,000 draft price.