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Frazier first stood out on the diamond when he starred for 1998 Little League World Series champion Toms River (N.J.), going 4-for-4 with a homer in the championship game. He was the third brother in his family to play pro ball, following Charlie (a former outfielder in the Marlins system) and Jeff (a Triple-A outfielder for the Tigers last season). After he set records for single-season (22) and career (47) home runs at Rutgers, the Reds drafted him 34th overall in 2007 and signed him for $875,000. As a pro, Frazier has played all four infield spots as well as left field. In 2009, he impressed the big league coaching staff in spring training, leading to a decision to make him an everyday left fielder and shore up a position that appeared thin in Cincinnati. The emergence of Chris Dickerson and Johnny Gomes eased those concerns, so Frazier moved to second base full-time at the end of July. David Bell, his manager at Double-A Carolina, said Frazier was more advanced than Bell's former teammate Jeff Kent was at the same point in his transition to second base. Frazier's excellent strength and line-drive stroke combine to produce bushels of doubles, and he tied for third in the minors with 45 last season. Though he has a pronounced arm bar in his swing, he has had no problems hitting inside pitches because he's strong and his hands work well. His ability to make adjustments should allow him to hit for average with solid-average power in the major leagues. Frazier has average arm strength that plays up both in the infield and outfield thanks to his quick release and accuracy. He positions himself well and has a knack for reading balls off the bat. His speed and range are average. The Reds have been willing to move him around because he has excellent makeup and is receptive to coaching. Because he has changed positions so often, Frazier is a jack of all trades but a master of none. He doesn't have the range to be an everyday shortstop, though he makes plays on the balls he gets to. He's raw at second base, with problems turning double plays and playing around the bag. His doubles power doesn't fit the offensive profile for first base. His best position and destiny may be third base, but he has played just 18 games at the hot corner in his career, and just four in 2009 largely because he's been paired almost everywhere with third baseman Juan Francisco. The Reds believe he'll eventually be a solid defender wherever he winds up, but scouts from other clubs are reserving judgment. The Reds sent Frazier to Puerto Rico for winter ball to continue his development as a second baseman. If he shows he can be even adequate defensively, his bat would make him a valuable regular there. He may be a better fit at third base, where he projects as a solid hitter and defender. With Scott Rolen's contract expiring after 2010 and Brandon Phillips locked up through 2011, Frazier's initial big league opportunity would seem to more likely come at third base or left field. He'll head to Triple-A Louisville in 2010 for some final polish.
With the No. 7 overall pick in the 2008 draft, the Reds narrowed their choices to Alonso and Gordon Beckham. They chose Alonso in part because they considered him easier to sign, then watched Beckham sign more quickly for less money. While Beckham reached the big leagues in 2009, Alonso was slowed by a broken hamate bone. Alonso is the purest hitter in the system and has above-average power. He has a good understanding of the strike zone, working counts in his favor to get a pitch he wants. He has a balanced swing that allows him to drive the ball to all fields. Alonso has struggled to hit lefthanders in college and pro ball. Some scouts think he should be more aggressive, as he sometimes lays off pitches he could drive. His well-below-average speed (35 on the 20-80 scouting scale) limits him to first base. Cincinnati has toyed with playing him at third base, but his limited range would be a liability. The hamate injury sapped Alonso's power and slowed down his timetable, postponing a difficult decision. He plays the same position as Joey Votto, the Reds' best big league hitter, and Cincinnati will either have to move Votto to left field or trade one of them. Alonso likely will spend all or most of 2010 in the minors, but his bat could hasten his path.
Leake didn't receive the hype of No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, but he was just as dominant during the spring, going 16-1, 1.71 at Arizona State. Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy said Leake could have been the team's best defensive third baseman or shortstop. The eighth overall pick in June, Leake signed at the Aug. 17 deadline for $2.27 million. Leake's feel for pitching and command are outstanding. He keeps hitters off balance by throwing five pitches (fastball, cutter, slider, curveball and changeup) for strikes. He can run his fastball up to 94 mph, but it's more effective when he pitches at 88-92 with better run and sink. His changeup is deceptive, and his curve and slider are two distinct breaking pitches that play well off each other. He fields his position like an extra infielder on the mound. At 6-foot-1 and with a mostly average fastball, Leake has little margin for error and a lower ceiling than his college dominance might indicate. Few pitchers can master a five-pitch arsenal, so it's possible he'll have to drop an offering or two as he moves through the minors. For now, Cincinnati will let him use his full repertoire. The Reds drafted Leake in part because he fit in their budget, but also because he was one of the most advanced pitchers in the draft. He likely will begin his pro career in high Class A and could challenge for a big league spot by the end of the season.
Until he tagged along with a friend to tryout camps before his junior year at Division III Messiah (Pa.), Heisey wasn't assured of a baseball career. Four years later, he was playing in the Futures Game, earning a midseason promotion to Triple-A and ranking among the minor league leaders in hits (162) and total bases (269). Heisey could be termed a "cheap five-tool player." None of his tools is overwhelming, but all of them are at least fringe-average. At the plate, he uses the entire field and makes his living driving the ball back up the middle. He shows solid bat speed and surprising power, nearly equaling his previous career total with 22 homers in 2009. He's an above-average runner with instincts that enhance his speed, and he is 53-for-58 stealing bases in the past two years. He has a slightly above-average arm and makes accurate throws. He's a plus defender on the outfield corners. In Triple-A, Heisey struggled initially when veterans spotted their breaking balls for strikes. Though he played mostly in center field last season, he's better defensively as a corner outfielder. He'll have to maintain his newfound power to be a regular on a corner. After the Reds nontendered Johnny Gomes, Heisey, who was added to the 40-man roster, could compete for a spot in a left-field platoon with Chris Dickerson.
Francisco gave the big league team a taste of his prodigious power in its preseason exhibition, crushing a Francisco Cordero fastball and clearing the visitor's clubhouse that sits beyond right field at Carolina's ballpark. Francisco has led the Reds system in home runs in each of the past two seasons. Francisco has plenty of strength and his hands work well at the plate. He can turn on most any fastball and his long arms not only generate excellent leverage, but they also let him reach pitches outside of the zone. He also has one of the strongest arms in the organization and has more athleticism than is readily apparent. Francisco still strikes out too much, though he has made more consistent contact the last two years. He has problems recognizing changeups and almost refuses to be walked. He showed improvement in his range at third base, but it's still below-average, as are his hands and speed. Francisco's best position may be first base, but that position is blocked by Joey Votto and Yonder Alonso. Third base currently belongs to Scott Rolen, so Francisco will spend 2010 in Triple-A, and he may see more time in left field.
The Reds made their biggest splash in Latin America in years when they signed Rodriguez for a Venezuela-record $2.5 million in 2008. Though the plan was to let him make his debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Cincinnati felt comfortable promoting him when injuries left a void at Rookie-level Billings. Rodriguez is the system's best athlete. His arm and speed are plus tools, and he has excellent range and instincts in center field. He has the bat speed and frame to eventually hit for power. Because he's young and inexperienced, Rodriguez is raw in all phases of the game. At this point, there isn't a fastball, breaking ball or bowling ball that Rodriguez won't swing at. He struggles with pitch recognition and is often caught trying to pull pitches he should hit the other way. Though he's fast, his big swing slows him down coming out of the batter's box, so he doesn't get many infield hits. He must learn how to read pitchers to become a better basestealer. He needs to get a lot stronger, and there's room for another 50 pounds on his frame. Rodriguez will play most of the 2010 season at 17, so another year at Billings isn't out of the question. His ceiling is the highest among Reds farmhands, but he's a long way from fulfilling it.
Wood lost some of his luster as he battled shoulder problems and lost velocity. After posting a 7.09 ERA in the Double-A Southern League in 2008, he returned last season to win the circuit's ERA title (1.21) and pitcher of the year award. Wood's dramatic turnaround resulted from improved health and his mastery of a cutter. His fastball regained its previous 88-91 mph velocity, making it easier to set up his plus-plus changeup with fade. Righthanders used to crowd the plate and look for pitches on the outer half, but Wood now can bust them inside with his cutter. He also improved his command this season, which is necessary for a pitcher with average stuff. When the Reds signed Wood, he ran his fastball up to 94 mph at times, but he has struggled to gain weight and strength to maintain anywhere close to that velocity. Partly because of his thin frame, he has had durability problems. Scouts still wonder if he'll be more than a No. 5 starter because of his fringy velocity and his lack of a second plus pitch. His curveball is mediocre, so he doesn't project as a lefty specialist. Wood will go into spring training with a chance to make Cincinnati's rotation. The Reds don't have an established lefty starter (though he'll be battling fellow prospect Matt Maloney), which helps his chances.
A shoulder impingement in high school threatened Maloney's career. He ended up at Mississippi and blossomed into a third-round pick in 2005. Traded by the Phillies for Kyle Lohse in mid-2007, Maloney made his big league debut last June and earned his two major league victories in September. Though Maloney has piled up strikeouts throughout his career, he's not a power pitcher. He gets outs by locating and mixing his pitches: an 86-89 mph fastball that touches 91, a slow curveball, a slider and a changeup. Like several other Reds farmhands, he added a cut fastball in 2009. The cutter helped him reduce his ERA by 1.60 in his second full season in Triple-A. Lacking average velocity and a swing-and-miss pitch, Maloney has a slim margin for error. He threw strikes in the big leagues but saw that he can be hit hard when his command isn't there, giving up nine homers in 41 innings. Maloney will head into spring training as a candidate for the back of the Reds' rotation. His ceiling isn't much higher than that, but his 50 Triple-A starts make him a relatively finished product and give him an edge over Travis Wood for 2010.
Boxberger followed in his father Rod's footsteps by pitching at Southern California, for whom his dad was the College World Series MVP in 1978. He nearly emulated his dad as a first-round pick as well, going 43rd overall in the 2009 draft and signing at the Aug. 17 deadline for $857,000. Boxberger has the best fastball in the system. He sat at 91-93 mph as a starter and worked at 94-96 mph as a reliever in college. He has the makings of four pitches, with his slightly above-average slider his second-best offering. He also throws a spike curveball and is developing feel for a changeup. There's a lot of debate in scouting circles whether Boxberger profiles better in the rotation or bullpen. Like they did with since-traded Zach Stewart, the Reds will give him a chance to succeed as a starter. In that role, his velocity sometimes dips to 88-91 mph in later innings and he tends to battle his command. He hasn't proven yet that he can command his curve well enough to make pro hitters take it seriously. If Boxberger moved to the pen, his fastball would pave the way for a quick trip to the big leagues. After getting his feet wet in the Arizona Fall League, Boxberger is polished enough to begin 2010 in high Class A.
Like Todd Frazier, Cozart was an All-America shortstop in college and a member of the 2006 USA Baseball collegiate national team. Questions about his bat dropped Cozart to the second round of the 2007 draft, but he has eased those concerns by showing more pop than expected and improving his plate discipline. Cozart's defense remains his biggest asset. He has a quick first step, plus range, soft hands and average arm strength. He has worked hard to modify the all-or-nothing swing he had in college, and now uses the whole field and manages the strike zone better. His power should be close to average and is better than that of most shortstops. He's an average runner with the instincts to steal 15 bases annually in the majors. Despite his average arm and a quick release, Cozart doesn't get enough on his throws to make many highlight plays from deep in the hole. While he has improved his offensive profile, he's a career .265 hitter in pro ball and may never hit for a high average. Cincinnati needs a shortstop for 2010, but Cozart isn't refined enough at the plate to skip Triple-A and take the job. He's more likely to start the year at Louisville and could push for a midseason callup.
Four years ago, the Reds drafted raw but athletic outfielder Justin Reed out of Jackson, Miss., and convinced him to give up a Mississippi football scholarship to sign as a fourth-round pick. That hasn't worked out so well, as Reed hasn't made it out of Class A. Cincinnati believes Hamilton will outdo Reed's career track after convincing the raw but athletic shortstop to turn down a Mississippi State football scholarship in exchange for a $623,600 bonus as a second-round pick last June. One of the fastest players in a system with several speedsters, he can get to first base in less than 4.0 seconds from the right side of the plate. He has the instincts to take extra bases and accumulate a lot of steals. Hamilton alleviated concerns about whether he could stick at shortstop by showing above-average range and a strong arm as a pro, though he needs to refine his footwork. Hamilton struggled at the plate in his debut, in part because he's trying to learn to switch-hit to take full advantage of his speed. His stroke from the left side shows some promise--it's not just a slap-and-dash swing--but he shows more balance and power from his natural right side. He has enough speed to get infield hits from the right side of the plate, so his decision to switch-hit isn't set in stone yet. Like many raw teenagers, he needs to learn to work counts and lay off breaking balls out of the zone. Hamilton is a long way from the big leagues, but he profiles as a top-of-the-order shortstop. Considering how raw he is, he'll likely begin 2010 in extended spring before heading to Billings.
Until last season, Valaika's trip through the minor leagues could not have been smoother. He was MVP of the Rookie-level Pioneer League in his 2006 debut and hit .306 over his first three pro seasons. But 2009 quickly tested Valaika more than he'd ever been tested as a pro. He hit .161 in his first 23 games and his frustration got the better of him. He punched a water cooler, breaking his right hand and leading to a five-week stint on the disabled list. Thanks to the ill-timed punch, Valaika didn't get his batting average above the Mendoza line until July, and he never really got going. The offensive struggles baffled the Reds, who believe that his bat speed and uncomplicated swing should allow him to hit for a solid average with average power. Valaika has always been on the edge of being too aggressive at the plate--he'll chase fastballs up and out of the zone--but 2009 was the first time that it caught up to him. He'll need to show that he can work counts to get better pitches in his second try at Triple-A this season. The bigger questions for Valaika have been on defense, where his range is below average for shortstop, though his hands work well and he has enough arm for the position. His long-term future is still at second base, where he should profile as a bat-first player whose defense is good enough. He's an average runner. With Brandon Phillips settled at second in Cincinnati and Todd Frazier trying to learn the position as well, Valaika's best shot in the short-term with Cincinnati may be as an offensive-minded utility player.
One of the Reds' most promising hitting stars in his first two pro seasons, when he batted .327/.360/.522, Soto experienced his first taste of failure in 2009. He saw his strikeout rate jump, his power production plunge and his defense suffer at high Class A Sarasota. Soto possesses excellent hand-eye coordination and plus power potential, but his swing isn't particularly fluid and Florida State League pitchers took advantage of his tendency to chase pitches out of the zone. Soto was a high school shortstop but has thickened up since signing. He was never fast and is now a well below-average runner who has lost some first-step quickness at third base. He has the arm for the hot corner, but his actions and range are below average for the position. Cincinnati tried Soto at catcher in instructional league and he showed a receptiveness to make the move and picked up some of the essentials quickly. He would profile better behind the plate, though the Reds haven't decided whether he'll move there in 2010. Soto likely will return to high Class A, this time at Cincinnati's new Lynchburg affiliate, to open the season.
No Reds pitcher made a bigger leap in 2009 than Ondrusek, who went from being a starting pitcher fighting for a minor league roster spot to a reliever on the cusp of a big league job. Thanks to his 6-foot-7 frame, he always has seemed to be right on top of hitters, but before last season his assortment of pitches never really worked. In spring training, the Reds found that his mediocre 87-91 mph fastball as a starter became a 92-94 mph heater that touches 96 out of the bullpen. More important, he also perfected a cut fastball that quickly turned him into an entirely different pitcher. After he had struggled trying to mix his pitches in the past, Cincinnati had him focus on throwing fastballs and cutters. While his cutter has only a little late movement, it's enough to ensure plenty of weak contact. Ondrusek allowed only one home run in 72 innings and got nearly two groundouts for every flyout. Though 2009 was the first time he spent any appreciable time above Class A, Ondrusek did enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. He'll head to spring training with a chance to earn a spot in Cincinnati's bullpen.
Gregorius comes from a baseball family. The Curacao native was born in Amsterdam because his father Didi was pitching for the Amsterdam Pirates. At the 2009 World Cup, Mariekson played for the Dutch team while his father and brother Johnny played for the Netherland Antilles. Gregorius' baseball background explains why he was able to make the big leap from extended spring training to fill in as an injury replacement in high Class A last year. Considering the teenager's limited experience, he wasn't expected to do anything more than provide some solid defense. But Gregorius held his own, recovering from a 5-for-30 (.167) start to hit .317 over his final 13 games. He carried that success over to the Pioneer League, where his average never dipped below .309. Gregorius shows solid athleticism and good actions in the field as well as a feel for the little game. He's a solid bunter who uses his plus speed to his advantage, though he has to learn how to read pitchers to steal bases. He has very little power at this point, though he has room to add some strength on his frame. Gregorius has one of the best arms in the system, a cannon that ranks as a 65-70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. In a system stocked with shortstops, his ceiling is matched only by Billy Hamilton, and Gregorius is better defensively. After surviving in Sarasota, he shouldn't be overwhelmed by low Class A in 2010.
Poised to make a breakthrough in 2009, Smith got off to a solid start but went down when the same knee problems that have bothered him in past years flared up again. He had surgery to clear up torn cartilage in 2008 but had further knee pain and went on the disabled list last April. He tried to return quickly, but continued discomfort led to elbow pain from his attempts to compensate for his knee, and the Reds shut him down for good in early July. When healthy, Smith throws a 92-93 mph fastball that has plenty of sink, and he backs it up with an average slider. He doesn't have a true strikeout pitch, but he succeeds by working down in the zone and generating lots of grounders. Because his changeup is fringy and he has had trouble with injuries, Smith may eventually end up as a reliever, where his fastball could play up. He returned to the mound in instructional league and should start 2010 back in Double-A.
When Omar Vizquel was growing up, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Dave Concepcion. Now Rojas is part of the new generation of young Venezuelan shortstops trying to emulate Vizquel. His defense draws some comparisons to Vizquel's. Rojas' hands are the best in the organization and some of the best scouts have seen in recent years. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and the kind of fluidity that can't be taught. Rojas manages to scoop and throw in one easy motion. He makes very few errors for a young shortstop and was the easy choice for managers as the best defensive shortstop in the Midwest League last season. His arm is a tick below average but that doesn't prevent him from making plays. He's an extremely hard worker who's a leader in the field. There are questions about Rojas' bat, and he never had hit better than .231 in any of his first three pro seasons. He did show significant improvement in 2009, batting .311/.357/.261 after the all-star break. Rojas handles the bat well and makes consistent contact, but he has very little power and a slight frame. Pitchers don't fear him enough to give him many walks, and he's an average runner who isn't a big basestealing threat. If he can show any offensive ability, his glove is good enough for him to make the big leagues. He'll move up to high Class A this season.
When the Reds cleverly found a loophole that allowed them to sign Duran months before everyone else thought he was eligible in 2007, they knew they were getting a tall outfielder with a projectable frame. But they didn't expect he'd grow into an NBA forward overnight. Six-foot-3 when Cincinnati signed him for $2 million, Duran has grown four inches since then, which hasn't been good for his development. Elbow problems in 2008 were related to his growth spurt, and torn cartilage cause him to miss extended spring training last year. He has grown seven inches overall since he was 15 and hasn't gotten accustomed to his new frame yet. Duran struggles to stay balanced in his swing, a situation that isn't helped by the pronounced leg kick he uses as a timing mechanism. His calling card is his plus raw power and he puts on a show in batting practice, though his pop wasn't apparent in game action in 2009. Making contact was a serious problem for Duran, who must develop a better base to his batting stance and learn the strike zone to translate his power potential into production. He's a below-average runner coming out of the batter's box, though he does run better once under way. Because of his height--he has the frame to pack on 50 pounds as he matures--it's questionable whether he'll be able to stick in the outfield. His above-average arm fits well in right field. Duran isn't ready to jump to full-season ball in 2010, and he won't be 19 until the end of the season, so the Reds can be patient.
Logan Ondrusek made the biggest jump from suspect to prospect of any Reds pitcher in 2009, with del Rosario right on his heels. The Reds altered his arm slot during spring training and the results were immediate and dramatic. Like Ondrusek, del Rosario jumped from high Class A to Triple-A and was added to the 40-man roster after the season. Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 19-year-old in 2005, he didn't even make it to the United States until 2007 and didn't pitch in a full-season league until he was 22. He was at best a rosterfiller with good command of an 87-89 mph fastball. But once he started pitching from a lower arm slot last season, del Rosario was able to generate increased velocity (90-92 mph, touching 93) with newfound sink. When he's on, as he was for most of 2009, his sinker generates plenty of grounders and broken bats. He also throws a slider and a changeup, but mainly relies on his sinker. Projecting as a setup man, del Rosario figures to open this season back in Triple-A
Whenever he has been healthy, Lotzkar has been one of the best pitching prospects in the system. But those times have been few and far between. He was held back in extended spring training with a sore neck to start 2008, then suffered a stress fracture in his elbow that August. Upon his return last spring, he blew out his elbow and required Tommy John surgery in mid-May. The combination of elbow injuries will require a longer rehab time than normal, and Lotzkar likely won't return to the mound until mid-2010. However, the Reds note that Francisco Cordero went through similar problems in 1998 and returned with no ill effects. Before the injuries, Lotzkar showed the potential for three plus pitches--a 91-93 mph fastball, a power curveball and a changeup-- but needed to improve his command and consistency. Because he was drafted as a 17-year-old, Lotzkar hasn't fallen too far behind. He still has the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter if he can stay healthy.
After two middling seasons as a midweek starter for Houston, Joseph won the Cougars' closer job as a junior and turned his college career around. After posting ERAs above 5.00 in each of his first two seasons, he went 3-1, 2.16 with 11 saves and 75 strikeouts in 50 innings. That impressed the Reds enough to draft him in the third round last June and sign him for $398,000. Before 2009, Joseph had to reduce his velocity to get the ball over the plate, but he sharpened his control and was able to locate his 90-93 mph fastball where he wanted. He also has a hard-biting 82-83 mph slider that shows flashes of being a plus pitch. His command and his lack of a changeup make it unlikely that he can transition to being a starter. He profiles best as a power reliever, though he has the stuff to retire righthanders and shouldn't be pigeonholed as a lefty specialist. Joseph pitched well while reaching low Class A in his pro debut. He may advance rapidly through the minors and should open his first full season in high Class A.
Originally signed by the Giants for $20,000 as an outfielder, Viola was cut after it was discovered that he had forged his birth certificate to appear three years younger. The Reds signed him as a 22-year-old lefthander for $1,000 and he quickly displayed one of the best arms in the system. But what once looked like a coup has proven to be less of one because his scouting report has changed little in his three seasons in the United States. Viola still displays a fastball that sits at 92-94 mph and runs up to 96. But he shows little feel for pitching, and his fringy slider and changeup haven't shown much improvement. His command is extremely inconsistent. He has outings where he can hit his spots, but too often he struggles to find the strike zone. Viola has tried starting, but his lack of secondary stuff and polish make him more suited for a bullpen role. Viola had his first taste of major league action in 2009 as a September callup, but he'll need to show more than just a blazing fastball to fit into Cincinnati's long-term plans. He's 26 now, and the Reds are starting to wonder if he'll ever add more polish.
A seventh-round pick in 2004, Valiquette is the only player left from that Reds draft who's still in the organization and hasn't made it to the big leagues. His path to Double-A involved several stops and starts. Promoted to low Class A in 2005 before he was ready, he was shelled on the mound and struggled to adjust to life as a full-time baseball player. The Quebec native spoke little English when he signed, which added to his struggles. He eventually went home during the 2006 season, but decided to return to the game the following year. He has shown improved maturity and a better ability to fit in with his teammates since coming back. As with Pedro Viola, Valiquette's success always has revolved around unusual velocity for a lefty and little else. He mostly sits at 93-94 mph and touches 96 with his fastball. He has improved his slider to the point where it's usable, but it's still below average. He also has fiddled with a changeup but with little success. His control and command also leaves something to be desired. Because he was drafted as a 17-year-old, Valiquette is still relatively young. He could fill a need as a low-cost lefty out of the pen before too long, but his ceiling is relatively low because of his inability to develop a solid second pitch.
Though he was eligible every year, Serrano went undrafted in two seasons at Cypress (Calif.) JC and as a junior at Oral Roberts. He took a huge leap forward in 2009, winning Summit League player and pitcher of the year honors while ranking second in NCAA Division I in strikeouts per nine innings (13.8) and sixth in whiffs (132). After signing him for $25,000 as a sixth-round pick, the Reds expected him to succeed against younger hitters, but his complete dominance was a pleasant surprise. Serrano blew through Rookie ball, then was even better for most of his stay in low Class A Dayton. He allowed two runs in three relief outings (spanning eight innings), then put together a 20-inning scoreless streak once he moved to the starting rotation. Serrano's tight slider is his best pitch. He commands it and his 89-90 mph fastball well, and he also uses a palmball grip to throw an effective changeup. In the long term, he profiles best as a reliever, a role in which his fastball could play up to give him a second plus pitch. Already 24, he'll have to prove he can succeed against hitters who are as advanced as he is, and Cincinnati will give him that chance in Double-A at some point in 2010.
Though he's one of the younger pitchers in the system, Sulbaran already has more experience facing elite-level hitters than any Reds farmhand. Before he ever threw a professional pitch, he had faced Cuba's powerful national team twice, once in the Beijing Olympics and once in the Haarlem Honkbal tournament. And before he made his pro debut in 2009, he struck out Ivan Rodriguez and retired Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran while pitching out of the pen for the Dutch team at the World Baseball Classic. Unfortunately for Sulbaran, a $500,000 bonus baby, his international success has been the highlight of his young pro career and made the day-to-day grind of the minor league season seem mundane by comparison. His first pro season was hampered by a blister problem and his own lack of focus. He was held back in extended spring until May 1 because of blisters, then struggled with them throughout the second half of the season. Sulbaran needs to prove that he can win when he doesn't have his best stuff. He sometimes sits at 89-92 mph with his lively fastball and complements it with a plus curveball and an average changeup. But at other times, he struggles to top 90 mph, fails to locate his curveball and doesn't believe in his changeup. Those days became more and more common as the season went along, and he finished with a 5.80 ERA in his final 12 starts. Sulbaran still has one of the better assortments of pitches in the system, but he'll need to take a step forward in 2010.
In scouting director Chris Buckley's first draft with the Reds in 2006, they drafted Justin Turner and Danny Dorn out of Cal State Fullerton. For the cost of just $51,000, Cincinnati signed one player who already has reached the big leagues (Turner, after going to the Orioles in a trade for Ramon Hernandez) and another who ended 2009 in Triple-A (Dorn). The Reds may get a similar return on investment from their latest Titan, Fellhauer, who signed for $125,000 as a seventh-round pick in June. Like Chris Heisey, Fellhauer is a wellrounded outfielder with no standout tool but also none that rates significantly below average. A gifted hitter who ranked second on USA Baseball's college team with a .299 average in 2008 and batted .396 at Fullerton last spring, he sprays the ball to all fields. His raw power is his worst tool, which makes his seven homers at Dayton (one more than he hit with metal bats as a junior) somewhat surprising. He has average speed, and his instincts allow him to steal a few bases and cover enough ground to play center field. Both his range and accurate arm earn 55 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale. If he can't do enough to win a job as a regular, he profiles as a solid reserve capable of playing all three outfield positions. He'll open his first full season in high Class A.
Facing a cleanup hitter with the bases loaded doesn't seem like a life-or-death scenario to Tuttle because he already has been through the real thing. Two days after he turned 12, he was nearly killed in a car accident that forced him to spend five weeks in the hospital. He bounced back from that to become an intriguing prospect both as a shortstop and a pitcher, committing to North Carolina State as a two-way player before the Reds drafted him in the fifth round and persuaded him to turn pro for $200,000. Tuttle's improved velocity as a senior made it clear is future is on the mound. He mostly showed an 89-92 mph fastball in his pro debut, though he touched 94 mph and has hit 96 mph in high school. His low three-quarters arm angle makes it appear he's slinging the ball and isn't pretty, but it gives his fastball plenty of natural run and sink. Very few of Tuttle's pitches are straight, which is both a blessing and a minor curse, as it makes it hard for him to command his fastball. He throws strikes but has too much movement to paint the corners. He also sometimes struggles to maintain his release point. He has a sweepy slider that was effective in Rookie ball but will need tightening as he moves up the ladder. His changeup, like that of many young pitchers, is more an idea than a consistent pitch at this point. Tuttle's delivery makes some scouts cringe and leads some to think he'll end up as a reliever, but Cincinnati will give him plenty of time to prove he can start. He figures to pitch in low Class A this season.
As the success of Chris Denorfia and Chris Heisey has shown, the Reds have a knack for finding small-college talent. Since signing for $80,000 as a 2008 eighth-round pick out of NCAA Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills, Puckett has slugged 27 homers and 72 extra-base hits in 183 pro games. Physically, he doesn't look like much of a prospect. He's generously listed at 5-foot-10, but when he steps into the batter's box, he shows the power and the approach of a much bigger man. He looks to drive the ball with a power-oriented swing that will pile up strikeouts as well as home runs. His combination of plus raw power and slightly above-average speed is intriguing, and it will be much more intriguing if Puckett can prove he can stick at second base. He has very limited range to go with hard hands, as his excellent strength at the plate actually works against his flexibility in the field. He has an average arm that would be enough for third base or left field if he had to make a move to an easier position. Cincinnati will give Puckett every opportunity to stick at second base as he spends 2010 in high Class A.
Coming off of a .366 sophomore season at Kansas State, Wiley put himself in position to be an early-round pick for 2008. Then he hit .217 in the Cape Cod League and .227 as a junior, which caused him to drop to the 22nd round. Since then, he has done everything he can to prove that his struggles were an aberration, batting .289/.403/.507 in pro ball. Wiley shows natural strength in his stroke and good plate coverage. He has an excellent batting eye allows him to draw walks though he takes a full swing and sometimes sells out for power. Few pitchers can throw a fastball past him. Wiley will have to hit to make it to the majors because he's a poor defender. His arm is weak, even for a left fielder, and he his below-average range plays down because he doesn't take good routes. Wiley has some athleticism, so there's hope that he can improve and become a passable corner outfielder. He has slightly above-average speed once he gets going, though he's just an average runner out of the box because of his big swing. He'll move up to high Class A this season.
When the Reds drafted Mesoraco 15th overall and signed him for $1.4 million in 2007, they thought they were getting a catcher with a plus bat, defensive potential and excellent athleticism. Three years later, they're still waiting to see him turn his tools into production. His bat speed and athleticism have been less than expected. He battled an injury to his left wrist--his third hand or wrist injury in three pro seasons--but did show improved defense. After throwing out just two of the 23 basestealers who tested him in April, he caught 23 of 50 (46 percent) over the rest of the year. Mesoraco has hit just .240/.311/.368 at the plate, showing a lack of bat speed and discipline. His injuries may partly explain his lack of explosiveness. Not many scouts outside of the organization now see the same tools that made Mesoraco a first-round pick. The Reds don't have to place him on their 40-man roster until after the 2011 season, so they have every reason to be patient.
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