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When Chapman was in Cuba, his talented left arm was coveted by major league scouts, even if he was off limits and never exhibited much consistency. He first tried to defect in 2008 but got caught and was left off Cuba's Olympic team as punishment. He rejoined the national team for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, where he sat in the mid-90s and touched 100 mph with his fastball. Chapman bolted from the team at the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands that July and became a free agent after establishing residency in Andorra. He signed with the Reds last January, received a six-year, $30.25 million major league contract that included a $16.25 million bonus. Chapman's adjustment to the United States wasn't always easy. He had to get used to a new culture and deal with the daily grind of pro ball. He was surprised to learn that MLB organizations practiced every day, and he never had done any video work. After spending his first two months at Triple-A Louisville as a starter, he took off after moving to the bullpen in mid-June. Cincinnati called him up in August, and he made history on Sept. 24 by throwing the fastest recorded fastball in big league history at 105.1 mph. He took the loss in Game Two of the Division Series when the Phillies roughed him up for three unearned runs. Any discussion about Chapman begins with his fastball. It's a freak of nature, arguably the hottest heater ever seen. The 20-80 scouting scale fails to fully encapsulate the pitch, because at its best it's 7-8 mph harder than an 80 fastball. He sits at 99-100 mph and touches 103-105 as a reliever. Even as a starter, he can work at 95-96 mph and get to 101. Hitters can't try to sit on his fastball because Chapman has a plus-plus slider, a mid-80s dart with sharp break. He also throws a below-average changeup with too much velocity, though that pitch became less important when he moved out of the rotation. His fastball and slider are good enough to get both lefthanders and righthanders out. Chapman is a premium athlete, but he struggled with his tempo and with repeating his delivery as a starter. He likely never will have plus command, partly because his fastball has so much life at times that it runs out of the strike zone, though more consistent mechanics would help. He didn't have much of a grasp of the nuances of pitching--fielding his position, covering first base, holding runners--but improved over the course of the season. The big question is whether Chapman will be a starter of reliever. Reds GM Walt Jocketty already has stated publicly that Chapman won't return to the minor leagues, making it more likely that he'll be a bullpen weapon. The needs of a contender often trump developmental concerns, and Chapman could supplant Francisco Cordero as the Reds' closer before the all-star break.
Hamilton's hometown of Taylorsville, Miss., has produced four NFL players despite a population of less than 2,000, but he's the town's first-ever baseball draftee. He was headed to Mississippi State as a wide receiver until the Reds signed him for $623,000 as a secondrounder in 2009. He led the Rookie-level Pioneer League with 48 steals and rated as the circuit's top prospect last summer. Hamilton's speed ranks among the best in the minors. A switch-hitter, he has been timed in 3.9 seconds to first base on a swing from the right side, and in 3.5 seconds on a bunt from the left. Like Ichiro Suzuki, he'll run into his swing, slapping the ball the other way while racing down the line. He's already a dangerous basestealer, reading pitchers well and getting good jumps. Hamilton has well below-average power, but his speed allows him to accumulate doubles and triples. He has solid strike-zone awareness for his age. His quickness gives him plenty of range for either middle-infield position, but his average arm strength and low arm slots have some scouts questioning whether he throws well enough at shortstop. He spent most of his time in 2010 playing second base. Hamilton again will play mostly second base when he heads to low Class A Dayton in 2011. He could be the leadoff hitter Cincinnati has sought for years.
When the Reds made Mesoraco the 15th overall pick in the 2007 draft and signed him for $1.4 million, they thought he'd be a power-hitting catcher. They just didn't know it would take this long. After slugging a combined .368 while battling wrist and finger injuries in his first three years as a pro, he broke out in 2010 by batting .302/.377/.587 while climbing from high Class A Lynchburg to Louisville. Mesoraco's swing has some uppercut to it, but he has a good load and hits from a strong base. Add in his bat speed and hand-eye coordination, and he should hit for a solid average to go with his plus power. He's athletic for a catcher and has average speed. Reviews of Mesoraco's performance behind the plate are mixed. He has a strong arm with consistent 1.95-2.0 second pop times, and he threw out 41 percent of basestealers last year. But he struggles at times to handle velocity cleanly, a noticeable problem late last season after he hurt his left index finger. He allowed 10 passed balls in 18 Arizona Fall League games. Mesoraco ranks ahead of 2010 first-rounder Yasmani Grandal both athletically and developmentally. Ticketed for Triple-A this season, Mesoraco could take over in Cincinnati before long if he can stay healthy.
The seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft, Alonso proved to be much more difficult to sign then expected, holding out until the Aug. 15 deadline for a $4.55 million major league contract. His bat has been as good as advertised, though he slumped early in 2010 while getting over his disappointment of starting the season at Double-A Carolina. He responded to a Triple-A promotion by hitting .335/.415/.561 in the second half to earn his first big league callup. Alonso's approach impresses scouts. He uses the entire field and has a good feel for the strike zone. He struggled early last season when fed a steady diet of offspeed pitches away, but he adapted. He also made good adjustments against lefthanders. He shows the potential to hit for average with plus power and on-base ability. With National League MVP Joey Votto at first base in the majors, Cincinnati has tried and failed to find Alonso another position. A spring-training trial at third base quickly proved futile, and his well below-average speed makes him a liability in left field. He's adequate at first base and has some arm strength. If Votto gets hurt, Alonso is ready to step in and play first base. Otherwise, he doesn't have a spot in Cincinnati. He'll head back to Triple-A for a second time to start the 2011 season.
Rodriguez signed for $2.5 million in 2008, setting a since-broken record for a Venezuelan amateur bonus and paving the way for a significant influx of Latin talent in the system. He has one of the highest upsides among Reds farmhands, and though he repeated Billings in 2010, he was still the Pioneer League's youngest regular at age 17. Rodriguez showed a more mature approach in his second stint at Billings. He did a better job of using the whole field and made more consistent contact. He still has a ways to go at recognizing breaking balls, and there's still more swing and miss in his swing than scouts would like. He has a quick bat and above-average raw power to all fields. If he tightens his strike zone as he matures, he should hit for a solid average. His plus speed makes him a threat to steal, though he'll likely slow down a little as he continues to get bigger. Mostly a center fielder in his pro debut, Rodriguez saw more action in right field last season. Because of his size, he profiles better in right, and he easily has enough arm strength for the position. The Reds initially viewed Rodriguez as a potential five-tool center fielder, but as he has filled out, he now looks more like a prototypical right fielder. He'll head to low Class A Dayton for his first taste of full-season ball.
Much like Alonso, Grandal was born in Cuba but emigrated to Florida and played collegiately at Miami. He was one of the top high school catchers available in the 2007 draft, but his $1 million asking price dropped him to the Red Sox in the 27th round. He more than tripled that when he went 12th overall last June and signed a $3.2 million big league contract with a $2 million bonus at the Aug. 16 deadline. His scouting report is similar to Devin Mesoraco's. Grandal has a little less pop, arm strength and athleticism, but he's more polished and a better overall defender. A switch-hitter, Grandal uses the whole field and has good plate discipline. He projects as a plus hitter with perhaps 20-25 homers per season. He's a solid receiver, though his long release takes away from his average arm strength and results in pop times as slow as 2.1 seconds. Like most catchers, he doesn't run well and will slow down further as he piles up games behind the plate. He's relatively advanced for a player fresh out of the draft, but Mesoraco's development means the Reds have no reason to rush Grandal. He'll spend his first full pro season at Cincinnati's new high Class A Bakersfield affiliate.
Francisco was a surprise addition to the Reds' Opening Day roster in 2010. His stay lasted only a week and he missed two months in Triple-A following an appendectomy, but he spent much of the final two months of the season in Cincinnati and made the postseason roster. Francisco has the best raw power in the system and destroys balls when he squares them up. He'll never be selective at the plate, but he gradually has improved his approach and now works counts. His swing has several moving parts, with a waggle and a toe-tap timing mechanicism, but he has shortened his stroke. He has struggled throughout his career to hit lefties, who limited him to a .216 average last year. Francisco has 30-plus homer potential but needs to find a defensive home. He has below-average range at third base, though his plus-plus arm makes up for some of his deficiencies. First base isn't an option because of Joey Votto and Yonder Alonso, and Francisco's well below-average speed doesn't play well in left field. Francisco needs to stay in shape to continue to be an option at third base, where he's currently blocked by Scott Rolen. He may need a trade to get regular big league playing time in the near future.
When Cozart starred at Mississippi and with Team USA, scouts liked his glove but wondered if he'd hit enough with wood bats. The Reds believed in his offensive potential because they thought he could make adjustments, and he has exceeded expectations at the plate while continuing to provide steady defense and reaching Triple-A. Cozart has tweaked his swing as a pro to get his legs more involved. The result is surprising pop for a shortstop, as he has reached double figures in home runs in each of his three full pro seasons, including a career-high 17 last year. He does strike out some, so he might not hit for a high average or post a gaudy on-base percentage. An average runner, he stole 30 bases in 34 attempts in 2010 thanks to his ability to read pitchers. Cozart projects as a useful offensive player who makes all the routine plays at shortstop. He has quick feet, soft hands and a solid, accurate arm. He led International League shortstops with a .977 fielding percentage last year. Newly added to the 40-man roster, Cozart will head to spring training with a chance to wrest the Cincinnati's starting shortstop job from Paul Janish. Cozart offers more offensive upside and similar defensive ability, though Janish has a better arm.
The star of the Toms River (N.J.) team that won the 1998 Little League World Series, Frazier followed his brothers Charles and Jeff into pro ball when the Reds signed him for $875,000 as the 34th overall pick in the 2007 draft. No. 1 on this list a year ago, he experienced the worst slump of his career when he batted .197/.274/.369 in the first two months of last season. He recovered to hit a more typical .288/.362/.486 the rest of the way. Frazier's aggressive approach did him no favors when Triple-A pitchers gave him offspeed pitches on the outer half of the plate. He eventually adjusted, standing taller and using the opposite field more, and still showed plus power even while slumping. Some scouts question whether he'll hit enough to profile as a regular left fielder, however. Frazier has average speed, range and arm strength. He's a better defender than Juan Francisco at third base, but Francisco's lack of other options has limited Frazier's time there. He has seen action at all four infield positions. The best-case scenario is that Frasier ends up as a Ben Zobrist type who hits for power and decent average while playing multiple positions. Placed on the 40-man roster in November, he appears blocked from playing anything more than a utility role in Cincinnati, which could mean a third stint in Triple-A.
The Reds have had to be very patient with Lotzkar. A sandwich pick in 2007, he went down with a stress fracture in his elbow in 2008 and required Tommy John surgery when he tore an elbow ligament the following year. He missed all of 2009 before returning last June and showing the same stuff he had before the injuries. Lotzkar features a 90-94 mph fastball with good life. He has a hard curveball that he can bury for strikeouts as well as a slower curve that he uses as a get-me-over pitch, and his breaking stuff seemed better after his layoff. His changeup shows promise, as does his cutter. He showed improved feel for pitching in his return to action and now does a better job of working both sides of the plate. Lotzkar used to pitch with a high elbow in his delivery, which many suspected led to his injuries. He since has toned down his mechanics and lowered his elbow by breaking his hands quicker in his windup. If Lotzkar can stay healthy, he has the biggest upside of any pitcher in the system other than Aroldis Chapman. Still relatively young at age 21, he'll try to prove he can make a full season's worth of starts at Dayton in 2011.
LaMarre's junior season at Michigan got off to an awful start, as he broke his thumb while diving to make a catch in the outfield. He ended up missing 20 games, but showed few problems upon his return as he led Michigan in batting, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He was considered quite signable, which he proved by signing for $587,700 almost immediately after the draft. LaMarre is an excellent athlete. He was the leading tackler on back-to-back state championship football teams in high school and was an all-star hockey player. His best tool is his speed, and he's a well above-average runner who has been timed at 4.05 seconds from home to first. He also showed a knack for stealing bases in low Class A--something he hadn't been asked to do much at Michigan. LaMarre should hit for average because of a smooth stroke and plenty of bat speed. He has average power as well. He profiles as an average center fielder defensively, and his arm is a tick above average, easily enough for center. He struggled at times with his reads off the bat in center. LaMarre isn't particularly polished for a college draftee, but he has more power and hitting ability than most center fielders. He'll head to high Class A in 2011.
When the Reds worked out major league deal with 2010 first-round pick Yasmani Grandal that kept his initial bonus relatively low, it freed up money in the draft budget to work out deals with Cisco and outfielder Kyle Waldrop. Cisco passed on a commitment to Georgia to sign for $975,000. Even though he's a high school pitcher, Cisco already is regarded as one of the more polished arms in the system. His grandfather Galen was a major league pitching coach, and his brother Mike is a pitcher in the Phillies system, so pitching runs in the family. Cisco has a solid, mature body. He works with an 89-91 mph fastball that has good life, and he has an ability to manipulate the ball to make it run or cut. He also has an advanced curveball for his age and an effective changeup. All three pitches project as at least average. Cisco should move quickly for a high school pitcher, but he's pitching on a razor's edge. Because his frame is so mature, he is not expected to gain velocity, and if his stuff takes a step back once he gets into the routine of working every fifth day, he'll be trying to succeed with average stuff. Cisco signed too late to pitch in 2010 and will start his pro career in low Class A. He could be in Double-A before long thanks to his polish.
The Reds drafted Joseph after he had an up-and-down career at Houston that didn't really take off until he moved into the bullpen as a junior. Cincinnati knew what it was getting and believed Joseph would move quickly if he stuck to a bullpen role, and so far he has lived up to every expectation. When Joseph is pitching with tempo, hitters have trouble handling him. He throws a plus-plus slider that proved unhittable at three different levels last year, and hitters sometimes flailed at pitches that would almost hit them. Joseph's fastball is a solid pitch in its own right, sitting at 90-93 mph. He's working on a changeup but has rarely used it and is unlikely to need it unless he slides into a long relief role. Joseph's delivery isn't particularly clean and it has plenty of effort, and he has a tendency to open up too soon in his delivery, but he somewhat tamed that in 2010. Joseph has yet to hit a speed bump on his climb through the minors. He should open the year in Triple-A, but a promotion to Cincinnati at some point seems likely.
As an offense-first second baseman, Valaika's rise to the big leagues took a big detour when he hit .235 in his first taste of Triple-A in 2009 and missed time after punching a water cooler, breaking his hand. He bounced back in 2010, topping .300 for the third time in his five-year career. A shortstop in college, Valaika has shown steady improvement at his new position. He led International League second basemen with a .984 fielding percentage last year and has become comfortable turning double plays. His range is still below average, but he generally scoops up whatever he gets to, and his arm is strong enough for second base. He's a slightly below-average runner. At the plate, Valaika hits plenty of line drives and is sometimes too aggressive. He doesn't walk much at all, which leads to low on-base percentages. His slightly below-average power plays well at second base. Some scouts see Valaika as a second-division regular with enough bat to make up for his defensive deficiencies, while others see him as an offense-first utility type who can play third base and even shortstop in a pinch. His chances of making the big league roster as a backup this season will depend on how the battle between Paul Janish and Zack Cozart shakes out at shortstop.
When watching Corcino pitch, scouts have a hard time avoiding Johnny Cueto comparisons. Like Cueto, Corcino is a short Dominican righthander with a thick body, tree-trunk legs and a plus fastball. He also uses a similar fast delivery that ends with a pronounced spin off his lead leg. Corcino's even bears a facial resemblance to Cueto. Like the Reds rotation stalwart, Corcino has plenty of upside. He showcases a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 97 mph at its best, and pairs it with a potentially plus 75-78 mph slider. His changeup is a little firm right now, and he needs to develop more separation between the two pitches. Corcino's stuff tailed off a little after his promotion to low Class A last year, and he needs to improve his command, but his combination of plus stuff and competitive makeup makes him one of the best young pitching prospects in the system. He'll help anchor the Dayton rotation in 2011.
Guillon was the third significant international signing during the Reds' spending spree in 2008. Not long after the Reds signed him for $220,000, however, they found that he had a torn elbow ligament. His original contract was voided, and he signed for a significantly lower amount. The Reds then waited until 2010 to see him get back on the mound. Because he signed a second contract with his original team, Guillon will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft every year until he's added to the 40-man roster; he wasn't taken in the 2010 Rule 5. When he did get back on the hill, he showed much of what the Reds liked before his injury. Guillon is advanced for a young pitcher, with a live, 90-92 mph fastball, but his out pitch is a plus changeup that overmatched hitters in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He didn't use his fringy breaking ball much last year because he was coming back from injury, so that will be a focus for him this year. Guillon has cleaned up his delivery, reducing a wrap, and he showed good feel for setting up hitters. He'll battle for a full-season spot with Dayton but may open the season in extended spring training.
In the scouting leading up to the 2008 international signing period, Arias became one of the Reds' top targets. They learned he had an elbow problem that needed surgery, but when other teams backed off they decided to sign him anyway, giving him a $330,000 bonus. Because of the elbow problems, it took Arias two more years to get to the U.S., and he still shows some effects--his arm isn't as loose as it was before the surgery--but the Reds think the injury has given them a quality prospect at a bargain rate. Unlike other Latin shortstops in the system, Arias is more of a hitter than a glove man. His hits show plenty of carry when he squares up the ball, and he does it with a nice, short stroke and simple bat path. He shows plenty of opposite-field power. Like many young players, he's too aggressive and willing to chase pitches out of the zone. He has slightly above-average speed, but his long limbs and solid frame make it likely he'll end up as an average runner at best after he fills out. He'll probably outgrow shortstop at well. He played some third base in instructional league, and his average arm should play there. Arias should have enough bat for the position as well, and his bat may even play as a corner outfielder if he can't stick at third base. He should make his full-season debut at Dayton this spring.
When the Reds drafted Boxberger out of Southern California, they planned on using the same approach they had mapped out for Zach Stewart in his first professional season--half the season in the rotation, then to the bullpen to limit his innings. It worked out with Stewart, who was traded to the Blue Jays in the Scott Rolen deal, but didn't go nearly as well with Boxberger. The son of 1978 College World Series MVP Rod Boxberger, Brad showed excellent stuff in the first half of the season in high Class A. He used a 91-93 mph fastball, an average slider and an improving changeup to rank among the Carolina League's ERA leaders at the time of his promotion. At that point, his season fell apart. When he moved up and into the pen, Boxberger tried too much to blow his fastball past hitters. He lost the feel for his slider and changeup, dropped his release point and struggled to throw strikes. He allowed at least one earned run in his first 10 Double-A appearances. Boxberger started to regain his stuff in the final weeks of the season and looked better in instructional league, but he has to prove that he can maintain his stuff over a full season. He'll return to Carolina, this time in the rotation.
Gregorius' father played in the top professional league in the Netherlands, and he is eligible to play for both the Netherlands Antilles and Dutch teams in international play because he was born in Amsterdam. He played for the Dutch team in the 2009 World Cup. A mature 20-year-old, Gregorius' best work comes in the field. He has a 65 arm on the 20-to-80 scouting scale that allows him to make any throw, often without needing to set his feet. His above-average speed and quick feet give him good range as well, though his hands are still somewhat erratic. Many of his errors come from a lack of focus and a tendency to rush plays, and that should improve as he matures. His excellent body control and fluidity prompt scouts to project him as an above-average defensive shortstop. At the plate, he has more work to do. He is relatively helpless against lefties, but he knows how to bunt, has a relatively direct stroke and has added strength to his wiry frame. He doesn't yet read pitchers well and isn't particularly aggressive on the basepaths. Gregorius will get another taste of high Class A in 2011.
Sappelt has proven detractors wrong every step up the way, and he has continued to be a productive hitter despite his short stature. After an excellent career at Coastal Carolina, where his college teammates nicknamed him Gary Coleman, Sappelt slipped to the ninth round because scouts had a hard time profiling him, and he signed for $75,000. He has continued to hit, culminating in a Double-A Southern League batting title in 2010 and a late-season promotion to Triple-A. Sappelt has excellent hand-eye coordination and an ability to turn pitches off the plate into line drives. He's especially tough on lefties (batting .411 against them in 2010) and is an above-average hitter with below-average power. Some scouts see him as a fourth outfielder. Sappelt is a tick above average in center field and has enough arm to play right field. He's an above-average runner. Sappelt may not profile as an everyday player, and being a righthanded hitter limits his platoon potential, but like Chris Heisey, another late-round Reds find, he has a knack for surprising people. Sappelt will get his first extended taste of Triple-A in 2011.
It took Waldrop until his senior high school season to get a chance to fully show what he can do on the baseball diamond. He missed part of his sophomore baseball season with a broken hand, and part of his junior year with a broken leg. He made more noise on the football field, where he was a standout safety and wide receiver, and he committed to South Florida to play both sports. The Reds were able to put an end to his football career with a $500,000 bonus that they spread over multiple years under draft provisions for two-sport athletes. Waldrop has plenty of strength in his swing and he should provide good lefthanded power. He's quite raw right now, with a pull-heavy approach that leaves him vulnerable to anything on the outer half of the plate. Once he develops a more advanced approach, his bat speed should allow him to hit for average as well. Waldrop is a slightly above-average runner, though he doesn't cover enough ground to be a center fielder. As with many football players, his arm is below average, but as he stretches it out and gets used to throwing, it may improve enough to let him play right field. Waldrop is still relatively raw and may not be ready for full-season ball yet, so a trip to the Arizona League or Billings seems likely.
As a 17-year-old in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League last year, Torreyes led the league in batting, doubles, triples, slugging percentage and runs. So it might be surprising to hear that what the Reds really like is his defense at second base. Torreyes is a wizard with the glove, capable of making the highlight play ranging into the outfield or behind the bag, and he also knows how to position himself to make a tough play look easy. He has also played shortstop and third base, but his lack of arm strength makes second base a much better fit. At the plate, Torreyes has surprising pop for his size, and he profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter who is a good bunter with a solid batting eye. Though the Reds list him at 5-foot-10, he's probably three inches shorter, so some scouts worry about his projection. His ability to handle the bat and his impressive instincts make him worth watching, and he should be ready for the Pioneer League as an 18-year-old.
Dayton was one of the worst teams in minor league baseball in 2010, and at one point the Dragons lost 24 straight home games. On a team with plenty of disappointing players, Rodriguez was one of the few bright spots. At the plate, he's a switch-hitter who shows power from both sides. He has a conventional set-up from the right side, while lefthanded he has to bring the bat a long way to the zone from a rather noisy, high-handed stance. He chases a lot of balls out of the zone, but his hand-eye coordination allows him to get away with it more than most. Rodriguez is an average runner. He needs to hit because he's a tick below average defensively, with limited range. His arm works at second base and is short for shortstop and possibly third base. Rodriguez has a ways to go when it comes to mastering the more intricate aspects of the game. He would forget to cover bases at times and made a variety of other mental mistakes, including failing to run out balls. Rodriguez is somewhat similar to Chris Valaiaka, as an offense-first second baseman. He'll advance to high Class A this year.
It has taken him several position swaps, but Soto finally found a home on defense. Unfortunately for him, that position will also make it harder for him to reach the big leagues with Cincinnati. Drafted as a shortstop, Soto moved to third base in his first full pro season. Because of his lack of range and strong arm, the Reds tried him as a catcher in 2010. He didn't stay there long, partly because the Reds now have Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal, and he ended up moving to first base during the 2010 season. Soto showed potential behind the plate, and he has the hands to be a solid first baseman, though his best defensive attribute, a plus arm, is wasted at first. Offensively, Soto has some of the best power in the organization, especially when he gets to extend his arms. His swing is relatively uncomplicated and easy to maintain, but it's also a long stroke, and scouts have concerns that he'll struggle to catch up with good fastballs. He's a below-average runner who figures to get slower as he matures. After two years in high Class A, Soto will head to Carolina in 2011.
After 600 minor league innings, LeCure finally got the call to the big leagues in 2010. His reward was the opportunity to face Chris Carpenter, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez in four of his first five starts. He didn't buckle under the pressure, but that's not surprising. At Texas, LeCure won elimination games in the Big 12 Conference tournament and College World Series as a freshman. He missed his junior season after being declared academically ineligble, and the Reds drafted him in the fourth round. Lecure's scouting report hasn't changed much since the Reds drafted him. He's a righthander without a plus pitch, but with enough savvy and command to survive. He has wrap in his delivery, but it doesn't seem to affect his command and he's been durable, making at least 20 starts in every full pro season. His fastball sits around 88-90 mph, touching 92 mph at its best. He also throws an average slider and changeup. LeCure's command allows him to have success with three average pitches. His upside is that of a fifth starter, and he faces an uphill battle to fill that role with the Reds' deep pitching staff. He's major league-ready and will be waiting in Triple-A if injuries strike in Cincinnati.
It has been a long path to the United States for Correa. Signed in 2008, he was suspended for 50 games at the end of the 2008 season when he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. At the same time, he was diagnosed with a torn elbow ligament that required Tommy John surgery. The suspension and rehab wiped out almost all of his 2009 season, and he showed few ill effects last year as he pitched his way out of the Arizona League to the Pioneer League. Correa's fastball sits at 90-92 mph, touching 94, and shows good life. He also throws a slurvy but effective curveball. His changeup is raw at this point, and he hasn't needed it much yet. Correa has a clean, three-quarters delivery that the Reds have tried to make more over-the-top. Reds officials have been impressed with his work ethic and his receptiveness to instruction. Correa's spring will help determine if he makes the jump to low Class A or heads back to Billings.
When the Reds dealt Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Nationals in an ill-fated playoff push in 2006, the deal quickly fell flat. Gary Majewski and Bill Bray, the two relievers brought in to bolster the Reds' bullpen, proved to be duds, while Royce Clayton and Brendan Harris were soon playing elsewhere. Thompson, a low Class A pitcher at the time, may still bring the Reds some return on their investment. When he has been healthy he has shown major league stuff, but injury problems have slowed his development, causing him to miss time in each of the past two seasons. He was shut down in 2009 with elbow problems, then had surgery to clean up his labrum after the season and was taken off the 40-man roster. His stuff bounced back last year, and he was showing a 92-94 mph fastball, a usable, slow curveball and an average changeup, but he missed time with mononucleosis. Thompson's skinny frame and injury history lead to lingering concerns about his durability and may eventually cause him to move to the bullpen. Cincinnati was impressed enough with his showing in the Arizona Fall League to add him back to the 40-man roster.
Aside from Juan Francisco, there may not be a Reds prospect who has better raw power than Duran. The Reds signed him in 2008 for $2 million, when assistant general manager Bob Miller noticed a loophole that allowed him to sign before the traditional July 2 signing date. Since then Duran has grown three inches, which has resulted in growth plate problems that have caused elbow and knee injuries. He was healthier in 2010, though he missed instructional league after injuring his ankle making a diving catch. Like Francisco, Duran can put on a show during batting practice. Unfortunately for the massive outfielder, BP doesn't count on the scoreboard. When the game begins and pitchers aren't throwing everything down the middle, Duran has significant problems making contact, largely because his pitch recognition is poor. With his large strike zone and long levers, Duran projects more as a slugger than someone who will hit for average. He is still relatively lanky and is an average runner. Defensively, Duran has problems reading line drives off the bat and takes poor routes. He does have an above-average arm. Duran still has loads of potential, and he will play the entire season as a 20-year-old, but he'll find low Class A to be a tough assignment unless his approach comes along.
Valiquette's scouting report for the past six years has been numbingly consistent: great arm, needs to develop a feel for a second pitch. That was true when he signed with the Reds in 2004, and it's still true nearly seven years later. Valiquette will play the entire 2011 season at 24, and he'll get plenty more chances because it's hard to find a lefty who can run it up to 97-98 mph. At the same time, he still has little feel for pitching and shows wavering command that often forces him to take something off his fastball to get it over the plate. He will sometimes shake off calls for his slider, though it's a usable pitch with average potential. With his fastball, that would be plenty to make it effective. His changeup is a show-me pitch at best. Valiquette's delivery has plenty of effort and he doesn't always get all the pieces to work together, which affects his command. The Reds may eventually run out of patience, but Valiquette's stuff is good enough that he will get plenty of time to figure out how to be a big league reliever--he still has less than 400 pro innings. He'll head to Triple-A for another try at mastering his slider, and if he does that he has the stuff to work late in games.
Perez was considered one of the top Cuban defectors in recent years when he went to the Dominican in 2008. Just before he wrapped up a $3.5 million deal with the Yankees, Major League Baseball suspended him for a year after discovering that he lied about his age--he had claimed to be 20 when he was actually 25. The discrepancy cost Perez millions, and he ended up signing with Cincinnati for $550,000. At 26, Perez has little projection remaining, but he is already a useful outfielder. He missed time with a shoulder injury after running into an outfield wall at Carolina to make a spectacular catch in a late July game. Upon his return, it took him a while to start swinging free and easy again. Perez is an above-average center fielder who can play right field. He's an average runner with below-average power, so his potential as a big leaguer rests with his ability to hit for average. Perez points the bat at the pitcher in his stance, with his hands well away from his body. That forces his hands to come a long way to a hitting position and leaves him vulnerable to being busted in with power stuff. Perez could play in the big leagues right now defensively, and his bat isn't far away either, but he has little upside and profiles as a big league backup.
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