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It's not often that a Pennsylvania prospect turns into a first-round pick. There have been just four in the last 10 years: Chris Lubanski (2003), Neil Walker (2004), Mesoraco (2007) and Jesse Biddle (2010). Mesoraco was difficult to scout, because he didn't catch much in high school or on the showcase circuit in 2006 because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The short Pennsylvania high school season didn't help either, but he was willing to take extra batting practice or go to workouts whenever teams asked. The Reds signed him for $1.4 million as the 15th overall pick, then watched him struggle with hand and finger injuries while batting .240/.311/.368 through his first three years as a pro. Over the last two seasons, Mesoraco has improved his conditioning and blossomed into one of the more productive catchers in the minors. He hit 26 homers in 2010 and ranked as the Triple-A International League's top position prospect in 2011. Called to Cincinnati in September, he hit his first two big league homers and started for much of the final three weeks. Mesoraco is the rare catcher who has the potential to be an above-average hitter with above-average power. He has an uppercut swing with a lot of bat speed, plus the ability to turn on a pitch and park it over the fence. He does a better job of using the whole field then he did early in his career, but his power still comes almost solely to his pull side--not one of his homers in 2011 went to right field. Mesoraco has developed the ability to take a pitch on the outer half and line it up the middle, which allows him to hit for average. His selectiveness enables him to work counts to get pitches he can drive. Like most catchers, he has below-average speed. Behind the plate, Mesoraco is an average receiver. He had problems when he wore down at the end of 2010 and struggles occasionally with velocity. He led IL catchers with 10 errors. He's relatively agile and consistently displays average 2.0-second pop times on throws to second base. He threw out 28 percent of basestealers in 2011, down from 41 percent the year before. Mesoraco's biggest impediment has been a series of nagging injuries. Finger and hand injuries have dogged him, but he's not one to beg out of the lineup. The Reds are thrilled with his makeup. Mesoraco is ready to take over as Cincinnati's everyday catcher and has no obstacles in his path. A potential all-star, Mesoraco will get time to lay claim to a starting job.
Hamilton became the first minor leaguer in a decade to top 100 steals, when he stole 103 bases in 2011. The former Mississippi State wide receiver recruit recovered from hitting .195 through late May to bat .316 afterward, and he moved to shortstop after playing second base in 2010. Hamilton's speed is one of the easiest 80 grades a scout will ever hand out. He regularly outruns pitchouts, slide steps and pickoff throws. He still has plenty of work to do on the rest of his game, however. He's a raw hitter with little power, and he needs to improve his bunting and plate discipline. At the Reds' insistence, he has stuck with switch-hitting and ended up hitting better as a lefty (.721 OPS) than from his natural right side (.648 OPS) in 2011. Hamilton shows excellent range at shortstop, but his hands aren't soft and he lacks the arm strength to make plays deep in the hole. His low arm slot makes many of his throws tail, costing him accuracy. Some scouts believe he'll eventually move to second or center field. Hamilton is an off-the-charts athlete who made significant improvements in the second half of 2011. He'll move up to high Class A Bakersfield and will need at least a couple of more years to develop before he's ready to unleash his speed on the majors.
An emigree from Cuba, where his father Luis played for the Havana Industriales, Alonso established himself as one of college baseball's best hitters while at Miami. The seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft, he received the most lucrative draft deal in franchise history, a $4.55 million big league contract that included a $2 million bonus. His climb to the majors was slower than the Reds expected, but that's largely because he's blocked by 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto. Alonso is an above-average hitter with a good sense of the strike zone and the ability to hit to all fields. Cincinnati always has believed that he has plus power, which he showed in his limited big league trial in the second half of 2011. While hitting comes easy for Alonso, defense has been an issue. He's adequate at first base, which is really his only viable option. He has some arm strength, but his well below-average speed doesn't play well in left field and he lacks the agility for third base. After hitting .330/.398/.545 in 88 big league at-bats, Alonso is ready for regular playing time with the Reds. They need to find a spot for him to play, either via a trade or by enduring his defensive deficiencies in left field.
Heading into 2007, Grandal was rated the nation's top high school catching prospect, though Devin Mesoraco moved ahead of him on most draft boards. Signed to a $3.2 million major league contract as the 12th overall pick in 2010, he zoomed to Triple-A in his first full pro season. There are a lot of similarities between Grandal and Mesoraco. Both project as catchers who will provide above-average offense and solid defense. Mesoraco is a better athlete and has a tick more power, but Grandal projects to hit for a higher average and has the advantage of being a switch-hitter. He has a balanced approach, controls the strike zone and uses the entire field. Though Grandal racked up 19 passed balls in 90 games in 2011, the Reds still think he'll be an average receiver. He has an average arm and threw out 34 percent of basestealers. He has well below-average speed. Grandal still has work to do on his receiving and could use a full year in Triple-A. By then Mesoraco may be entrenched in Cincinnati, and backup Ryan Hanigan is signed through 2013, which may lead to a trade.
When the Reds made Cozart a second-round pick in 2007, many scouts thought his pull-heavy approach wouldn't translate to wood bats. The Reds always believed he had potential at the plate, and he put up the best offensive numbers of his career at Triple-A in 2011, then hit well in two weeks in Cincinnati before injuring his left elbow while applying a tag. He had Tommy John surgery but should be ready for spring training because it was his non-throwing elbow. Cozart has solid tools across the board. He's an average hitter with average power who sprays line drives all over the field, and he could fit in the No. 2 spot in the lineup if he drew more walks. He has average speed with the instincts to pick his spots to steal bases. Cozart doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but it's strong enough to make all the plays at shortstop. He also has soft hands and a tick above-average range. Scouts differ on whether he's a first-division regular, but he should get the job done defensively while producing more-than-adequate offense for his position.
The Reds announced they were making a big push into the international market in 2008 by signing Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran to $4.5 million in bonuses. But it's Corcino who has proven to be the best Latin American they signed that year, a steal at $25,000. Corcino elicits frequent comparisons to Johnny Cueto for his stature, appearance, delivery and stuff. With a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96, he throws harder than Cueto did at the same point in his career. Corcino doesn't generate much downward plane with his fastball, because he lacks height and throws from a three-quarters arm slot. He has tightened his slider, making it an average pitch, and his 84-85 mph changeup is just as effective. He has a very quick arm and throws strikes, but his delivery involves some effort as he spins off the mound after bringing his arm across his body. Some scouts believe Corcino's stuff and feel for pitching will allow him to become a No. 3 starter, while others point to his small stature and delivery and envision him as a back-of-the-rotation option or set-up man. Cueto has become a frontline starter, though he has a better slider. Corcino will make the jump to high Class A in 2012.
It didn't take long for Stephenson to make his pitch for a spot in the first round of the 2011 draft. He threw back-to-back no-hitters in his first two starts, striking out 20 in the second game. After the Reds selected him 27th overall, the Washington recruit waited until the Aug. 15 signing deadline before agreeing to a $2 million bonus. Thanks to his California pedigree, Stephenson is relatively polished for a high school righthander. His fastball made him a first-round pick, as he sits at 92-95 mph and touches 97 mph. His clean delivery allows him to command his fastball and maintain his velocity. He shows the ability to spin a curveball and an understanding of how to throw a changeup, but neither is a consistently effective pitch yet. He also threw a splitter in high school, but Cincinnati has taken it away because of concerns it could lead to elbow problems. Because he's advanced for his age, Stephenson has a chance to make his pro debut at low Class A Dayton. If he starts the year in extended spring training and reports to Rookie-level Billings in June, he'd still be on a normal pace for a high school draftee. He has the upside of a frontline starter but will need time to develop.
Signed for $50,000 out of Curacao in 2007, Gregorius looks like quite a bargain. He reached Double-A in 2011, then started at shortstop for the Dutch national team that won the World Cup in Panama. His father Didi and brother Johnny played professionally in Holland and Curacao. Gregorius is a quality athlete whose best attribute is his arm, which rates a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale thanks to its strength and accuracy. He's a plus defender with good range and a quick first step. His hands are his biggest drawback defensively and contributed to his 21 errors in 80 games in 2011. Being a lefthandedhitting shortstop is another positive in Gregorius' favor, though he has struggled against lefties throughout his career. His combination of solid bat control, good pitch recognition and plus speed lead some scouts to project him as an above-average hitter. He has well below-average power, however, rarely walks and has yet to show a knack for stealing bases. Because of his solid makeup, the Reds have been comfortable with aggressively promoting Gregorius. He could begin 2011 in Triple-A at age 22, though it's more likely he'll start off at Cincinnati's new Double-A Pensacola affiliate. He has a higher ceiling but more risk than Zack Cozart, whom he'll eventually battle for a big league job.
The star of the 1998 Little League World Series championship team from Toms River, N.J., Frazier followed his brothers Charles and Jeff into pro ball. Signed for $875,000 as the 34th overall pick in 2007, he has spent most of the past two seasons in Triple-A because of the presence of Scott Rolen in Cincinnati. Frazier's best position is third base, but the Reds have tried him all over the infield and outfield in an attempt to find a spot for his bat. Frazier's most attractive tool is his plus power to all fields. He may never hit for a high average, though, because he has a pronounced arm bar in his swing and is too aggressive at the plate. He has a tick below-average speed but runs the bases well. While Frazier's feel for the game means he can play almost anywhere on the field--he played five different positions in 41 big league games--he profiles best at third base. His actions fit better at the hot corner than in the middle infield, and he has an average, accurate arm. After logging nearly 2,000 minor league at-bats, he's more than ready for the majors. With Rolen still under contract, Frazier still doesn't have a clear shot at a starting job, so for now he'll be a corner utilityman.
Rod Boxberger was the College World Series MVP and a first-round pick in 1978, and his son nearly matched his draft status 21 years later. Signed for $857,000 as the 43rd overall pick in 2009, Brad fell apart after a midseason promotion and move to the bullpen in 2010. Once he stopped overthrowing in an attempt to rush to the big leagues, he progressed to Triple-A in 2011. Boxberger has learned that when he throws with less effort, his stuff is crisper and he can find the strike zone more consistently. It also helps him maintain his release point, which he lost in 2010. Boxberger's success depends mostly on a 92-95 mph fastball that has sharp cutting action. His average slider is effective when he throws it for strikes. He also throws a fringy changeup but doesn't need it much in his relief role. He also threw a spike curveball when he was a starter, but he has junked it since moving to the bullpen. Boxberger's control deserted him in Triple-A and has been an issue during his two years in pro ball. If he can throw strikes like he did in the Arizona Fall League, he has a good chance to earn a big league bullpen job in spring training. He profiles as a set-up man who could close in the right situation.
When the Reds drafted Soto in the third round in 2007, he was considered a polished hitter who might not be able to stick at shortstop. Five seasons later, Soto has bounced from shortstop to third base to catcher and finally to first base. His bat has risen to the occasion, as he tied Paul Goldschmidt for the Double-A Southern League lead with 31 homers in 2001 despite missing a month with a broken bone in his left wrist. His plus power started translating into production once he became less pull-happy. He hit 11 homers in 2009, with nine to left field and none to right. Last year, 10 of his 31 blasts were opposite-field shots. Soto's approach is still undisciplined, as he rarely takes ball four, and some scouts question his ability to handle quality inside fastballs. His value lies mainly in his bat, as he's a well below-average runner and an average-at-best defender. He has a strong arm, though it doesn't get much use at first base. With Joey Votto and Yonder Alonso ahead of him, Soto looks like trade bait. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he's ready for Triple-A.
Ever since the Reds' gave him $500,000 as a 30th-rounder in 2008, Sulbaran has shown some of the better stuff in the system but not the performance to match. Maturity issues have been his biggest obstacle, and blister problems also haven't helped. In 2011, he finally took some steps forward, posting career bests in ERA (4.60) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.2) in the high Class A California League, a notorious hitter's haven. Cincinnati managed to get Sulbaran better directed toward home plate in his delivery last year. He still throws across his body but not nearly as much as in the past, and his improved mechanics gave him increased ability to locate pitches to his arm side. After sitting at 89-92 mph with his fastball in previous years, Sulbaran rang up a lot of 93s and 94s and touched 95 in 2011. His fastball has late sink, which makes it more effective. He's still working on his secondary pitches, an erratic curveball that's a plus offering at times and a fringy changeup that gives him a chance against lefthanders. Sulbaran has the stuff to be a No. 3 starter if he can continue to improve his command and mound presence. He'll work on that in Double-A this year.
For a man who stands 5-foot-7, Torreyes casts a very long shadow. Even before he played a game in the United States, he was a constant topic among Reds officials who had seen him in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League and couldn't wait to tell others what they had witnessed. He lived up to his advanced billing by batting .356 as an 18-year-old in low Class A last year. Torreyes has a knack for centering the ball on the sweet spot in at-bat after at-bat, and his advanced approach belies his youth. While he's an above-average hitter, his small stature leaves him with just 35 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. He makes contact so easily that he draws few walks and he has no better than average speed, so he may not contribute much offensively beyond his high batting average. Torreyes has average range at second base and projects as a slightly above-average defender because he has soft hands and positions himself well. He doesn't really have the arm to play shortstop, though some scouts think he could handle the position as a utilityman. Torreyes will continue to have to prove himself at every stop because of his physical limitations. As the owner of .364 career batting average, he should salivate at the chance to hit in the California League in 2012.
In any other season, LaMarre's 55 stolen bases would have stood out among Reds farmhands. No one in the system had swiped that many since 1994, but he took a back seat to Billy Hamilton, who led the minors with 103. LaMarre might have been even more prolific if not for a series of minor hamstring injuries. An outstanding athlete, he was the leading tackler on consecutive state-championship football teams in high school and was also a hockey star. He has well above-average speed and shows a feel for getting leads and reading pitchers. LaMarre had a quick bat and shows solid raw power in batting practice, but it hasn't come through in games. Instead he uses a top-of-the-order approach with good selectivity and an all-fields mentality. He also has a knack for laying down bunts. In the field, LaMarre is average defensively in center field with an arm that's strong enough to let him handle right field as well. He got a taste of Double-A at the end of the season, and will head to Pensacola to begin 2012. His bat will determine whether he ends up as a regular or a useful fourth outfielder.
After breaking former big leaguer Tim Byrdak's single-season and career strikeout records at South Suburban (Ill.) JC, Cingrani transferred to Rice and posted an 8.58 ERA in six starts as a junior. He cleaned up his delivery last spring and became a dominant reliever. After the Reds made him the first college senior drafted in 2011 (third round) and signed him for $210,000, they moved him back to the rotation with much better results. He fell 10 innings shy of qualifying for official leadership, but he topped all Rookie-level Pioneer League pitchers with at least 50 innings in ERA (1.75), strikeouts per nine innings (14.0), K-BB ratio (13.3), opponent average (.190) and WHIP (0.80). Cingrani uses his height to get great extension on the mound, making his 92-95 mph fastball look even faster. He also has a solid changeup with late fade that he's willing to throw in any count. He's trying to refine a slider but it's still a fringy pitch at best. Cingrani will need a better breaking ball to stick as a starter as he climbs the ladder, though he already profiles nicely as a late-inning reliever. His delivery has a lot of moving parts that add deception. Because he's already 22, Cingrani may begin his first full pro season in high Class A.
Wherever Sappelt has played, he's hit. Whether at Coastal Carolina (where he was nicknamed "Gary Coleman" because of his small stature) or in the minors, he continually has squared up the ball. He won the Southern League batting title with a .361 average in 2010, and he hit better than .300 for all but three days in 2011 before the Reds called him up in August. He struggled for the first time after reaching the big leagues, where pitchers used his aggressiveness against him. There aren't many long-term concerns about Sappelt's bat, however. He can turn on almost any fastball and just needs to prove he also can handle offspeed stuff when pitchers work him away. He doesn't have more than gap power and though he's a slightly above-average runner, he's not much of a basestealer. His speed doesn't fully translate on defense either, because he doesn't read balls well off the bat. He's a below-average defender with a substandard arm in center field, the only position at which he could make it as a regular. Unless he can improve his routes, he faces a future as a fourth outfielder. Cincinnati will give him a chance to make the club as a reserve in spring training, but he also could head back to Triple-A to work on his defense.
In a system filled with second baseman who can hit, Rodriguez's bat pales only in comparison to Ronald Torreyes' among that group. A switch-hitter who's equally comfortable from either side of the plate, Rodriguez has hit .300 or better in each of the past four seasons to earn a spot on Cincinnati's 40-man roster. He has a repeatable swing from both sides with significantly more power from the right side. His pop goes mainly to the gaps rather than over the fence, and he's at his best when he focuses on using the whole field. He's a slightly above-average runner who steals bases because he knows when to pick his spots. If Rodriguez is going to be a big leaguer, he still has work to do defensively. He doesn't always read balls off the bat properly, leading to late jumps, and struggles with the pivot on double plays. Rodriguez's has enough arm for second base and can hold his own at third base. He also has played shortstop on occasion and could end up as a utilityman if he can improve his defense. He's ready for Triple-A but may end up at Pensacola if Chris Valaika starts 2012 in Louisville.
The Reds prefer to stick close to MLB's slot recommendations in the first round, but they're not afraid to get creative later in the draft to add high-ceiling talents. Garrett is their latest high-risk, high-reward signing. Though he has little track record in baseball and will play basketball at St. John's, Cincinnati drafted him in the 22nd round last June and gave him a $1 million bonus. To protect themselves, the Reds took advantage of MLB provisions for two-sport athletes and spread the bonus over five years. Garrett appeared briefly on the high school showcase circuit in 2010 but didn't have a senior season because Henderson (Nev.) International School doesn't field a baseball team. He built up arm strength via a long-toss program and threw in workouts for scouts, creating buzz in May when he displayed a consistent 90-94 mph fastball. Garrett's delivery is extremely raw, which means he can follow a 95-mph fastball with an 86-mph heater. His secondary pitches are more an idea than anything he can use consistently, though he shows flashes of promise with his breaking ball. Cincinnati will have to wait until the end of his school year at St. John's before he returns to baseball next summer, but they're willing to be patient with a tall, athletic lefthander with a strong arm.
If everything comes together, Rodriguez has the tools to be a big league all-star. He shows off plus power in batting practice, and he also has above-average arm strength and speed. Considering he was just one of three 18-year-old regulars in the low Class A Midwest League last year, he performed reasonably well in his full-season debut. But as intriguing as his upside may be, it's also fair to say that Rodriguez does almost nothing to help a team win at this point in his career. The Reds expected more from a player they invested $2.5 million in 2008, setting a since-broken record for a Venezuelan amateur bonus. Dayton improved both on the field and in the clubhouse when he went home to Venezuela with a shoulder injury in mid-July. Rodriguez has the tools to play center field, but he takes too many poor at-bats into the field, which led to run-ins with Dayton teammates who were upset when he let catchable balls drop in for hits while making minimal effort. He eventually was moved to right field to lessen his defensive damage. It's hard for scouts to get a good handle on his speed because he rarely goes all-out from home to first. Besides growing up, Rodriguez also has to make some adjustments at the plate. He lacks plate discipline, doesn't recognize pitches well and swings and misses too frequently. The biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the system, Rodriguez could return to low Class A in 2012.
The top Puerto Rican position prospect for the 2011 draft, Rosa went 84th overall and turned down a commitment to Bethune-Cookman to sign for an above-slot $500,000. Rosa has good raw power for his age, and he has the frame to get bigger and stronger. But he was picked apart by pitchers in the Rookie-level Arizona League because of his long stride and long swing. Like many young power hitters, he tries to pull the ball too much and needs to learn to go the other way when pitchers work the outer half of the plate. Rosa played outfield and shortstop as an amateur, then saw time exclusively at third base in his pro debut. He has plus arm strength, though his long release means his arm grades out only average. If he can't stick at third base, he projects as a potential right fielder. He currently has slightly above-average speed and he has a good feel for running the bases, though he'll probably lose a step as he fills out. Considering his youth and his struggles in the AZL, Rosa figures to open 2012 in extended spring training before heading to Billings in June.
Valaika's bat seemed strong enough to carry his adequate glove in the lower levels of the minors, but his aggressiveness hasn't paid off with the same kind of power production against more advanced pitching. He has spent most of the past three seasons in Triple-A, getting just 63 big league at-bats in 2010-11. His ceiling has been lowered from an offensive-minded regular at second base to more of a utilityman, but he still can be useful in that role. Valaika has a balanced swing at the plate and could hit .270 with some gap power and a few walks in the big leagues if he got regular at-bats. He's an average defender at second base, the only position at which he could profile as a regular. He throws well enough to handle third base and can play shortstop in brief stints, seeing action at both spots last year. He's a below-average runner. Valaika is as ready as he'll ever be but there's still not a clear spot open for him in Cincinnati. He still has an option remaining, so he could ride the Louisville-Cincinnati shuttle again in 2012.
Like Amir Garrett, Waldrop is another high-ceiling talent who fell in the draft because of his potential commitment to another sport. While Garrett was one of the top basketball recruits in his class, Waldrop always had more potential on the diamond than the gridiron. He was a standout safety and wide receiver who committed to play baseball and football at South Florida until the Reds paid him $500,000 as a 12th-round pick in 2010. Waldrop has a natural lefthanded stroke that helped him to a fine showing as a 19- year-old against older Pioneer League competition. He has average power and speed, with the chance to be a reliable offensive performer once he learns to manage the strike zone. Like many football players who turn to baseball, Waldrop has a below-average arm but can improve it through drills and repetition. He played mostly right field in 2011 and will have to add more arm strength to stick there at higher levels. Waldrop has the potential for solid tools across the board, and he'll work on refining them this year in low Class A.
The Reds have a recent history of drafting productive college middle infielders, with Justin Turner, Paul Janish, Zack Cozart and Chris Valaika all reaching the majors. The latest in that line is Wright, a fifth-round pick last June who signed for a slightly above-slot $225,000. A three-year starter at Louisville who led the U.S. college national team with a .361 average in 2010, he has many similarities to Valaika. As with Valaika, Wright's ultimate role as an everyday second baseman or a utilityman depends on how well his bat develops. His smooth swing allows scouts to project him as a plus hitter, but he has fringy raw power and speed. He gets the most out of his physical ability, however, reaching double figures in both homers and steals as a sophomore and junior. Wright has average range and arm strength at second base, with his sure hands being his best defensive tool. He made only two errors in his 41-game pro debut. His tools may scream utilityman, but his feel for the game allowed him to exceed expectations during his amateur career. He'll probably open his first full pro season in low Class A but could push his way to a midseason promotion.
Both Sean and his father, Reds scouting director Chris Buckley, agreed before the 2011 draft it would be best for the son to strike off on his own path in another organization. But other members of Cincinnati's scouting staff grew more and more enamored with Buckley's potential when they evaluated him last spring. When he was still on the board in the sixth round, Reds crosschecker Mark Snipp--who said Sean reminded him of a young Matt Holliday--and others persuaded Chris to take his son. After signing for $125,000, Sean showed that he was anything but a nepotism pick when he hit 14 homers in 59 games to earn all-star honors in the Pioneer League. It was the first year he was fully healthy since 2008, as his first two years in college at South Florida were marred by an allergic reaction to antibiotics and a broken hamate bone in his left hand. Buckley projects to have plus power, including natural pop to the opposite field, though his swing is not as conducive to hitting for average. He's an average runner from home plate to first base but shows plus speed once he gets going. Buckley played third base in his pro debut, but he has fringy range there and spent time in the outfield during instructional league. His strong arm would play well in right field, where he could be a solid defender. He'll spend his first full pro season in low Class A.
In a system with two of baseball's best catching prospects in Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal, Barnhart understandably ranks a distant third. Despite that, he's one of the safer bets among Reds farmhands to have a big league career. His catch-and-throw skills alone should allow him to find a job as at least a backup catcher. Barnhart sets up well behind the plate, is a solid receiver and has a quick release that makes his average arm play up. His fast transfer helped him throw out 47 percent of basestealers in 2011. Barnhart has a lot more work to do as a hitter. Scouts suggest he may need to give up switch-hitting because he's helpless from the right side He doesn't have much power, but he makes line-drive contact and draws walks from the left side. Like many catchers, he's a well below-average runner. Barnhart could prove useful as a lefthanded-hitting catcher with defensive skills. He's ready for high Class A in 2012.
Vidal batted .401 with 14 homers as a sophomore at Miami Dade JC in 2010, and he was such a feared hitter that he drew intentional walks with the bases empty. Since signing for $100,000 as an eighth-round pick that spring, he has gained more notoriety with his defense in pro ball. He's a well aboveaverage defender at third base with solid arm strength. Scouts rave about his range and ability to make highlight plays. Though he put together a very productive 2011 season in low Class A, hitting .280 with 20 homers, there's more concern about his bat. He tends to feast on mistakes and will have to improve his selectivity as he climbs the ladder. Trying to hit for power, he pulls off the ball and is susceptible to pitches on the outer half, especially sliders. He does have some strength and hand-eye coordination, so he may be able to provide average power production. He's a below-average runner. Vidal was benched for one of Dayton's playoff games after showing poor effort and sometime pouts when calls don't go his way, but his makeup isn't considered a serious problem. His climb to the big leagues will continue in high Class A this year.
After a dominant 2010 season that saw him climb from low Class A to Double-A in just a couple of months, Joseph turned in one of the worst performances in the system last year. He gave up five runs in one inning in his first appearance and never got his ERA below 6.00. Joseph's troubles didn't come from a lack of stuff. He actually threw harder than he had in past years, sitting at 91-93 mph and touching 96 with his fastball. But as he faced more advanced hitters, Joseph's below-average control caught up to him. His mechanics are pretty ugly, as he whips his head during his delivery and falls off the mound toward third base, making it hard to throw consistent strikes. A tendency to overthrow doesn't help either. He also opens up too soon in his delivery, which turned his slider from a plus pitch to a merely ordinary offering. The Reds still think Joseph has the stuff to be a power reliever if he can improve his mechanics. If not, his effectiveness against lefties (.615 opponent OPS in 2011) should at least make him a lefty specialist. He'll give Double-A another try at the start of 2012.
Three years after Reds assistant GM Bob Miller discovered a loophole that allowed the Reds to sign him months before other teams believed he was eligible--at a cost of $2 million--Duran began to show his power in more than just batting-practice displays. He might have the best raw pop in the entire system, though it remains to be seen whether he'll hit enough to make use of it. He struck out in a career-high 38 percent of his plate appearances while making his full-season debut last year. Duran can crush a ball when it's out over the plate and gets his arms extended, but he's overly aggressive and has poor pitch recognition. He rarely gets himself into hitter's counts and doesn't show much feel for hitting. Duran grew six inches in the year he signed, and even now his coordination has yet to catch up. He's a poor left fielder whose .931 fielding percentage ranked last among Midwest League outfielders in 2011. His arm is fringy and his speed is well below average. Scouts who saw him in the MWL didn't think much of his instincts or makeup, as he got benched on multiple occasions for not playing hard. Duran is still light years away from Cincinnati, but he did make enough progress in 2011 to warrant a move up to high Class A.
When the Reds made a big splash in Latin America by signing outfielders Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran for a combined $4.5 million, they trumpeted those signings. When Cincinnati inked Perez last summer for $825,000, they initially denied it, even after he posted photos on his Facebook page that showed him in a Reds cap signing the contract. He has yet to make his pro debut, but he did come to the United States for instructional league in the fall. Perez throws an 88-90 mph fastball with good sink, a slow curveball and a changeup that's still in its infant stages. As expected for a 16-year-old, he's a long ways from being ready for full-season ball, but his excellent frame gives him plenty of room for projection as he physically matures. He generates good downhill plane and has a clean delivery that should allow him to develop solid control. Perez will probably begin his pro career in the Venezuelan Summer League next June.
Lotzkar has been around for so long that he was drafted with a supplemental firstround pick the Reds got for losing free agent Scott Schoeneweis. With the way that Lotzkar burst onto the scene in 2008, blowing away the low Class A hitters for 10 midseason starts as a teenager, he could have made his big league debut by now. Instead, he still hasn't gotten past the Midwest League because injuries have slowed his development. He developed a stress fracture in his elbow in 2008 and had Tommy John surgery the following season. His 67 innings last year were a career high, but he missed more time with a strained hamstring. Lotzkar's stuff didn't hold up as well with his increased workload. After showing a 90-94 mph fastball in 2010, he worked more at 89-91 last season. He also battled control problems, leading the MWL with 15 hit batters in 14 starts. Lotzkar still has a plus curveball, while his changeup remains below average. Though he has progressed much slower than hoped and he's not close to being big league-ready, Cincinnati still opted to protect him on its 40- man roster in November. His stuff likely would play up in the bullpen, and he might be able to stay healthy by working shorter stints. If he can stay on the mound, he'll finally reach high Class A in 2012.