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February 7, 2011

Future Shock

Cincinnati Reds Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: It's a system with plenty of star power up front, but depth falls away quickly after that.

Five-Star Prospects

1. Aroldis Chapman, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Devin Mesoraco, C

3. Billy Hamilton, 2B/SS
4. Yasmani Grandal, C
Three-Star Prospects
5. Yorman Rodriguez, OF
6. Yonder Alonso, 1B
7. Zack Cozart, SS
Two-Star Prospects
8. Juan Francisco, 3B/1B
9. Kyle Lotzkar, RHP

10. Ismael Guillon, LHP
11. Junior Arias, SS

Nine More:
12. Donnie Joseph, LHP: A southpaw reliever who dominated at lower levels, he's limited to a set-up man's ceiling.
13. Ryan LaMarre, OF: He possesses solid tools across the board, highlighted by plus speed, but he lacks star power.
14. Brad Boxberger, RHP: Scouts are mixed as to whether he should start or relieve, but either way, he lacks a high ceiling.
15. Todd Frazier, UT: The former top prospect still doesn't have a defensive home, and the bat has quieted down significantly.
16. Chris Valaika, INF: If scouts thought he could play on the left side, he'd rank higher.
17. Didi Gregorious, SS: A shortstop with tools and upside, but he has a long way to go.
18. Drew Cisco, RHP: Armed with far more polish than stuff, Cisco could move up more quickly than most teenage arms.
19. Ronald Torreyes, SS: An unrefined teenager, Torreyes has already shown speed and contact ability.
20. Kyle Waldrop, OF: This over-slot 12th-rounder has plenty of raw power, but will he hit?

1. Aroldis Chapman, LHP
DOB
: 2/28/88
Height/Weight: 6-4/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Cuba
2010 Stats: 3.57 ERA (95.2-77-52-125) at Triple-A (39 G); 2.03 ERA (13.1-9-5-19) at MLB (15 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/command

Year in Review: The $30-plus million player took off and showed off triple-digit heat after a conversion to the bullpen.
The Good: No player in the game at any level can match Chapman's velocity. His heat sat at 95-98 mph as a starter, but in shorter relief stints he averaged 100 mph with his fastball while touching the unheard-of mark of 105 mph. His 86-90 mph slider is a wipeout offering, as notable for its two-plane break as the velocity on the pitch. He adjusted quickly to his new life in the United States, and is a hard worker.
The Bad: Chapman's remarkably loose arm is almost too free and easy, as his whip-like delivery is difficult to harness, leading to troubles maintaining command of the strike zone. As a starting pitcher, he had a sub-standard changeup that will need refinement should he return to that role.
Ephemera: In eight regular season appearances at the Great American Ballpark, Chapman retired 23 of the 25 batters he faced, including 14 by strikeout.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a shut-down closer, but let's not forget his potential to start.
Fantasy Impact: Saves by the bunches, or plenty of whiffs if he heads back to a rotation job.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Reds currently have a crowded rotation picture, meaning that Chapman will begin the 2011 season in the big-league bullpen. Whether or not that's a permanent role remains to be seen.
ETA: 2011

2. Devin Mesoraco, C
DOB
: 6/19/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2007, Punxsutawney HS (PA)
2010 Stats: .335/.414/.620 at High-A (43 G); .294/.363/.594 at Double-A (56 G); .231/.310/.462 at Triple-A (14 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/run

Year in Review: The 2007 first-round pick got into shape, and finally looked like a player worthy of a $1.4 million signing bonus.
The Good: Mesoraco has a high offensive ceiling for a catcher. While criticized for his soft body in previous years, he now looks like an NFL linebacker with muscles on top of muscles to go with plenty of bat speed and well above-average raw power. He has a strong, highly accurate arm and does a good job shutting down the running game.
The Bad: Mesoraco employs a big, power-hungry swing, and as a result he will always rack up lots of strikeouts. While his arm rates as an easy plus-grade tool, his other defensive skills are rough around the edges, as he frequently stabs at balls; he needs to improve his footwork and receiving skills.
Ephemera: Only two players have every been drafted out of Punxsutawney High (yes, the home of the groundhog), but both were first-round catchers, as the other is John Mizerock, the eighth overall pick by the Astros in 1979.
Perfect World Projection: A well above-average everyday catcher and occasional All-Star.
Fantasy Impact: Catchers who can deliver home runs and RBI are always valuable.
Path to the Big Leagues: Mesoraco will begin the year at Triple-A Louisville, with the expectation that he'll be ready for the full-time job the following year.
ETA: Late 2011

3. Billy Hamilton, 2B/SS
DOB
: 9/9/90
Height/Weight: 6-1/160
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2009, Taylorsville HS (MS)
2010 Stats: .318/.383/.456 at Short-Season (69 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/power

Year in Review: Second-round pick had stunning year in the Pioneer League.
The Good: If one could give a grade higher than 80 for speed, Hamilton would certainly earn it. He is arguably the fastest prospect in the game, with the kind of blinding speed that turns any ground ball to the left side into an adventure. He's already a potent basestealer who swiped 48 bags in just 69 games and was safe on 29 of his last 30 attempts. He gets from first-to-third in a blur and many of his ten triples seemed like borderline doubles coming off his bat. He works the count well enough to be a classic leadoff hitter, and has fantastic range in the infield to get with soft hands.
The Bad: Hamilton lacks the arm for the left side of the infield, so he's likely stuck at second base as a pro. He's very slightly built and has very little power, so reaching base and using his wheels will be the sum of his offensive value.
Ephemera: He stole 14 bases in the first inning of games for Billings without getting caught.
Perfect World Projection: Leadoff man at second base and the most dangerous base stealing in the game.
Fantasy Impact: Hamilton has the potential to rack up the kind of stolen-base totals rarely seen in today's game.
Path to the Big Leagues: Hamilton's full-season debut at Low-A Dayton is the most anticipated in the system.
ETA: 2013

4. Yasmani Grandal, C
DOB
: 11/8/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/215
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, University of Miami
2010 Stats: .286/.394/.715 at Rookie (8 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/speed

Year in Review: The top college catcher in the draft signed a big-league deal worth more than $3 million.
The Good: Grandal is the rare catcher who has the potential to hit in the middle of the order. He has a big league-ready approach and above-average power for a catcher from both sides of the plate. He's a take-charge type who understands his role as a field general, and works well with pitchers.
The Bad: Grandal will need good secondary skills, as some scouts question his pure hitting ability. He projects as an offense-first catcher who will be no more than average defensively, as he needs to improve his footwork and has troubles with the running game.
Ephemera: Grandal went unsigned as a 27th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2007 out of Miami Springs High, a school known more for its football program, as it has produced eight NFL players, including Willis McGahee and Lomas Brown.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average everyday catcher.
Fantasy Impact: Catcher with power.
Path to the Big Leagues: Grandal will begin hit first full-season assignment at High-A Bakersfield, where he could amass some big numbers.
ETA: 2013

5. Yorman Rodriguez, OF
DOB
: 8/15/92
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Venezuela
2010 Stats: .339/.361/.456 at Short-Season (43 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/speed

Year in Review: The Venezuelan outfielder finally showed why he earned a $2.5 million bonus in 2008.
The Good: Rodriguez is loaded with tools. He's an excellent hitter with easy bat speed, strong wrists and outstanding hands. While is hasn't shown up in games yet, scouts project him to hit 20-plus home runs annually to go with a high average. He's runs well and has good outfield instincts, and his outfield arm is well above-average.
The Bad: Despite his considerable progress in the 2010, Rodriguez remains raw. He's an overly-aggressive hitter who sits dead red, and is often fooled by pitches outside the zone. He runs faily well, but will likely slow down as his lanky frame fills out. While his arm is strong, he needs to improve his accuracy.
Ephemera: While Rodriguez played primarily in right field for Billings, he hit .423/.466/.558 during his 13 starts as a center fielder.
Perfect World Projection: Rodriguez' ceiling ranks with that of any other position player in the system.
Fantasy Impact: Potential stud with plenty of power and double-digit stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: With Hamilton and Rodriguez, Low-A Dayton will be a team to watch.
ETA: 2014

6. Yonder Alonso, 1B
DOB
: 4/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008, University of Miami
2010 Stats: .267/.388/.406 at Double-A (31 G); .296/.355/.470 at Triple-A (101 G); .207/.207/.276 at MLB (22 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/speed

Year in Review: The former first-round pick continued to hit and reach base, but questions about his ultimate upside remain.
The Good: Alonso can hit. He has an quick, simple swing, and makes hard contact to all fields. He understands the strike zone and draws his fair share of walks. Overall, he projects as a plus hitter for average in the big leagues with a good on-base percentage.
The Bad: With 24 home runs in 222 minor-league games, Alonso has yet to show the power that was expected from him coming out of the draft, leading many scouts to consider him a good hitter, but not good enough considering his position. He still has significant issues hitting against lefties, and could end up always needing a platoon partner. He's a below-average runner and a merely adequate first-baseman.
Ephemera: Alonso was a 16th-round pick by the Twins in 2005 out of Coral Gables High in Florida, the school whose most famous alum is former attorney general Janet Reno.
Perfect World Projection: A second-division starter at first base.
Fantasy Impact: It's going to be limited considering his position.
Path to the Big Leagues: As long as Joey Votto is around, Alonso is nothing more than a trade chip for the Reds. He'll begin 2011 back at Triple-A.
ETA: 2011

7. Zack Cozart, SS
DOB
: 8/12/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2007, University of Mississippi
2010 Stats: .255/.310/.416 at Triple-A (136 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Glove/hit

Year in Review: The former second-round pick continued to move up the ladder, reaching the penultimate run while delivering a solid year at Triple-A.
The Good: Cozart has a rare set of skills for a middle infielder. He has at least average power, slugging 17 home runs in 2010, but he's also an above-average baserunner, stealing 30 bases. He also has outstanding defensive fundamentals, with extremely soft hands and a solid arm.
The Bad: Cozart is neither an adept or patient hitter, so he'll likely always have low batting averages and OBPs. He's a low-error shortstop in the mold of an older Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken, in that he makes the play on every ball he gets to, but his range is average at best.
Ephemera: While the University of Mississippi has produced well over 100 draft picks, only six have hit home runs in the big leagues, with David Dellucci's 101 homers topping the field.
Perfect World Projection: A solid but unspectacular everyday shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: You'll get good home run and stolen base numbers for a shortstop from him, but his batting average is going to hurt you.
Path to the Big Leagues: Cozart will get a long look this spring, but he's most likely returning to Triple-A to begin the year.
ETA: 2011

8. Juan Francisco, 3B
DOB
: 6/24/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2004, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .286/.325/.565 at Triple-A (77 G); .273/.322/.382 at MLB (36 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/speed

Year in Review: Slugging third baseman mashed in Triple-A, but scouts remain concerned about his long-term role.
The Good: Francisco has plus-plus power, and has hit tape-measure shots throughout his career. He's massive, broad-shouldered, and gets all of his weight (well over the listed 210 pounds) in his swing. His arm strength rates as the best in the system.
The Bad: Francisco is big, bordering of soft, which gives him little range at third base while making him a clumsy defender. An attempt to convert him to left field was seen as a failure by scouts. He has always been an impatient hitter, and still chases the same outside breaking balls that he did three years ago.
Ephemera: Francisco led the Dominican Winter League in RBI (30) and slugging while hitting .322/.380/.559 for the Gigantes.
Perfect World Projection: A second-division starter. but he'll have more value if he can stay at third.
Fantasy Impact: He'll deliver home runs, but little else.
Path to the Big Leagues: Like Alonso, Francisco is blocked and stuck at Triple-A for now, while also needing to prove that he can stay at the hot corner. He'll be another enjoying a return engagement at Louisville.
ETA: 2011

9. Kyle Lotzkar, RHP
DOB
: 10/24/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/220
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2007, South Delta HS (Canada)
2010 Stats: 3.33 ERA (24.1-20-12-27) at Rookie (8 G); 0.45 ERA (20.0-8-2-33) at Short-Season (4 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: The still-raw Canadian right-hander returned from nearly two years of arm problems to dominate in short-season leagues.
The Good: Lotzkar has a power pitcher's frame to go with equally impressive stuff. His low-90s fastball can touch 96 mph at times, and he can generate as many swings and misses with a power curveball that features late, heavy break. He earned high marks for his makeup and the work he put in to come back from surgery.
The Bad: Lotzkar is completely unproven because in his four seasons as a pro he's totaled just 111 innings, and has never thrown more than 44 1/3 in any one year. There is still some effort to his delivery, with one scout saying, “he just never makes it look easy.” His changeup remains rudimentary.
Ephemera: While Lotzkar is the only baseball player ever drafted out of South Delta Secondary School, it has produced numerous NHL players, including Brent Seabrook of the Blackhawks, Milan Lucic or the Bruins, and Evander Kane, the fourth overall pick in 2009 NHL draft.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average starting pitcher, but that's hardly guaranteed.
Fantasy Impact: It could be considerable, but it's not time to draft him just yet.
Path to the Big Leagues: Despite his ups and downs and now-distant draft date, Lotzkar will be just 21 years old as he joins the Low-A Dayton rotation.
ETA: 2013.

10. Ismael Guillon, LHP
DOB
: 3/13/92
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Venezuela
2010 Stats: 3.32 ERA (57.0-39-23-73) at Rookie (12 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/breaking ball.

Year in Review: The Venezuelan teenager dominated the Arizona Summer League.
The Good: Guillon has plenty of stuff and projection. He already has above-average velocity for a left-hander as well as good command of the pitch. His changeup is good now, and projects as a plus to plus-plus pitch down the road. He's a long, skinny left-hander with long levers who can add a few ticks to his fastball as he fills out.
The Bad: Guillon's slurvy breaking ball needs to be tightened up, as it's currently a below-average pitch with little movement. Concerns about his health had his initial bonus reduced from $625,000 to $200,000, and he's already had one Tommy John surgery.
Ephemera: In Guillon's four starts against the Brewers complex league team, he struck out 33 batters over just 19 1/3 innings.
Perfect World Projection: A star-level starter.
Fantasy Impact: Let's calm down a bit before we start worrying about that.
Path to the Big Leagues: Guillon should pitch for Low-A Dayton in 2011, although his arrival might be delayed until the weather warms up.
ETA: 2014

11. Junior Arias, SS
DOB
: 1/9/92
Height/Weight: 6-2/178
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .287/.336/.482 at Rookie (47 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/hit

Year in Review: A Dominican infielder who signed for $330,000, Arias earned high grades from scouts for his hitting ability.
The Good: Arias has plus raw power that already shows up in games, as he combines bat speed with long arms and plenty of leverage. He's a good all-around athlete who runs well and has a very good arm.
The Bad: It's unlikely that Arias will stick at shortstop. He's still growing, and could get too big for the position, and many believe his skills will work much better at third base. Like many young Latin American players, he needs a more patient approach. He needs to let his strength work for him as opposed to muscling up his swing, which make him prone to strikeouts.
Ephemera: Arias was born one day after the famous incident when then President George H.W. Bush vomited in the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average infielder, especially in terms of power.
Fantasy Impact: It could be significant, but keep in mind that he's probably not a shortstop in the long term.
Path to the Big Leagues: Arias will be among the youngest players in the Midwest League in 2011.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: Utilityman Cody Puckett will never impress people on a tools level, but he has a bit of power, a modicum of speed, and he can hit a little.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)

1. Jay Bruce, RF
2. Aroldis Chapman, LHP
3. Johnny Cueto, RHP
4. Devin Mesoraco, C
5. Mike Leake, RHP
6. Homer Bailey, RHP
7. Billy Hamilton, 2B/SS
8. Yasmani Grandal, C
9. Travis Wood, LHP
10. Yorman Rodriguez, OF

Number one was a struggle here, but for now Chapman is rated as someone who will throw 60-80 innings as opposed to 200 or more. Bruce is good now and three to five years away from peaking, and he could be an MVP candidate in the second half of the decade. If you want to know what it takes to be a consistent contender, four rotation pieces still eligible for this list is a good start. Considering that he basically went straight to the big leagues from his getting drafted in 2009, Mike Leake pitched very well and still has third-starter upside, while Homer Bailey continues to show just enough to remain optimistic about his future. Travis Wood pitched over his head as a rookie, but should settle in as a dependable back-end rotation piece.

Summary: The Reds surprised many by reaching the playoffs in 2010, but this is a team built to last. What the system lacks in depth in makes up for in nearly-ready talent that should help the big-league squad, or be used as attractive trade bait come July.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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