Over the past few months media forums throughout the baseball world offer up list counting down the top 10 or 20 prospects in each organization. Most of these lists bear caveats indicating the writer has never seen the prospects in question, they are simply looking at numbers and making “somewhat” educated decisions. I understand the allure of this kind of article but that is not what I am offering today. I am offering a list of prospects that I would love to see succeed and I think, based on the evidence at hand, that they will. In spite of living in southwestern Pennsylvania, I did get to see a couple of Dayton Dragons games in 2011 and I listen to a number of teams via radio broadcasts which I find offer a slightly different perspective to the game seen on the field. I am fascinated by things the box score will never show, does the player seem “in” the game? Does he hustle to first even on a routine ground ball? If I can see into the dugout, is he on the rail or on the bench?
In writing this blog, I have referred to a number of players from the past who lived by this mantra. On the Big Red Machine every player on the team made winning their first priority and if, even for a second, this will faltered their teammates would not hesitate to remind them. From the fiery combativeness of Pete Rose to the sense of calm humor that Tony Perez brought to the team to the brash surety of Johnny Bench this team always knew how to win. A generation later another team went in the face of expectation and rode a wave of self confidence through the World Series. I remember once seeing Eric Davis catch an impossible fly ball a foot over the outfield wall robbing a sure home run. Or seeing Barry Larkin turn a single into a routine ground out on his way to a date with Cooperstown. These guys never understood what the word quit meant. It is time for this generation of players and the hottest Reds prospects of the future to assume that air of destiny. So with this in mind in alphabetical order here are the prospects I love:
- 2011: Catcher, Dayton Dragons – Selected as the Minor League Defensive Catcher of the Year.
- Batted .273 with 43 RBI and 47 runs scored. Barnhart finished with an OPS of .731.
- Stands 5’8″, but this perceived disadvantage does not seem to limit his defensive ability.
- Switch hitter, throws right-handed.
- Greatest weakness is his ability to hit left handed pitching. Versus RH he batted .298, vs. LH it was only .209.
- Should open the season with the Bakersfield Blaze.
- 2011: Starting Pitcher, Billings Mustangs – Selected as the MiLB Short Season Pitcher of the Year
- Threw for an ERA of 1.75 in 13 starts with a 3-2 record. Recorded 80 K’s in 51.1 IP and a WHIP of 0.80.
- Left Handed.
- Only a short window to see this 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft but the early results are spectacular.
- Fastball said to be in the low 90′s peaking around 95 mph, also throws a curve and a changeup.
- Should open the season with the Dayton Dragons.
- 2011: Starting Pitcher, Dayton Dragons – Baseball America selected as a Low Class A All Star
- Finished 2011 with a record of 11-7, an ERA of 3.42 and he struck out 156 while walking 34 in 139.1 IP.
- Right Handed.
- Signed as a free agent in 2008.
- Fastball in the low 90′s can occasionally touch 96.
- Should open the year in Bakersfield.
- 2011: Shortstop, Dayton Dragons – Reds organization Minor League Player of the Year
- Stole a franchise record 103 bases in 2011 making use of his game changing speed.
- Switch hitter, throws right-handed.
- 2nd round pick in the 2009 draft out of high school.
- Finished the season with a .278 batting average after a slow start. Batted over .300 the last three months of the season.
- 39 errors belie a startling range in the field.
- According to Walt Jocketty will start in either Bakersfield or Pensacola.
- 2011: Closer, Dayton Dragons – Minor League Baseball Class A Relief Pitcher of the Year
- Finished the season with 22 saves and a 1.35 ERA, walking 27 batters while striking out 89 in 60 IP.
- Had a ground out/air out ratio of 1.10, crucial for a successful pitcher in GABP.
- In 2005 he was named Mr. Football as a QB in the state of Tennessee AND he was the HS Baseball player of the year.
- Drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 draft out of Vanderbilt University.
- Right handed.
- Expect to see Hayes in Bakersfield though a quick call-up to Pensacola could ensue.
- 2011: First Basemen, DH; Dayton Dragons
- Led the Dragons with 20 HR and 2nd on the team with 75 RBI and an .850 OPS. He also finished second on the team with a .301 batting average.
- Blistered the ball in the second half of the season hitting .340 after the All Star break. He recorded 43 hits in the month of August alone.
- Bats left handed and throws right handed.
- Born in Germany and signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007.
- Reds are high enough on him in spite of the length of time in the minors that he was added to the Reds 40 man roster.
- I would expect he and David Vidal to be split up this year so the two of them can see more time in the field.
- 2011: Starting Pitcher, Dayton Dragons/Bakersfield Blaze
- Led the MidWest League in strikouts before his promotion to Advanced A ball.
- For the Dragons had a 6-8 record with an ERA of 3.18 and he recorded 141 strikeouts on 113.1 IP. He walked 39.
- For the Blaze he had a 2-0 record with an ERA of 4.80 and he recorded 24 strikeouts on 30 IP, walking 13.
- Right handed.
- May stay in Bakersfield but a reasonable chance Renken could move to Pensacola, one negative is allowing 14 home runs in 2011, 4 in just 30 IP at A advanced.
- 2011: Center Fielder, Dayton Dragons
- Was reaching his stride in July when he succumbed to a series of injuries that frustrated the rest of his season.
- As he only played in 79 games he had a statistically unremarkable year but he showed enough to get a vision of the athlete he could become.
- Right handed.
- Expect to see him in Bakersfield but he needs to use his opportunity wisely as his injury retarded his progress in 2011.
- Signed as a free agent in 2009.
- 2011: Starting Pitcher, Dayton Dragons – Organization All Star
- Led the MidWest League in Wins (14) and Strikeouts (166)
- His 166 strikeouts came in just 142.1 IP, he also allowed just 33 walks and 10 HR.
- Probably my favorite pitcher in the Reds minor league organization, fun to watch. He can enter into a grove where he is unhittable.
- Expect to see him debut in Bakersfield.
- Selected in the 21st round of the 2010 draft out of Lipscomb University.
- 2011: Starting Pitcher, Extended Spring Training
- 1st round pick out of Alhambra High School in California
- Reported to have a fastball that touches 97 mph and the makings of a plus curve and a changeup.
- No action in the field last year but the Reds have an excellent track record on 1st round picks so the hope is this will be no exception.
- Expect him to debut with the Billings Mustangs but I would expect a trip to Dayton might happen in short order.
There may be a couple names that are apparent for their omission. First understand, these are my favorites, not necessarily the best prospects out there. I will make a few additional comments about the rest.
I love the idea of rangy outfielder Juan Duran but I question his desire to play the game. He is so fast but occasionally seemed to jog to the ball and the base. If he figures out that he wants to do this he could be awe inspiring.
Kyle Lotzkar is often listed as a top prospect in the Reds organization but I have seen him pitch and I was not impressed. Lots of walks and he did not seem to have a killer instinct. His injury riddled past would indicate he may not have nearly the upside the Reds organization would like.
David Vidal may have been the 11th choice if my list were extended. He hit 4-12 in the playoffs vs. Lansing with a Home Run, it just wasn’t enough.
With the exception of Stephenson and Cingrani, I was able to watch each of these players in action and I would love to follow them straight to the Reds. The pitchers in particular would be a welcome addition in the future.
I will close with a final note on Billy Hamilton. I do not know if he can ever hit at a major league level but in May I did not know if he could ever hit at a low A level. I have read a number of evaluations that suggest he is only a singles hitter as if this is a bad thing. What would I give if the Reds had a singles hitter that gets on base at a .350 clip who is fast as the wind? If this is the best people can offer as a negative in the face of a .300 plus batting average then I will take my chances. Low A is a long way from the major leagues but speed translates anywhere and if he can develop better plate discipline he will be special.
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Topics: Bakersfield Blaze, Billings Mustangs, Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds, Daniel Corcino, Daniel Renken, Dayton Dragons, Donald Lutz, Drew Hayes, Josh Smith, Juan Duran, Kyle Lotzkar, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Robert Stephenson, Tony Cingrani, Tucker Barnhart, Yorman Rodriguez