Reds' 10 prospects to watch in 2010
Chapman, Alonso, Francisco offer more reasons for optimism
With the 2010 season approaching, MLB.com takes a look at 10 of the Cincinnati Reds' most intriguing prospects that you should keep an eye on.
Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Reds' farm system. Of those 10, three remain on the 2010 list.
Yonder Alonso, 1B: Missed the first two months of the 2009 season with a fractured hamate bone, but once the 2008 first-rounder out of the University of Miami returned to action, he was impressive as expected, hitting .303 at Class A Advanced Sarasota and .295 at Double-A Carolina, combining for nine homers and 52 RBIs in 73 games. The left-handed hitter is a polished player and pure hitter with power to all fields.
Juan Francisco, 3B: Though the acquisition of veteran Scott Rolen via trade last year may push back Francisco's arrival, the system's top power threat continues to make a good impression and made his big league debut in 2009 after hitting .295 with 27 homers and 93 RBIs between Carolina and Triple-A Louisville. He's led the organization in home runs each of the last two years, and his bat should outweigh his barely average defense. He does have a good arm, however, and earned Southern League All-Star honors last summer.
Todd Frazier, OF: Listed on our Top 10 last year as a shortstop, Frazier has been converted into a utility player who can see time in the infield or outfield, accelerating his anticipated arrival to the big leagues and setting him apart in an organization that was especially stacked at shortstop. A supplemental first-round pick in 2007 out of Rutgers, he combined to hit .292 with 16 homers, 77 RBIs and 45 doubles between Carolina and Louisville and has great makeup to go with plus power.
Prospects to watch
|Yonder Alonso, 1B||Yonder Alonso, 1B|
|Juan Francisco, 3B||Aroldis Chapman, LHP|
|Todd Frazier, IF/OF||Zack Cozart, SS|
|Kyle Lotzkar, RHP||Juan Francisco, 3B|
|Devin Mesoraco, C||Todd Frazier, OF|
|Neftali Soto, 3B||Billy Hamilton, SS|
|Zachary Stewart, RHP||Chris Heisey, OF|
|Drew Stubbs, OF||Mike Leake, RHP|
|Daryl Thompson, RHP||Yorman Rodriguez, OF|
|Chris Valaika, SS||Travis Wood, LHP|
These seven players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, trades, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Kyle Lotzkar, RHP: The supplemental first-round pick from Canada in 2007 did not pitch at all in 2009 due to elbow trouble. When healthy, he had the best curveball in the system and posted a 3.58 ERA at Class A Dayton in 2008 before being shut down due to stress fracture in his pitching elbow.
Devin Mesoraco, C: The club's top pick out of high school in 2007 who is known for his terrific makeup, he has yet to progress offensively in two pro seasons, hitting .228 with eight homers and 37 RBIs in 92 games at Class A Advanced Sarasota in 2009 after batting .261 at Dayton in 2008.
Neftali Soto, 3B: The third-round pick in 2007 out of high school in Puerto Rico had broken most of Juan Gonzalez's records there, and he combined to hit .340 with 11 homers and 47 RBIs in just 67 games between short-season Billings and Dayton in 2008, but he returned to earth in 2009, batting just .248 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs at Sarasota. He also made 29 errors at third in 96 games there, and, though he finished strong after hitting just .200 in June and July, he slips off the list for now.
Zachary Stewart, RHP: Dealt to Toronto last summer with Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Roenicke in the Scott Rolen deal, the third-round pick from 2008 out of Texas Tech has dominated on the mound with a 1.70 ERA in his two pro seasons, and, though the least known of the names in the deal at the time, he could be the guy the Reds look back on as the one that got away.
Drew Stubbs, OF: The Reds' top pick in 2006 (eighth overall) out of the University of Texas, he took a little longer than anticipated to reach the big leagues. But once he got there in mid-August, he played so regularly that he used up his rookie eligibility, hitting .267 with eight homers, 17 RBIs and 10 steals in 42 games.
Daryl Thompson, RHP: A recurring shoulder injury cost Thompson most of 2009, leaving his future in doubt for now. Acquired from the Nationals in the 2006 deal involving Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, he led the Reds system with a 2.70 ERA in 2008 and pitched at five levels that summer, making his big league debut with a great outing against the Yankees before going back on the DL. He appeared in just eight games at Louisville last summer and was shut down in late June.
Chris Valaika, SS: The Reds' 2008 batting champion who hit .317 with 18 homers and 81 RBIs between Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga that year, he missed a chunk of time in 2009 with a thumb injury and never really regained his swing after that, hitting just .235 in 95 games. He could work his way back onto the list, but the third-round pick from 2006 out of UC Santa Barbara has to contend with too many up-and-coming middle infielders to stay on the list for now.
The following seven players are new additions to the Reds' Prospects to Watch list.
Aroldis Chapman, LHP: The 22-year-old Cuban defector was the big international signing of the offseason, and it was a shocker when the Reds inked him in January, signing him to a six-year big league deal. His early showing in big league camp has been so impressive that he could well break camp with the Reds. He was clocked at triple digits in Cuba and offsets his heat with a slider, changeup and curveball, all nasty stuff.
Zack Cozart, SS: Cozart has moved to the head of the upper-level shortstop class, the most polished of the group since being taken out of Mississippi in the second round of 2007. He has shown some power for the middle infield, and his plate discipline has improved as well. He hit .262 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs at Carolina last summer.
Billy Hamilton, SS: If Cozart is the shortstop most likely to reach the big leagues soon, this 2009 second-round pick out of high school in Mississippi is one to keep an eye on further down the road. A raw talent who was a college football recruit, he has game-changing speed and great agility and athleticism. He's learning to switch-hit to take advantage of that speed. Defensively, he has range and quickness and a strong arm. He hit .205 with 14 steals in the Gulf Coast League in his debut and led all league shortstops with a .955 fielding percentage.
Chris Heisey, OF: Drafted in the 17th round in 2006 out of Messiah College in Pennsylvania, Heisey combined to hit .314 with 22 homers, 77 RBIs and 21 steals between Carolina and Louisville last summer, ranking among the system's top five in nearly every offensive category. A patient hitter who can play all three outfield positions, he has good instincts at the plate and on the bases.
Mike Leake, RHP: The Reds' No. 1 pick in 2009 -- taken with the eighth pick overall out of Arizona State -- signed at the deadline and will make his official pro debut this spring. In Arizona Fall League action, he posted a 1.37 ERA. He is a polished pitcher with a repertoire of five offerings, including a lively fastball and deceptive changeup to go with curve, cutter and slider, and does all the little things well.
Yorman Rodriguez, OF: The youngest player in the Pioneer League last summer when he turned 17 during his pro debut at Billings, the Venezuelan-born center fielder is one of the system's international signing gems. He combined to hit .236 with three homers and 19 RBIs between the Gulf Coast League and Billings and is considered the system's best pure athlete right now. He has a strong arm, bat speed and power potential and is working on plate discipline.
Travis Wood, LHP: The Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher, Wood won the league ERA title with a 1.21 mark in 119 innings at Carolina before moving up to Louisville where he posted a 3.14 ERA in eight starts. All told, he combined to go 13-5 with a 1.77 ERA in 27 starts, limiting opposing hitters to a .204 average. A crafty lefty whose out pitch is his changeup, his turnaround was remarkable as he lowered his ERA from a 7.09 in 2008 in the Southern League. All of his pitches have good movement, and he's added a cutter to the mix.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.