Alonso stating case for callup to Reds
Prospect Mesoraco also biding time for promotion to Majors
CINCINNATI -- With the MLB First-Year Player Draft in the books after Day 3 on Wednesday, Reds fans with an eye toward the future can turn their focus back to the Minor Leagues. In the case of some Cincinnati prospects, you don't have to look too far forward to envision them at Great American Ball Park.Yonder Alonso, the organization's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com, is hitting .323 at Triple-A Louisville. Alonso was originally a first baseman, but with a certain National League MVP clogging that hole for the near future, Alonso has spent the last two years learning to play left field. In 75 career games in the outfield, Alonso has committed one error against 14 assists. With left field being one of the weak spots in Cincinnati's lineup this season, it would not be surprising if the Reds call up Alonso later this season -- although, as manager Dusty Baker pointed out earlier this week, offense has not been an issue for Cincinnati, and adding Alonso to the mix may not be the missing piece. Catcher Devin Mesoraco, the team's No. 2 prospect, seems to be in the same boat as Alonso. He is hitting .330 with seven home runs at Louisville, but Mesoraco is stuck waiting behind Reds starters Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez. If one of them is traded or injured, though, expect to see Mesoraco get a callup.
The Reds have another big-name catching prospect in Yasmani Grandal, last year's first-round pick and the organization's No. 5 prospect. Grandal is considered a better defensive catcher than Mesoraco, but he does not have as high of a ceiling in the batter's box. He is hitting .279 at Class A Advanced Bakersfield this year.Just who exactly could be throwing to Mesoraco or Grandal in the future remains a mystery. With the possible exception of Robert Stephenson, the team's first-round pick on Monday, Cincinnati lacks a head-turning starting pitching prospect. Brad Boxberger and Donnie Joseph are the only two arms on the organization's top 10 prospects list. Boxberger, the No. 7 prospect, was once considered a potential starter, but he has since become a full-time bullpen guy at Double-A Carolina. He has spent the past two seasons in Carolina but has been much improved during his second go-around, sporting a 1.33 ERA in 27 innings of relief work. Joseph, on the other hand, seems to be moving in the opposite direction. After a strong 2010, during which he moved up three levels, Joseph, the No. 10 prospect, has a 9.12 ERA in 25 2/3 innings with Carolina. Opponents are hitting .330 off of him. Reds fans with an eye for potential and plenty of patience may want to head to Dayton, Ohio, to check out the Class A Dragons, who sport two of the most athletic prospects in the Minors. Billy Hamilton, a shortstop who signed a letter of intent to play receiver at Mississippi State during high school, leads the Midwest League with 45 steals in 55 games. But at this point, Hamilton's game is akin to that of Willie Mays Hayes at the beginning of "Major League." He can rarely use his speed because of a .220 average. Dayton teammate Yorman Rodriguez is equally raw. A potential five-tool outfielder, he is hitting just .233 for the Dragons. Cincinnati's other three top prospects -- outfielder Todd Frazier, third baseman Juan Francisco and shortstop Zack Cozart -- are all playing for Louisville and could see time in Cincinnati later this season. Frazier and Francisco have each had a cup of coffee in the pros earlier this season, and Cozart's potential callup could gain steam if Reds shortstops Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria continue to struggle. He could also play third base. Cozart and the rest of his teammates play about 100 miles southwest of Great American Ball Park. For some Reds prospects, though, the distance seems much further.
Tyler Jett is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.