02/08/12 10:42 AM EST
Reds organization preview, Top 20 Prospects
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The Reds aren't shy about promoting their prospects early, and they certainly aren't reluctant to package them in blockbuster trades. Cincinnati used that latter route to acquire Mat Latos earlier in the winter, but the Reds still have a fertile farm system that should yield immediate dividends.
Devin Mesoraco, for instance, is expected to compete for the starting catcher's job in Spring Training, and Zack Cozart will get a long look at shortstop. Chris Buckley, Cincinnati's senior director of amateur scouting, sees an organization filled with interesting talent from top to bottom.
"We took a hit on star power, but the depth is still good. We still think we're in good shape," he said. "They can't all play for us. How many teams can come up with a match to get Mat Latos?"
Cincinnati packaged Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger in that trade, and yet it still has dynamic infielder Billy Hamilton developing in the low Minors. Hamilton, a former second-round draftee, stole 103 bases for Class A Dayton and is still growing into his game.
"Billy Hamilton has a chance to be an outstanding player, a leadoff-type guy," said Buckley. "If he's not the fastest player I've been around, he's on the short list. It's so hard even in Class A to steal 100 bases. Everyone in the world knows you're stealing, but he just has game-changing speed."
Mesoraco, a former first-round draftee, batted .289 with 15 homers for Triple-A Louisville last season and is expected to share the big league job with veteran Ryan Hanigan. Cozart had his year cut short by surgery on his left elbow and is expected to be healthy in time for Spring Training.
Top 20 Prospects:
Even after trading Boxberger and seeing Aroldis Chapman graduate to the Majors, the Reds still have potential impact arms in Robert Stephenson and Daniel Corcino. Stephenson, last year's first-round draftee, signed too late to play last year and will make his pro debut this season.
Corcino is another pitcher out of the Johnny Cueto mold, and Buckley described him as "a smaller right-handed pitcher with obnoxious stuff." Corcino works between 93 and 97 mph on his fastball, and the 21-year-old struck out 156 batters in 26 starts for Dayton last year.
J.C. Sulbaran is another interesting arm, and he'll be tested against upper-level hitters for the first time next season. The Reds also have intriguing position players in defensive shortstop Didi Gregorious and corner masher Neftali Soto, who hit 30 homers at Double-A Carolina last year.
reds' top prospects
If not for Hamilton, the accomplishments of Ryan LaMarre and Brodie Greene might get more recognition. LaMarre, a speedy center fielder, stole 52 bases for Class A Bakersfield last year, while Greene, a shortstop, hit 14 home runs and stole 36 bases for Double-A Carolina.
Under the radar:
The Reds took third baseman Gabriel Rosa in the second round of last June's First-Year Player Draft, and he went on to bat .245 in 28 games for the club's Rookie-level affiliate in Arizona.
"The physical tools are there and he's projectable," said Buckley. "He's a 4.2 runner to first base from the right side and he has a plus arm. He just has to master the strike zone."
Third baseman David Vidal was part of Hamilton's supporting cast at Class A Dayton last season, and he broke out with a .280 batting average, 20 home runs and 37 doubles. Vidal will get a chance for a high-octane encore in the explosive environment of the Class A California League.
Hitter of the Year
Hamilton is quite simply one of the most exciting players in the Minor Leagues, but he still has some holes in his game. The 21-year-old made 39 errors last season, and he'll have to prove that his brand of offense -- hitting it on the ground and flying to first -- will work against better pitchers.
Hamilton struck out 133 times and drew just 52 walks in 135 games last year, and the Reds would like to see him be more selective. No big league player has stolen 80 bases since the 1988 season, but if Hamilton can keep hitting in the Minors, he may get a chance to challenge that trend.
Pitcher of the Year
Corcino, like Cueto a product of Cincinnati's scouting in the Dominican Republic, made a huge step forward last season at Dayton. The right-hander had struggled with walks prior to last season, but he managed to post a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.59) in 26 starts.
If he can maintain command of the strike zone, Corcino could rise quickly through the system, giving the Reds another ingredient for the big league rotation or for inclusion in a trade.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.