|Young Talent Developing for Reds|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on March 09, 2010
The Rays' story to the 2008 World Series is well known. What's not well known is who is the next surprise team.
The Reds may not do the same in 2010, but don't be surprised when everything comes together for them in 2011 and beyond. October baseball should soon be returning to one of the best baseball cities with a Major League team.
Much of the reason for optimism comes from the work of a rebuilt farm system, especially on the pitching side. The Reds have four players on Baseball America's latest Top 100 prospects. One of those, Aroldis Chapman, threw two scoreless innings against the Royals on Monday and hit 100 mph on a radar gun. The fact that he's left-handed adds to his talent.
Some scouts don't like Chapman's command, but he's only 21 years old. He has plenty of time to develop. The Reds have control over Chapman for a lengthy period of time, and if he hasn't reached the Majors, then his contract won't give him all $30 million that was originally reported. Plus, teams are willing to take a raw pitcher if he's able to hit 100 mph.
The Reds could fill a future rotation out with the remainder of their pitching talent. Edison Volquez proved what he could do in 2008, posting a 3.21 ERA over 196 innings. He made nine solid starts in 2009 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. It's very likely he follows a similar path that Tim Hudson of the Braves did: contribute what he can over a few starts upon his return this season and be ready to pitch full-time in 2011.
Sliding behind him will be Johnny Cueto, who has developed nicely over the last two seasons. He's not going to be a No. 2 or 3 starter, but many contending teams do worse at the fourth or fifth slot in the rotation.
A lot hinges on two former first-round pitches. Mike Leake, the Reds' first-round pick in 2009, spent last year competing with that Stephen Strasburg guy for the title of best pitcher in college. Leake signed late and pitched well in the Arizona Fall League. Don't expect him to be Major League ready anytime soon, but Leake could develop quickly and become a top pitching prospect as soon as next year.
And then there is Homer Bailey (again). He performed badly (5.76 ERA over nine starts and 45 1/3 innings) in his first Major League season. Bailey looked excellent down the stretch last season.
Finding a spot for these arms may be difficult with Aaron Harang, previously one of the best pitchers in the National League, and Bronson Arroyo, the definition of serviceable veteran, on the team. Both will likely be traded or allowed to walk in free agency to open space in the rotation.
Behind those pitchers will be a slew of players with potential. Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce and Chris Dickerson round out the outfield, but stud prospect Todd Frazier may need a place to land. He's not terribly talented defensively, but his bat will carry him.
Alonso is blocked by Joey Votto, who posted an outstanding 2009 season. One of them may shift to a corner outfield position or be traded for more help. But as it stands, 2011 could be a good season for the Reds.