Cincinnati Reds: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Walt Jocketty
Farm Director: Terry Reynolds
Scouting Director: Chris Buckley

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

The organization’s strength is certainly on the offensive side of things. However, the club addressed the lack of pitching depth by focusing on the area early on during the 2009 draft. Five of its first seven picks were pitchers; four out of those five were college arms, who will hopefully ascend through the system quickly to provide depth in the upper minors, as well as the Majors.

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:

1. Yonder Alonso, 1B, Double-A
DOB: April 1987 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 1st round – University of Miami
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

A 2008 first rounder, Alonso has appeared in just 90 regular season pro games after signing late in ’08 and then missing time due to injury in ’09. Even so, the first baseman has risen to double-A, where he hit .295/.372/.457 in 105 at-bats. Prior to that, he hit .303/.382/.497 in 175 high-A at-bats. Alonso has shown a solid eye throughout his career, and his walk rate was 11.8% in double-A. He’s considered a threat to hit .300 at the MLB level, but it may come at the expense of some power. Alonso posted a .162 ISO in double-A but he hit just two homers in 29 games (a total of nine on the year). On the plus side, he doesn’t strike out much, either, and whiffed at a rate of 14.3%. To be a true, everyday threat, Alonso is going to have to improve against southpaws after hitting just .222/.329/.317, albeit in a small sample size with a .260 BABIP. It be nice to see him get through 2010 without suffering a significant injury.

2. Todd Frazier, OF, Double-A
DOB: February 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 supplemental first round – Rutgers University
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Where’s Frazier? Many fans may be asking that very question, as the prospect has played almost every position in the field over the span of his short, three-year pro career. In ’09, the 23 year old spent time in left field (79 games), second base (37), first base (15), and third base (four). He spent much of his early career at shortstop, and does not project to be much more than average at any position. He could end up with a Chone Figgins or Tony Phillips type of career, where he plays everyday and simply moves around each season based on team need at the time. Offensively, he had a solid year in double-A, where he hit .290/.350/.481 in 451 at-bats. He posted a .191 ISO but had some trouble on the base paths and was caught stealing eight times in 15 attempts. He earned a late-season promotion to triple-A, where he posted an .839 OPS in 16 games.

3. Chris Heisey, OF, Triple-A
DOB: December 1984 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 17th round – Messiah College
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

Heisey’s popularity continues to rise, but he may be in danger of falling into the over-hyped category now (says someone listing him as the third overall prospect in the system). However, Heisey – who projects to be a corner outfielder – has yet to post consistent impact power numbers in the minors. With that said, 2009 was a nice start and it will be interesting to see if he can repeat his 20+ homer season. The soon-to-be 25-year-old outfielder is not going to knock Drew Stubbs out of center, or Jay Bruce out of right, so that leaves left field (which could end up being patrolled by Joey Votto, once Alonso is ready). Heisey does the majority of his damage against left-handed pitching, with an OPS of .929, compared to .801 against right-handers. In truth, Heisey’s ceiling may be that of a platoon outfielder, who may also provide a few average-to-above-average MLB seasons.

4. Travis Wood, LHP, Triple-A
DOB: February 1987 Bats: R Throws: L
Signed: 2005 2nd round – Arkansas high school
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 87-91 mph fastball, plus curveball, change-up, cutter

The 22-year-old Wood rebounded after a horrible half-season in double-A in ’08. He posted an ugly 7.09 ERA (5.43 FIP) in 80.0 innings. Challenged to improve at the same level in ’09, the left-hander responded with a league-leading 1.21 ERA (2.75 FIP) in 119.0 innings He allowed just 78 hits and posted a walk rate of 2.80. Move up to triple-A, Wood allowed 43 hits in 48.2 innings and posted a walk rate of 2.96 BB/9. His strikeout rate dropped from 7.79 K/9 in double-A to 5.92 in triple-A. He did a nice job of keeping the ball in the park by allowing just six homers all season. Although he doesn’t have a blazing fastball, Wood should settle in nicely as a No. 3 or 4 starter in the National League.

5. Zack Cozart, SS, Double-A
DOB: August 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 2nd round – University of Mississippi
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Cozart’s batting average and slugging percentage both dropped in ’09, but his OPS did not fall too far (.787 to .758), thanks to a 7.0% increase in walk rate. He also broke double-digit steals for the first time in his career with 10 in 12 attempts. The infielder should – at the very least – develop into a MLB utility player, but he could also see some time as a regular middle infielder. The right-handed hitter batted .262/.360/.398 on the season in double-A. Last season he showed some power with an ISO of .177, but that dipped to .136 in ’09. Cozart needs to have more success against right-handed pitchers after hitting just .243/.336/.384 against them. He also had a poor second half of the year despite hitting almost .300 in the first half. The former Mississippi grad should begin 2010 in triple-A.

6. Juan Francisco, 3B, Majors
DOB: June 1987 Bats: B Throws: R
Signed: 2004 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

After beginning the year in double-A, Francisco reached the Majors for the first time at the end of the season. The third baseman hit .281/.317/.501 in 437 double-A at-bats. He posted a .220 ISO in double-A and slammed a total of 28 homers on the year. He hit .359 in a 22-game stint in triple-A, before hitting .429 in 14 big-league games. However, Francisco took just 27 walks on the entire season, and has a walk rate of 4.3% in the minors, which was (sadly) a career high. With that lack of patience, as well as a strikeout rate of +22.0%, it will be difficult for Francisco to hit for average in the Majors… even with a high BABIP. He’s not a star glove man at third, but he’s an improvement over former third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Scott Rolen will likely keep the position warm for one more season until Francisco is fully ready.

7. Matt Maloney, LHP, Majors
DOB: January 1984 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2005 3rd round – University of Mississippi (Philadelphia)
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 87-91 mph fastball, slider, plus change-up

Maloney was acquired from the Phillies during the ’07 season and he’s had his ups and downs since joining the system, which is not surprising for a young pitcher that relies on control and changing speeds to be successful. The left-hander finally made his MLB debut in ’09 after a solid triple-A campaign where he allowed 143 hits in 143.0 innings, while also posting a walk rate of just 1.51 BB/9. He also struck out his fair share batters with a strikeout rate of 7.87 K/9. At the MLB level, Maloney struggled with a 5.41 FIP, but his walk rate remained solid at 1.77 BB/9; he may have actually been in the strike zone a bit too much (at least over the heart of the plate). He’ll need to improve the 34.4% ground-ball rate if he’s going to stick in the rotation, especially with a fastball that averages out at 87 mph.

8. Yorman Rodriguez, OF, Rookie
DOB: August 1992 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2014 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Rodriguez spent his first season in North America playing at two rookie ball levels and he did not turn 17 until mid-August. The right-handed hitting outfielder struggled in his first taste of pro ball and posted a strikeout rate of about 30.0% in 265 at-bats. Rodriguez showed flashes of both power and speed, but the base running skill is a little more advanced at this point and he nabbed 10 bases in 12 attempts. On the plus side, Rodriguez was showing improvements as the season progressed. He’ll likely repeat rookie ball in 2010.

9. Neftali Soto, 3B, High-A
DOB: February 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 3rd round – Puerto Rico high school
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

It was a bit of an off-year for Soto, but he’s still just 20 years old and he spent the year as one of the youngest players in high-A ball. The third baseman hit .248/.282/.362 in 505 at-bats and it’s clear that he needs to show some patience at the plate after posting a walk rate of 4.4%. His power dropped from an ISO of .174 in low-A ball in ’08 to .115 in ’09, but his strikeout rate remained respectable at 18.8%. After hitting well in ’07 and ’08 despite holes in his game, the ’09 struggles may have been humbling for Soto, who may now be more willing to make some adjustments to his approach.

8. Devin Mesoraco, C, High-A
DOB: June 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 1st round – Pennsylvania HS
MLB ETA: mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

A resident of Punxsotawney, Mesoraco’s offense has taken after Phil, the famous ground hog, by disappearing at the first sign of spring. The catcher has been under a spotlight because of his draft status, but his offense has not been quite as terrible as it might seem on the surface after he hit .228/.311/.381 in 312 high-A at-bats. At just 21, he’s still young for the level and he did see his walk rate increase by 4%. He also saw his ISO increase over the past three seasons from .051 to .137 to .154. The BABIP of .278 definitely hurt his batting average. On the downside, his strikeout rate has risen from 19.0 to 20.9 to 24.4%. In his first two pro seasons, Mesoraco hit right-handed pitchers well, but his numbers dropped to .222/.294/.374 (.270 BABIP) in ’09. Defensively, his throwing improved significantly over ’08: from 17% to 30%. He has work to do, but don’t give up on Mesoraco just yet.

Up Next: The Cleveland Indians

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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