Continuing our series on Reds prospects, we are now getting down the list. Actually, to serious baseball fans (like me, and you too I'd bet) this is where it gets interesting. Can this guy make it? What does he have to do? Can this underdog see it through? This here is the good stuff.
We will examine a set of mostly pitchers: Jamie Arneson, Jon Coutlangus, Chris Dickerson, Danny Dorn, Phil Dumatrait, Carlos Fisher, Jerry Gil, Josh Hamilton, Norris Hopper, Paul Janish, Derek Lutz, Calvin Medlock, Tyler Pelland, Josh Ravin, Justin Reed, Brad Salmon, Jordan Smith, B.J. Szymanski, Daryl Thompson, and Travis Webb. Let's dive in, shall we?
First, we'll sort out the position players: IF Janish, IF-OF Gil, and OFs Dickerson, Dorn, Hamilton, Hopper, Reed, and Szymanski. Paul Janish is a shortstop who was pretty successful at Sarasota last year, batting .278 with 9 HR in 91 games, but is getting old for a prospect at 24. That's old for a guy who hasn't proven himself at AA yet. He did have two hits in today's exhibition game, and may have a future as a backup infielder, and take a chance from there at winning a regular spot. He is the likely starting shortstop at Chattanooga this year, and could get a September look if he has a good year.
Gil has lots of power, but serious contact issues. The Reds made a trade for him largely because of his defense, which is strong in the infield or outfield. That contact thing is gonna be at tough one for him, and he projects at best as another Jose Hernandez. Hernandez, you may remember, was a good shortstop with power who had one good year with the Brewers, but couldn't get much traction. He's been hanging around as a backup, though, and that could be Gil's fate. Gil will probably go to Louisville, but may ride the shuttle to Cincinnati all year depending on injuries. He'll be the Bats' starter at shortstop or third base, while he is in town.
The outfielders here are mostly a collection of speedy guys who don't hit the ball very well. Hamilton, of course, is the wild card. A Rule 5 selection who has to be returned if he doesn't make the major league roster, Hamilton's performance so far has made him an odds-on favorite to go north with the team. That manager Jerry Narron likes the kid only increases those odds. Hamilton has quite the backstory, as anyone not living in a cave likely knows already: former #1 overall pick, fell into drug addiction, has played little the last four years. He still has talent, but whether he will deserve a major league roster spot is still an open question. An even better question is whether the major leagues is a good place for a recovering addict. Perhaps the Reds will assign him a "babysitter" while on the road, and he can find help while at home, too. The wife and kid may help. Baseball's stories of addicts often have sordid endings (reference Darrell Porter, for one) so we have to pray for this kid, not for his baseball career, but for his very life.
Compared to Hamilton, the other outfielders have a fraction of his troubles and a fraction of his talents. Dickerson batted .242 at Chattanooga last year, although he is still a decent player for all that. He'll probably play center for Louisville this season. Dorn batted a loud .354 at Billings, but was mostly 22 when he did that. The lefty hitter will give Dayton, or perhaps even Sarasota, a try this year. Hopper hit .359 in 39 late-season at bats in Cincinnati, and has hit for average everywhere he's gone, but is a longshot to make the Opening Day roster. He'll get regular play at Louisville again, and maybe another shot with the big team. Hopper, 28 on Saturday, is deserving of a roster spot. Justin Reed batted .180 in the Gulf Coast League, but has tools. He may see Dayton, but more likely extended spring and Billings, at just 19. Szymanski, 24, is another hot tools guy but batted just .239 at Dayton last year with 191 strikeouts. He will probably get to go to Sarasota, but needs to start hitting and soon.
Now, the pitchers: Arneson is a tall, slim lefty who posted a 3.35 ERA at Billings. He will try Dayton this year. Coutlangus, of the vaguely porn-star sounding name, is a lefty with a 2.86 ERA at Chattanooga last year. He could become a lefty one-out guy, or even more if he can throw strikes consistently. He will go to Louisville to work on control. He should be getting Brian Shackelford's innings this spring. Dumatrait is yet another lefty, this time a starter, who was pretty good at Chattanooga but struggled at Louisville last year. He will return to the Bats to work on his control as well. He will likely get an emergency starter call or two for the big club this year, and a good year at AAA will get him a big league chance. Fisher is a righty, to change us up a bit, and was 12-5 at Dayton last year. The 24-year old will likely go to Sarasota, with a chance to move up quickly with more success. Lutz is also a righty, a reliever this time, who was just drafted last summer and had some success at Dayton. He may anchor the Dragons' bullpen, or get a shot in Sarasota. He'll be 22 in April, and could be on the move up the ladder.
Medlock is a short right-hander shifted to the bullpen last year, and had a strong year in middle relief for Chattanooga. He should get to move up to Louisville, and position himself for a call-up after the unavoidable injuries to others. The Reds have a lot of old relievers, after all. Pelland is a lefty with a mid-90s fastball, but no real second pitch. It's hard to get strikeouts without a second pitch, unless your name is Mariano Rivera. Pelland was streaky in Chattanooga, and may be getting a move to the bullpen either at AA or AAA. Ravin is a right just drafted last year, ticketed for Dayton. He has a good arm but also some history of arm trouble. We'll see. Salmon has been getting a long look in Spring Training, and while he is a longshot to make the team may be in position to be the first callup due to injury this season. Salmon has a live arm with a good fastball and solid breaking pitch, but some command issues. When not in Cincinnati, he could be Louisville's closer. Smith was 6-3 for Billings and has a hot fastball but a lot of work to do elsewhere. Look for him at Dayton this year. Thompson was the "other guy" in The Trade last summer, and the Reds sent him to the Gulf Coast League to work out his shoulder problems. That went pretty well, so if he is still throwing well this spring he could go to Dayton, or may even get the call at Sarasota. That will depend on how well he is throwing. Guy has a moving fastball when he's healthy. Webb is a lefty who throws in the low 90s and was 5-2 at Billings last year. Again, Dayton seems the likely destination. The Dragons could have quite the rotation if things go well.
That was a quick look at the "maybe" Reds prospects. Next time, we will conclude (finally!) the series with a look at some guys in the minors who are off the prospect radar, and see if they have any chance. In some cases, well, maybe!