Part of the Reds' future lies in the hands of a very young Johnny Cueto. Most Reds fans know who he is, but where did he come from? Cueto is one of those feel good stories that makes you just want to grab the tissue box, or a pen and paper to write all of his info down so you can say to your friends, "I told you this guy was gonna be good!" That is, when he indeed does get the call.
Cueto's Reds journey began by being signed as an undrafted free agent in March of 2004, out of the legendary city of San Pedro de Mocoris, Dominican Republic. The city, like many in the Caribbean, has deep baseball roots. San Pedro de Mocoris is home to some past and current greats such as Julio Franco, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Soriano, and current Red Jerry Gil. Cueto grew up playing on the streets, and was enrolled in a "baseball academy".
Cueto first appeared in the GCL in 2005 at the age of 19. He appeared in 13 games, going 2-2 with a 5.08 ERA. He then made a brief appearance for Sarasota of the Florida State League. His breakout year was the following year in 2006. Starting the season at Low-A Dayton, Cueto showed the potential dominator he could be. Cueto went 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 14 starts for the Dragons. He was promoted back to High-A Sarasota, where he finished the year with a 7-2 record, along with an ERA of 3.50 with 61 strikeouts in 61 innings.
Cueto started 2007 at Sarasota, where he went 4-5 with a 3.33 ERA. He was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, where he showed the Southern League he was a rising star. He went 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 10 starts for the Lookouts, striking out 77 in just 61 innings of work. With the International League season winding down, Cueto was called up to Triple-A Louisville. Johnny made four starts for the Riverbats, he compiled a 2-1 record with a 2.05 ERA in four starts.
Cueto will certainly be given an opportunity to impress in Spring Training, but I don't see him breaking the roster. He is very young, Johnny will turn 22 a day before pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota on Saturday. The Reds will want to give Johnny more experience with hitters in Triple-A before sliding him into the big league rotation. There is certainly no need to rush him. With a preliminary rotation of Harang, Arroyo, Bailey, Belisle, and a few others, the Reds have no void to fill in. That allows Cueto to develop his pitches against more mature competition in Louisville. If that doesn't scare other teams, just wait until they see our 2009 rotation (Harang, Bailey, Arroyo, Cueto, Belisle or Volquez). Time will tell if Cueto can join the greats of his mother city, but for now, Cueto is one of the top prospects of the MLB and one of the pieces to the puzzle for the future for the Reds.