Monday news, notes and a major announcement Doug Gray January 18, 2010 48 Comments The Hardball Times is taking a look at the best arms in minor league baseball by position. Denis Phipps (pictured above) had far and away the best right field arm in minor league baseball last season. Phipps came in at +8, while the second place finisher was at +5. Phipps is a very good athlete with good tools. If his bat can come around a little bit, he could turn into a very good prospect. Mark Sheldon has an article up about Juan Francisco and his future. The article centers around whether Francisco can be an answer for left field. I think it will be a while before we see that happen. Francisco has maybe 20 total games in left field in his life. Todd Frazier is slated as the Bats left fielder to begin 2010 and Francisco at 3B according to Terry Reynolds. Francisco needs to jump over a lot of players in order to become a left fielder for the Reds. Wladimir Balentien, Chris Dickerson, Chris Heisey and Todd Frazier all have to be ahead of him on the left field depth chart currently if for nothing else, they know how to play the position defensively. Jamie Ramsey is finishing up the Player Development portion of the Reds Media Guide and one guy’s accomplishments jumped out at him. Mark Serrano, who I had an interview with last week (read here), left Ramsey so impressed he decided to write about him on his blog. He quotes Terry Reynolds who had this to say about Serrano: “Mark has a very good arm, good demeanor on the mound and a good feel to pitch. He has a chance to be a quick mover in our system.” He also talked with Tom Nichols who is the voice of the Dayton Dragons. Tom had more to say, but this is something worth repeating: “He has an outstanding slider that he goes to when he gets ahead in the count and it is a great strikeout pitch. But above everything, when you watch Serrano, the thing that stands out the most is his tremendous poise and quiet confidence.” 2010 Minor League Season News So I have decided to start planning out a week long Reds minor league road trip for the 2010 season. The plan is to take in 3 games in Lynchburg and then drive to Zebulon and take in 3 games in Carolina before heading home. One week and about 1500 miles worth of driving to see about six baseball games. Including the rental car, my trip looks like its going to cost about $800, which is $100 more than my travel budget was last season. Of course there is more to my plan than to just watch the games. Part of this plan is to up the ante and at the end of the season I plan on producing a Reds Prospect Guide. Inside the guide will be scouting reports, stats, seasonal breakdowns and spray charts for all hitters. Part of the scouting reports will include quotes from scouts, times from home to first base, pop times for catchers and for pitchers it will have velocities for each pitch and mechanical breakdown’s for guys I was able to see throughout the season. I will also be expanding from the Top 40 to at least a Top 75, but perhaps a Top 100. Also included will be video of what I am hoping is at least80% of the players in the guide. I will be armed with a digital video camera as well as my digital camera that takes high quality video. With that said, if anyone would like to help contribute to it, I will gladly accept some help if you are going to see any of the teams this season (especially Billings/Arizona as I won’t be making it out there this season unless I come into a lot of money). John Sickels Farm System Rankings John Sickels has now finished all thirty teams rankings. Working off of the data found by Victor Wang and later turned into a dollar amount (surplus value) by the guys at Beyond The Box Score, I gave value to each and every team per their grades by John Sickels. The one problem was that C level prospects were not counted because John can’t list every player that is a C prospect, so only C+ or higher grades were counted. Here are the results: 48 Responses icehole3 January 18, 2010 it looks like the Reds need pitching, Im an advocate of drafting pitching early every year, I would like to see them draft a lot of pitching in the first 5 rounds, a lot Tom January 18, 2010 Icehole, I’m with you. If you have enough pitching, you can always trade it for hitting. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 Unless of course that pitching blows out its arm or never materializes…. icehole3 January 18, 2010 which the Reds have had some guys do just that, thats why I want more quality pitchers drafted, you want to have quality pitching and plenty of it as bargaining chips, I didnt like how Walt used those chips last year, I hope it doesnt happen again coltholt January 18, 2010 I think (especially in the top 10 picks) a SS or Catcher can prove to be just as valuable as a pitcher, and I might argue, are harder to acquire. Pitching is always hard to acquire, but top end catchers and short stops are just downright impossible to get. If I am pinpointing a group to draft early and often, I would be looking for the next barry larkin and johnny bench, not the next jose rijo. Doug, it seems like the latin players are the most athletic players out there…wouldn’t it make sense to have a focus on finding a SS in the international signings? I just don’t remember any of the big signings that the reds have had recently being SS’s. CMT January 18, 2010 Their largest individual signing bonus awarded last season (I believe) went to a SS out of Venezuela. I think his name is Valor. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 The Reds have actually signed two of the bigger International shortstops in the last two seasons. Not the biggest, but among the best 5 shortstops. In 2008 they signed Junior Arias. Arias hit just .231/.304/.389 in the DSL last season, but made big improvements throughout the year. May was brutal, with a sub .450 OPS. June and July saw a combined 802 OPS with a decline in strikeout rate and big increase in power. This season the Reds signed Humberto Valor, considered one of the best shortstop prospects from Venezuela this past year. Here is what CBS Sports had in an article right before he signed: In Venezuela, two shortstops who some teams are high on are Luis Sardinas and Humberto Valor, though some scouts see them just as solid players. Sardinas is a lanky shortstop with good hands, with scouts pointing to the Red Sox and Yankees as teams with interest in him. At 5-foot-10, Valor doesn’t have knockout tools, but he has good hands and actions in the field, though he’s not a great runner. “I liked the way the ball jumps off his bat,” said a Venezuelan scout. “He has very good balance as a hitter and he knows how to handle the bat. As scouts, we base a lot of things off of tools, but he showed me he could play the game and make adjustments.” Others are more skeptical of the bat. One scout said Valor had an average to a tick above-average arm, while another said his arm strength was closer to fringe-average. “We’ve seen both of those guys,” said one international scouting director. “Sardinas is a little better than Valor, but it’s not by much.” Jorge Arangue from ESPN had this quote on Valor from a scout the day before he signed: Scout on Humberto Valor: “best position player prospect in VZ.” Athletic, advanced approach at plate, hard contact line drive stroke. RedBlooded January 18, 2010 I’m not sure whether Sickels included Chapman in his ratings. If he did then he has not given either Chapman or Leake his due. If he gives Strasburg an A then both Chapman and Leake should be at least A- Leake out pitched Strasburg in college and the AFL. Most people would concede that Chapman would have been taken second after Stasburg and before Leake in the draft. If he has not included Chapman then the Reds should move up a few notches with Chapman’s score. nycredsfan January 18, 2010 That’s not necessarily true. He did include Chapman, and gave him an A-. Only 3 pitchers in all of the minors got an “A”. Those pitchers are truly rare, and until Chapman shows something in the minors, he can’t be an A. As for Leake, he just doesn’t have the stuff or upside to be an A. A and A- ratings are pretty much reserved for guys with #1-2 starter upside, and you don’t find many guys who think Leake has that. Leake is a solid B+ Doug Gray January 18, 2010 Sickels gave Leake a B, which I think is a grade too low, but in the rankings it would have moved the Reds up to 13. The other big difference was Yorman Rodriguez not being included here. He got a C grade, which means at least 245 other hitters were considered better prospects. Not entirely sure I see where John is coming from. Miguel Sano, this years top international player got a C+ and he didn’t hit .292 in the GCL this season. That didn’t cost the Reds much of anything though in the rankings unless Yorman were to have been B- or a B, in which case we are looking at another spot or two jump. RedBlooded January 18, 2010 I somehow missed the A-. I feel a little better. I can live with a B+ for Leake for now but I think Leake will be a #2. I like pitchers who actually get people out. Leake a has shown the ability to do that. I think his “stuff” has been underrated. I have read some credible people say as much. Of the three, I predict that Leake will be the most successful over the longest period of time. I think pitching in the Cuban league is at least equivalent to college baseball. None of the three have shown much in the minors. It should be an interesting year ahead. Both Strasburg and Chapman have serious work to do. We will see if they do it. As a Reds fan I, of course, am hoping that Chapman does his work well. I also think Serrano may be a sleeper. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 What serious work does Strasburg have to do? I would take Strasburg over any pitching prospect in the last 8 years for sure. RedBlooded January 18, 2010 Hitting his spots. Not as many control questions as Chapman but he is not a polished pitcher yet. Two years ago I would have considered Jaba Chamberlain the best prospect out there. He has been successful and I would want him in my rotation for sure. But it has not been a straight trajectory to success. I think Stasburg and Chapman will take some lumps and hopefully learn some valuable lessons. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 Strasburg has some slight adjustments to make, but he is far and away the best pitching prospect since Mark Prior came out of USC and those two were probably the best ones for a long time before that. RedBlooded January 18, 2010 I obviously defer to your expertise and experience. It’s one of the great things about this site. And only time will tell. I wonder if you have anywhere enough data on Chapman at this point to have an informed opinion putting him in relation to Strasburg. Or is it just too early to tell? Randy in Chatt January 18, 2010 A few observations on the prospect list above: *I’m surprised to see only three “A” pitchers in all of the minor leagues. Strasberg is the Nationals, I assume Neftali Feliz is for the Rangers, Doug, who is the one from the Orioles? *It pains me to see the Cardinals and the Astros rated so low ;) *The bummer though is that the Cubs have risen a lot lately in their rankings and that the Brewers are always there. *Doug, who is our “B” and “B-” pitchers? *I’m also surprised that with Alonso, Frazier and Francisco, none of them rated in the “A to A-” category. *We only have 6 pitchers in the C+ or better category. I agree w/ the above statements to draft the best pitchers high in the draft the next couple of drafts, especially when you think that these hitters will all be steady bats on the major league level in the next couple of years: Votto, Bruce, Stubbs, Alonso, Frazier, Francisco, Heisey, Valaika, Cozart and Dickerson (of course not all of them will be Reds in 2012) but it sure is a good group to choose from. Now lets match that with top notch pitching (we’ve got a good start but the attrition rate is so much higher w/ pitching) and we will be an exciting club to follow in the next few years. nycredsfan January 18, 2010 I’m not Doug, but… Leake was rated B and Boxberger was B-. Brian Matusz is the Orioles “A” pitcher. No way Francisco is an A or A-. Nobody who has such little plate discipline and defensive questions could be an A. Doug, I guess you’d agree that Alonso could be an A-, and probably will be if he hits like he should in AAA this season. Frazier is a good bat, but not really an elite one. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 I agree with that, though I seem to be on the outside of that as both Sickels and BA have Alonso below Frazier. I guess its funny what a wrist injury will do. In July BA had Alonso as the 15th best prospect in baseball and Todd Frazier not in the Top 50. Now Todd ranks ahead of Alonso. I like Frazier’s game, but he didn’t exactly change much in his game from July until now so did he rise up into the top 50 or did Alonso fall out of it? nycredsfan January 18, 2010 What’s more, even with the injury Alonso put up a combined .836 OPS this season. Frazier? .827. I think people are hung up on defense and the lack of hitting lefties in a small sample size. Steve M. January 18, 2010 Doug – The VA/NC trip sounds like fun. I thought the same thing when we learned the team was moving to Lynchburg – that it would be relatively convenient to swing by and see both teams. Your Prospect Guide will be an important and interesting project. I’d be glad to help if I can. I am going to Goodyear for two weeks of spring training (3/11-3/25), and will have digital camera/video capability. If there is anything I can do to help, you have my email address. Steve Randy in Chatt January 18, 2010 Thanks NYC for the info. I don’t like Francisco’s walk rate/OBP but if he does turn it around, he is a potential A bat. I was hoping they did the rankings w/o Chapman which would give us one additional arm for the rankings. That’s why I asked, bummer! Yeah, Matusz could be that type of arm for the Orioles. Randy in Chatt January 18, 2010 When the Muddies come into Chattanooga, I’d be glad to capture video/pics/interviews like I did some last year. It looks like they come to Chatt more times than last year. Lemme know. To quote Chevy Chase’s Fletch “Tommy Lasorda, I hate Tommy Lasorda”. Just wish I had a pitcure of him to punch! Chad January 18, 2010 Let me know when you’ll be in Lynchburg. If the schedule works out, I’ll try to join you for at least one game. zblakey January 18, 2010 I might be able to make Lynchburg and / or Zebulon, they are about the same distance for me. Let me know if you are looking for company for at least one game. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 I will put up the dates for sure when I know them. I am going to have to wait until the rosters are out and probably until the end of April so I can forecast probable pitchers before I make the final say on which trip I will be taking in May (there are three different times that look quite promising where I could catch 3 games each). Doug Gray January 18, 2010 Will do! Mike D January 18, 2010 Doug, Because I’m so far away I can’t be of much help to you. However, I would gladly support you nominally. If you want to email me or post your mailing address, I will offer up $100.00 in support of project. I’m a military guy that truly enjoys following the Reds minor league system and you have made it a great deal easier. Let me know. AFMike Doug Gray January 18, 2010 For now at least Mike I think I am leaving off the donations. Perhaps as it gets closer I can see where the finances are and may put up a small request donate button. Thank you though. hog January 18, 2010 alonso could not tie vottos shoes Doug Gray January 18, 2010 I don’t know what that means, but I think Alonso’s true talent level is just as much as Votto’s. RedBlooded January 18, 2010 I’m not sure about the shoe tying contest, but I do think Votto has proved himself and Alonso has yet to do so. I hope he fulfills all his potential and promise. That can only be good for the Reds, but it will pose an interesting dilemma. Like you, my loyalties and preferences lean toward Votto. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 Votto has certainly proven himself. The only advantage at the plate I think Votto has is a slight edge in power. Alonso will walk more and strikeout less, leading to a higher average in most normal years (Votto’s 2009 wasn’t normal – .372 BABIP) and a high OBP, with a very similar SLG if not just as good because his AVG will be higher and thus his IsoP won’t have to be as high to match the overall slugging. Alan Horn January 18, 2010 Votto has hit 30(or close) HRs in the majors. Alonzo hasn’t his much over half that amount in the minors at AA and below. I guess if you include doubles and triples it would be closer. I have seen Alonso play in person. His range is poor in the field(especially compared to Votto). The word proven versus unproven is so true at this point. I hope Alonso gets on fire this season. Then I will be his biggest fan. Until then, the jury is out on him for me. When he actually does what Votto has done, then we will have an interesting(but good) situation. Both will have excellent value at that point. We should have a answer by July. If Alonso has shown what most think he will do at AAA, then he still must prove himself in the majors. Then, and only then, will he be the equal of Votto in my opinion. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 We have 340 at bats of a healthy Yonder Alonso to work with as a pro. Hawaiian Winter League, Florida State League and 2 weeks in Carolina before the injury. If we take that and put it forward with 525 at bats his line would look like this: .295/.384/.484 with 77 walks and 92 strikeouts. That looks an awful lot like Votto’s minor league line, but with less strikeouts. Votto’s minor league line was .289/.386/.477. Of course Votto is more valuable today. He is proven. He is safer because we know exactly what he is because he is proven. That doesn’t mean that Alonso can’t be what Votto is though. It just means that he isn’t yet. Alan Horn January 18, 2010 I agree. What we don’t know is the age old question for a minor league player. Can he do it at the next level and the next? Projection is based on his being able to match the figures at the lower levels. If he produces at AAA, the odds go up big time. Then the next question is can he do it at the major league level. The vast majority of minor league players top out at some point prior to the majors. The main thing Alonso has going for him is he makes contact. That usually doesn’t drop off at the next level but still it isn’t a guarantee. July should answer the question as long as he isn’t injured again. Also, he hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do at AAA and he didn’t get that long at AA either. Doug Gray January 18, 2010 The main thing is that guys with Alonso’s plate discipline just don’t miss all that often. The main question is going to be how much power will he hit for. I see him in the 25 HR/ 40 double range. At his peak probably a few more of each mixed in. Some aren’t as sure with that number as I am. Alan Horn January 19, 2010 As with all the prospects, time will tell. Hopefully, he can put up those type of numbers. I agree, his power is the only question mark and that may be only because of the injury. I’m anxious to see what he does this season. hog January 18, 2010 there is a lot of bloggers on this sight did any one of you guys ever play pro baseball in the minors or majors Joe January 18, 2010 cool deal on the book, Doug. Yeah January 18, 2010 Would you say Bruce or Phipps had the better arm? Yeah January 18, 2010 Has, rather Doug Gray January 18, 2010 I would go with Bruce, but not by much. Phipps has a cannon. Randy in Chatt January 18, 2010 If he doesn’t cut it as a hitter, any chance he could convert to pitching with that kind of arm? hog January 19, 2010 how cant you see sapplet as a good center fielder Doug Gray January 19, 2010 Huh? Albert Youngwood January 19, 2010 I just saw a baseball article a January 19, 2010 baseball america article by Matt Eddy Scout/manager Tom Kotchman of the Angels being a super scout. At the bottom of the article they did a reveiw of the Baseball America handbooks from 2006-2010. They made a spreadsheet with the signing scout for each player that made his way into a top 30 list. Reds scout Tony Arias was 6th on this list with 11 players. I think Arias is our Director of Latin Scouting. I wonder which one of thse 11 guys he signed for the Reds. Hope he keeps bringing them in. Doug Gray January 19, 2010 was that online or in the magazine? Albert Youngwood January 20, 2010 It was on online at baseball america with the extra subscription.