With spring training getting underway this Saturday for our Reds (well, the pitchers and catchers at least. Position players show up next Thursday) , I thought I would take a look at the prospects/minor leaguers who are heading to spring training and talk about their chances to break camp with the big league team. There are 21 players who still have prospect eligibility. Yesterday I took a look at the first 10 players and today I will finish up the list with the final 11 guys. The players are listed in alphabetical order:
Josh Judy – RHP – Roster Invite
The Reds picked up Josh Judy from the Indians off of the waiver wire after the 2011 season. He had a strong year in AAA for the Indians, but struggled in a brief call up to the Majors where his strikeouts dropped off and his home run rate went through the roof. He has the stuff to be in the Majors with a low 90′s fastball and a quality slider. As noted with several relievers in the piece yesterday, if the Reds didn’t have such a stacked bullpen, he could be seen as a viable option, but the Reds are stacked and that likely means he heads back to the International League.
Kyle Lotzkar – RHP – Roster Invite
The Reds added Lotzkar to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from a potential Rule 5 draft selection. With that, he gets an invite to spring training. While he has good stuff, he has never pitched above Low-A and has next to no chance to break with the big league club. Getting experience with higher level players will be a benefit of his time before heading back to minor league camp.
Donald Lutz – 1B/OF – Roster Invite
Lutz is in the same mold as Lotzkar. He was added to the roster to protect him from a potential Rule 5 selection and also has never played above the Low-A level while having next to no chance to break camp with the Reds. Gaining some experience and picking up some tips from older and more advanced players will be his largest benefit before he heads back to the minor league camp.
Devin Mesoraco – Catcher – Roster Invite
Mesoraco has been the most impressive hitter the Reds have had over the last two season down on the farm and I don’t think it is particularly close when we take into account his position scarcity. With the Reds not bringing back Ramon Hernandez, it is a virtual certainty that Mesoraco breaks camp with the Reds, with the largest question revolving around how much playing time he will get. There is a 99% chance he breaks camp with the Reds.
Kristopher Negron – Shortstop/Utility – Roster Invite
Kristopher Negron had a very disappointing season in 2011 after what was viewed as a breakout in 2010. He had gotten away from a more patient approach and as a result saw his offensive numbers plummet. Negron did take on more of a utility role in 2011, getting time in the outfield as well as the infield. He has some tools to work with, and if he can hit some he could still be a future Major Leaguer. For now though, he has next to no chance to break camp with the Reds in any capacity as he is just too far down the depth chart for any role he would fill at this point in time.
Denis Phipps – Outfielder – Roster Invite
Phipps had a statistical breakout this past year where he just exploded to hit .346 between Carolina and Louisville. While his breakout was likely an incredibly lucky situation due to an unsustainable BABIP (nearing .450), he does have some tools to his name and if nothing else, his defensive tools play at the Major League level right now. If there is an injury in spring training and the Reds need an extra outfielder, Phipps ability to play all three spots could get him the nod. Ideally though, he heads back to Louisville to start every day and try to keep improving his game. I would say he has a 5% chance to make the team if everyone stays healthy.
Henry Rodriguez – Second Base – Roster Invite
Henry Rodriguez has hit .305 or better each of the last 4 seasons and has made his way to the upper minor leagues while seemingly improving each step of the way. With Brandon Phillips as the teams second baseman, there isn’t any room right now for Rodriguez on the roster. Getting some experience will be his biggest thing from his time with the big league club, but I imagine he will be one of the first players sent to minor league camp due to all of the veterans vying for the backup spots on the roster needing to get as much time as they can to sort things out. Unless there is a major injury to Phillips, and let’s hope there isn’t, Rodriguez has next to no chance to make the Reds out of spring training.
Neftali Soto – First Base – Roster Invite
Soto became the first Reds minor leaguer to hit 30 home runs in a season since Adam Dunn was still a prospect. Despite his big power, his offense still needs some work, particularly in the plate discipline department. However, even if he were a completely ready prospect, we still have that guy named Joey Votto that you may have heard of. With Votto not going anywhere, the only chance that Soto has is to mash all spring and to have an injury to Votto open up a spot for him. He has next to no chance to break camp with the Reds.
Clayton Tanner – LHP – Non Roster Invite
The Reds picked up Tanner from the Giants toward the end of the minor league season off of waivers. Tanner is a starting pitcher and the Reds will likely keep him there for the time being, which means that he doesn’t have much of a chance to break camp with the team unless there are numerous injuries to open up several spots. His lack of a 40-man roster spot means he could be one of the first pitchers to head to minor league camp.
Chris Valaika – Infielder – Roster Invite
Valaika will likely be battling for the utility role with several players. With the contract of Miguel Cario locked in and Juan Francisco being out of options, I think unless there is an injury, Valaika has already had his fate sealed as heading back to Louisville. Though with a strong spring and some very poor ones from several other guys, he could sneak in there. I would say he has a 10% chance to break camp with the Reds.
Pedro Villarreal – RHP – Roster Invite
The Reds added Villarreal to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He has two above-average pitches and good control to his name, so he could be a surprise guy in spring training who is able to turn some heads. With all of that said, it doesn’t seem that there is room for any pitchers heading to April unless there are some injuries. Even if a spot opens up due to ineffectiveness or injuries, Villarreal is still probably a few notches down the depth chart for the bullpen or rotation. I would say he has next to no chance of breaking camp without some injuries making room for some other guys.