I had actually meant to write this article for yesterday, but things got in the way of that happening so it got pushed to today.

Positional Player Breakout Predictions

When looking at guys who could potentially break out, I look at a lot of things and pick players for different reasons at times. My first pick already had a bit of a breakout season last year, but it went largely unnoticed because it came in the California League. I think that Travis Mattair could take another step forward in 2013. He sat out 2010 to try college basketball out before returning in 2011 to professional baseball. Sitting out a season led to him missing some developmental time and he really showed improvements across the board in 2012. The former 2nd rounder has good tools to work with on both sides of the ball and I think the improvements he showed last year were just the first step to learning how to use all of the tools that made him a second rounder when he was drafted.

The next guy I think could really take that next step forward is Kyle Waldrop. In 2011, he hit for a lot of power in Billings, but his plate discipline was really poor. Then in 2012 with Dayton his power dropped off, but his plate discipline took a big step forward. If he is able to put both of those things together and mix it in with spending time in the California League, he could really put together a strong season.

Pitching Breakout Predictions

Calling for a 19-year-old to break out seems a little crazy given that a guy that age hasn’t had much time to even get going, but Sal Romano posted a 5.32 ERA last season in Billings and I feel he is primed to post a much better ERA than that and that he could improve his peripherals as well. A tall pitcher who is still honing in his stuff could improve quickly if he can repeat his mechanics a little more often than he did in the past along with the expected improvements in his pitches as a young guy.

It was tough to pick another guy here, as the guys I really thought about aren’t playing in full season ball yet. But I do want to mention both Kyle Lotzkar and Josh Ravin out of the Pensacola bullpen. Lotzkar is a well known prospect, but his move to the bullpen could be real interesting. As a starter he could touch 95 with a good breaking ball. While the biggest question will be how his arm, which has been through a lot in his career, reacts to the usage from the bullpen role, his already good stuff could really play up out of the bullpen and also help lower his walk rate with shorter outings. Josh Ravin made the transition to the bullpen in 2012, but he battled several injuries and stints on the DL last season and never got into a groove. The stuff is there with a fastball clocked as high as 101 MPH and in the Arizona Fall League last season he showed a low walk rate and a good strikeout rate. He struggled in the spring with the big league club, but that was still just spring training. If he can build on what he did in Arizona last fall and show reasonable control, he could be a huge asset for the Reds.

32 Responses

  1. Fish

    Where are all these power arms coming from!?!? (rhetorical) it seems like for most of the 90’s, there were no power arms in the system, now we have a ton of plus and a few plus plus fastballs.

    I’m really encouraged by what the reds have been able to do through the draft of late. . .

    • Doug Gray

      Haha. I will answer it even though it was rhetorical. In general, everyone throws harder today than ever before. Guys are also staying healthier and when they do get hurt, come back quicker and more guys are coming back to full strength than ever before too.

      The Reds hardly put money into scouting in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Today the Reds are so much better at both finding talent as well as developing it.

      • Alan Horn

        Correct on both. You only get out what you put in. That’s especially true for scouting and development.

  2. jim t

    Doug, from a positon stand point I’m looking for Y-Rod to break out and start capitalizing on his talents.. Getting a chance to come to big league camp this spring may have been the push he needed to grow up a tad and realize he needs to work if he wants to cash in on his abilities. Hopefully being around the other Ml’ers and big league coaching staff may have a profound influence on him as he heads into the season. Having a good spring may have shown him that he isn’t that far off. He certainly has all the tools.

    • Doug Gray

      I thought about writing about him. But he also ranked as the 4th best prospect in the system two years in a row for me, so I thought it would be silly to include him, even though I think there is a good chance he takes a step forward this year.

  3. jim t

    Doug, I also hope he takes that big step. It would be huge for this organization. His ceiling is higher then any position player in the system. The tools are there. Rumor is it is a matter of him growing up and putting in the work. I hope the light has come on.

  4. Mustang John

    I have been afan of Josh Smith since he was here in Billings.He doesnt get any ink yet has been one of the top pitchers in MidWest and Cal league.Romano is still so young but listens well to his coaches,He will do well at Dayton.

    • Doug Gray

      I think Smith gets less ink, because he has been used as a starter, and while the numbers are strong, he projects as a #4/5 starters. But as a reliever is where he could shine. He won’t be a closer, because the stuff just isn’t there. But if he turns into Sam LeCure in the bullpen (but with a better fastball), I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone who has seen him pitch.

  5. Ryan the Red

    Im personally looking for Luts to take the next step. With some improvement on his plate discipline he could have 30+ homers this year with a good average. Would be nice if he could maybe split time with Ludwick by next April.

    Pitching wise I think Cisco has a good year. Nice control guy with decent stuff. Looking for a 3/1 K/BB ratio from him and hopefully he spends a little time with bakerfield.

    • Doug Gray

      I thought about adding Cisco, but after thinking about it more, I think he could put up better numbers, but I don’t think his skillset will really step forward. He is already very polished and he doesn’t have projection in his stuff.

  6. Jim t

    Doug, got to go to two of the games against the angels and got tickets for sat And sun. Against the Nats. Got to see Trout and this weekend get to see Harper. Icing on the cake is the matchup between Cueto and Strasburg on Sunday. Some of the best talent in the game at GABP. Every time Trout comes to the plate,as a Reds fan your holding your breadth. Guy is a Special player as is Harper.

    • Doug Gray

      Yeah, I was down yesterday for the sole reason of seeing Mike Trout play because I don’t know the next chance I will have to see him play in person.

  7. David

    Is this the place to rant about tonights lineup if mes is not injured. I mean if he is healthy and not playing then he should be in aaa or something.

    • Doug Gray

      Yes, rant away if Mesoraco isn’t sick/injured.

      • Kevin

        This is the only hierarchy that explains the Reds decision making as an organization:

        Ryan Hanigan has secret dirty pictures of Dusty Baker who has secret dirty pictures of Walt Jocketty.

        End of story.

      • Jim t

        Of course the flip side is Hanigan is a very good catcher and has erned his playing time. Gee, what a novel concept.

      • MK

        Correct you are Jim t and have no problem with it if Hanigan catches because he is better.

        However I did think the plan was for Mes to catch Bailey and Leake. If that isn’t the plan then I am surprised Mes didn’t catch yesterday, the day after a night game the typical game for the #2 catcher.

        I also agree that Mes should be in Louisville catching if he is going to sit 90% of the time.

        On another note I was glad to see Jason Donald cleared waivers and accepted the assignment to Louisville.

    • Jim t

      Yea and if he goes ofer you can follow it up with he needs to play everyday over a guy who is probably top 5 in NL to see if he can outperform him at some point in time.

      You can also rationalize away that Hanigan is 1st in pitchers ERA, threw out 49 percent of base runners and is defensively one of the top catchers in the game.

      • Doug Gray

        I refuse to accept any rationalization of a pitchers ERA because of a catcher. The pitcher is responsible for 95 or more percent of that stuff.

      • ChrisSD


        Why do you insist there is nothing to pitchers ERA because of a catcher, when most of baseball management, both GM and coaches seem to believe there is something to it? There have been numerous cases of pitchers having personel catchers, and while it may be all in the pitcher’s head it also affects the pitcher’s performance on the mound. I believe there is a direct correlation to the pitcher feeling comfortable and confident in the catcher and the pitcher’s performance.

      • Doug Gray

        Because pitchers control what they do. You don’t like the call, shake it off. You don’t like the location, throw it where you want it. Pitchers get traded or leave as free agents every year. They pitch the same as they did before in almost all cases. They didn’t take their catchers with them. Maybe it mattered more years ago when scouting reports were tougher to come by and you couldn’t sit down and watch video of every at bat a guy has had in the last 5 years in an hour or look at incredibly detailed scouting reports on a whim on anyone you could ever think about seeing. But all of those things are available for the catchers today. Then of course is the whole thing where catchers ERA depends on who you catch and even when you catch them. Let’s take the Reds alone as an example.

        Ryan Hanigan caught Johnny Cueto. His ERA is going to get a huge boost over the guy who catches Mike Leake. Mat Latos has been terrible in every April of his career. Ryan Hanigan didn’t catch him last April. Then Latos does what he does every year and pitches like a borderline #1 from May through the end of the year. Hanigan gets credit there and Mesoraco gets dinged. But Latos, on another team, did the exact same thing in past years. Homer Bailey for his career has an ERA over 5 in every month of the season, except for September, where it is 3.00. Ryan Hanigan caught Bailey in September and imagine that, Bailey pitched better than he had the rest of the year. Hanigan is given credit for that. Mesoraco on the flip side had Homer Bailey pitching unlike he had ever pitched before through July and gets no credit for it really. Ryan Hanigan caught 80% of Aroldis Chapmans innings. He gets a huge boost in “his” ERA because of that.

        The whole thing is crazy. The pitchers control it.

      • MK

        That ERA stat is kind of bogus. If you catch the top 3 pitchers you should have a better catcher ERA than the guy catching 4 and 5.

    • Doug Gray

      Well, Mesoraco was taking extra BP this afternoon, so he isn’t hurt. I guess he could still be sick though.

      • MK

        Just heard he is fine and will be in the line-up tomorrow.

  8. Terry M

    Reds minor leaguer Covington was given a 50 game suspension by MLB.

  9. MK

    Even though pre-season reports didn’t list him as a starter Josh Smith is starting for Pensacola tonight.

  10. Mort

    This is one of my favorite write-ups you do Doug. I remember years ago you predicting Mes having a breakout year after having some pretty poor hitting years when he started out. You had some stats that backed up his bad luck up to that point. Mes had a great year and since then I pay attention when you put out these types of write ups/predictions. I hope you are correct again this year and the talent pipeline continues.

  11. Bradkon21

    I was curious what everyone’s thoughts are on the Broxton contract? I thought it was an overpay for a closer but even more so a half of a setup tandem. That contract will hamstring the Reds in near future.

    • Doug Gray

      Most people agree with you that it is an overpay.

  12. boiler

    Amir is leaving the Johnnies to pursue “OTHER” interest.

    • Jim t

      Once I saw his PT was being reduced I figured it was just a Matter of time. Hope he decide to go all in baseball. Kids got a Big arm.