Friday, February 15, 2008

Top Prospect List: Notables

I thought I'd take a quick look at and post some thoughts on some of the Reds prospects who just missed the cut for the top 25. These guys missed for a combination of reasons, which include age, injuries, lack of projection, or lack of stuff. However, the jury is still out, so they may yet step up and make an impact on the fortunes of the Cincinnati Reds professional baseball club.

Zack Cozart - ss

Cozart was widely considered to be the best defensive shortstop in college when the Reds drafted him out of Mississippi with their 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft. Unfortunately, his bat lags well behind his glove.

Cozart has a strong, accurate arm, though he does throw from a lower arm slot than you traditionally see out of a shortstop. Cozart has been compared to Adam Everett, which immediately catches my eye, as I have tremendous appreciation for the defensive skills of Everett. However, at this point, it's not realistic to put Cozart in that class defensively. Cozart has good, soft hands, but his range is only considered a tick above average. At this point, Cozart makes all the plays that he can get his hands on, but ultimately he may not get to enough balls to make him an elite defensive shortstop.

At the plate, Cozart has a lot of work to do. He is very much an upper body hitter, which limits his power and ability to drive the ball with authority. Despite his hitting approach, Cozart still has trouble making consistent contact. He struck out 36 times in 184 ABs at low-A Dayton. The Reds will be patient with Cozart, but after posting a .239/.288/.332/.620 line, it's clear that Cozart has a long road to the majors.


Paul Janish - ss

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Janish is ever going to hit enough to earn a fulltime job. Janish is a very good defensive shortstop and has a rocket for an arm, but his bat continues to hold him back. Given his defensive prowess, Janish wouldn't need to hit much to justify a job, but even with the bar set so low, Janish has yet to vault over it.

Interestingly enough, Baseball America just named Paul Janish the most disciplined hitter in the Reds system. I've liked Janish since watching him play in the College World Series for Rice. He made a couple of spectacular plays at shortstop and displayed the canon for an arm on several occasions. Given his plus glove, plus arm, and good plate discipline, Janish has the right tools to be of use. In fact, if he could hit just .265 at the big league level, he'd likely have a .350-.360 OBP, which when added to his defense would make him an attractive option at shortstop. Unfortunately, at 25 years old there just isn't much projection left in Janish, so regrettably he's about as good as he's going to get.


Chris Dickerson - of

Dickerson might well be the best athlete in the Reds system. Unfortunately, great athleticism doesn't always translate into great baseball skills. To be successful, baseball requires a more nuanced skillset, one which doesn't always surrender to tremendous athleticism.

Dickerson joins Drew Stubbs as the best defensive outfielders in the system. In addition, he's got very good speed and on good on base skills. Unfortunately, Dickerson cannot make consistent contact. His strikeout rate remains far too high, as he struck out 162 times in just 468 ABs. If Dickerson can make consistent contact, then his batting average, on base percentage, and top flight defense will both be more than enough to earn him a starting centerfielder job in major league baseball.

However, Dickerson still doesn't make enough contact to post an acceptable batting average, so he remains stuck at the upper levels of the minors. He'll be 26 at the beginning of the season, so time isn't on his side any more.


Alexis Oliveras - of

Oliveras is a bit of a mystery man. The Reds nabbed him with the 289th pick of the 2007 draft. Oliveras went to the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy High School, stands 6'0", bats left, and throws right.

His performance in 2007 (.191/.240/.253/.493) clearly indicates that he was over-matched in his 162 ABs in the Gulf Coast League. However, there is a glimmer of hope in his scouting video. He's got a smooth lefthanded swing. Unfortunately, he needs to make some serious adjustments. He hits from a very wide stance and has a rather long swing. His bat speed isn't overly impressive, so he'll definitely need to both tighten and shorten up his swing in order to have any success against more advanced pitching.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's just enough in his scouting video (see it here) to put him on my radar. However, at this point, he's a long shot and has a lot of work to do to even become a legitimate prospect. Time is on his side, but he'll need to show something in 2008 to stay in the Reds plans.


Daryl Thompson - RHP

Thompson is an interesting case. If you looked strictly at his stats, Thompson did very well in 2007. He posted a 3.18 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and a 121/33 K/BB ratio between low-A Dayton and high-A Sarasota. However, all reports indicate that Thompson's stuff has not returned and his velocity is down significantly from where it was before his injury problems. So, his performance may have been nothing more than Thompson dominating significantly less advanced competition with below average stuff. It'll be interesting to see how Thompson does in 2008, but he'll need his best stuff to have success against more advanced competition.


Craig Tatum - C

Tatum is an interesting prospect. He was selected by the Reds in the 3rd Round of the 2004 draft out of Mississippi State University. He immediately fell off the radar when he required Tommy John surgery in 2005.

Tatum hits with a wide stance and utilizes a leg kick as a timing mechanism. As is to be expected with a leg kick as a timing mechanism, Tatum is susceptible to quality offspeed pitches, as he gets out on his front foot too early. Tatum has a fairly simple, uncomplicated swing, which should allow him to make consistent contact and hit for a solid average. However, his swing doesn't involve a lot of lower body or explosive hip action, so his power potential is very limited.

On defense, Tatum has always been solid. He's got soft hands, good lateral movement behind the plate, and a strong arm even after Tommy John Surgery. Ultimately, there is always room in the Majors for quality defensive catchers, but Tatum's bat makes it difficult to imagine him being much more than a potential backup.

Baseball America slots him in at #17 on the Reds top 30 prospect list, but that seems a bit high for a player with a career line of .259/.329/.397/.726.

You can see Tatum at the plate in his MLB Draft Scouting video here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Personally, I find it remarkable that the Reds farm system has come so far, so fast. It hasn't been easy, but the organization's dedication to improved scouting, player development, and international scouting has really paid off. The Reds not only have improved the chances that their draft picks will pan out, but they also improved those odds by bringing in quality prospect from their international academies.

Prospects are inherently risky, so many of them will never pan out. However, the international academies greatly increase the flow of talent headed for the majors. The Reds no longer have to rely solely on the select few impact prospects they get in the amateur draft each year, but rather double that number by bringing in talent with international free agents.

The greater the number of quality prospects, the greater the number of homegrown Major League players. All in all, things are looking very bright for the Reds farm system.

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