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Seeing Reds

Has anyone noticed that the Reds are getting really cool? Sure, they're still coached by Dusty Baker. And sure, they still play their home games almost literally a stone's throw from Kentucky (a state whose influence certainly can't be a positive one). But point your internet browser to RotoWire's unrivaled, up-to-the-minute team depth charts and checkity-check what's going on there: young, interesting players are invading the Reds starting lineup. To wit:

Wladimir Balentien, OF
Balentien was uber-frustrating as a Mariner. One of the few young players NOT traded by Seattle to Baltimore for What's His Face, he got his first stab at the majors early last season after slashing .291/.362/.509 as a 22-year-old at Tacoma in 2007. Turns out, he wasn't so good, slashing .202/.250/.342 in 243 ML ABs. Balentien gets a bad rap for having poor plate discipline; however, I think the charge is a hasty one. Sure, he has a BB:K of 16:79 last year, but check out his BB:K rates in the minor leagues:

YEAR
BB:K LEVEL
2005 0.21 A+
2006 0.50 AA
2007 0.55 AAA
2008 0.65 AAA

He improved every year in the minors, even while making two jumps in level. Also consider that Balentien only just turned 25 years old and, since his trade to Cincinnati a month and a half ago, he's slashing .261/.363/.420 in 88 AB with a BB:K of 14:22 (0.64). Best of all, Old Man Baker seems to really like Balentien. From a recent report about an injury through which he tried to play (stolen from the RotoWire player page):
"[Balentien] was trying to be a hero," manager Dusty Baker said. "I knew something was wrong when they were throwing fastballs by him. I just couldn't understand it. He's had it since Seattle [before the July 29 trade to Cincinnati], actually. He was getting an opportunity to play and didn't want to come out of the lineup. I can't blame him. It's the best opportunity he's ever had. Perhaps we haven't seen the real Balentien."
Wlad went 2-for-4 with a double while starting in left field during Wednesday night's game versus Houston.

Juan Francisco, 3B
Okay, I admit it, Francisco's not exactly a lock for fantasy relevancy, let alone major league stardom. His 4.0% BB% versus his 24.2% K% in just under 100 Triple-A PA is par for the course of his minor league career and suggests a player who just doesn't really have a plan at the plate. Of course, maybe Francisco does have a plan: to swing real hard at everything. If so, he's succeeding like a mother, as his minor league ISOs bear out:

YEAR AGE LEVEL ISO
2006 19 Rookie .127
2007 20 A .195
2008 21 A+ .219
2009 22 AA .220
2009 22 AAA .239

Francisco's raw power is irrefutable and will keep Cincinnati interested in the short term. Unfortunately, Baseball Prospectus (BP) and Minor League Splits (MLS) both see a player whose plate discipline, for the time being at least, will prevent him from being a real factor in the Bigs, pegging his Double-A MLEs at .253/.274/.436 and .239/.267/.411, respectively. Here's to hoping he learns what a slider looks like, so we can see him hit some homers someday.

Adam Rosales, Renaissance Man
Taken at face value, Rosales looks like a supreme failure, batting only .203/.294/.311 with 4 HR through 222 AB. It's bad, I admit it, but there are multiple silver linings here. For one, Rosales offers positional flexibility. This year alone, he's played at first, second (three games), third, and short (four games). With the obvious caveats concerning playing time requirements in different leagues, Rosales still very probably offers eligibility as four positions. For two, Rosales most likely isn't hitting so bad as his line suggests. His PrOPS (courtesy of Hardball Times) puts him at .255/.341/.376. That's not crazy-good, sure, but it's definitely an improvement. Finally, Rosales was absolutely raking through 111 AB this year in Louisville, MLE-ing to the tune of .309/.373/.573 (BP) or .297/.347/.505 (MLS), depending on who you trust. Nor are such numbers a stretch for Rosales, who hit very well at Double-A Chattanooga in 2007. If Rosales is able to find PT anywhere (including everywhere) in 2010, he could be an interesting play.   

Drew Stubbs, CF
Stubbs has kinda an interesting skill set. He projects to steal 20+ bases, hit almost as many home runs, take walks at a decent rate, and play a passable center field. The make-it-or-break-it proposition for Stubbs will be whether he can maintain a reasonable contact rate. His K% stood between 25% - 30% in the minors and currently stands at 30.1% through 132 PA this year in the majors. That's Chris Young / Brandon Inge territory and means Stubbs will probably never hit for average. Still, at 25, he still has another year or two to see some sort of gains in this category.

Comments

By: vtadave
On: 9/17/2009 10:21:00 PM
Balentien seems like Dusty's type of player - strikes out a ton, doesn't clog up the bases, and hits for power. Doubtful Francisco and Rosales ever amount to anything, but I like Stubbs. I woudn't pay much attention to his minor league HR totals. This is a big Texan who could be a 30 HR tpe guy in time. As you said, there won't be much in the way of AVG, but .260 with 20 homers and 30 SB is doable next year if Dusty gets over Willy Taveras.
 
By: Carson Cistulli
On: 9/18/2009 9:23:00 AM
Dave, you bring up something I neglected to mention: that all of this turnover is only possible because Baker lost his favorite toy, Taveras. According to this report, Taveras could be back with the club sooner than later. He's due $4 million next year. I'd like to think that Baker could restrain himself from using his Willy too much, but I'm worried.
 
By: TRENT13
On: 9/18/2009 10:09:00 AM
Of course being a die hard Reds fan I had to click on this and read. Not too bad a read. I could have done without the jab at Kentucky being a Kentuckian myself.

As far as Rosales goes I only see 2 above average attributes none of which translate over to fantasy. One he has a cannon for an arm and two, he hustles.(Runs hard to first even on walks)

As far as Balentien goes color me skeptical. Perhaps I am bias because I had to endure the Bowden era and his man crush with the Willy Mo Pena types of players. On the flip side though he once was highly regarded prospect whom the Reds gave up little to get. With the recent trades the Reds have made that have struck gold(Griffey for Masset,purchasing Hamilton from the Cubs then flipping him for little Danny and Volquez) I will cross my fingers on this one too.

Francisco seems to me to be a guy without a position meaning he probably would be better suited to DH which doesnt do the Reds a lot of good. If you are the optimist I guess you could rattle off the name Gomes to refute/combat this.

I like Stubbs because he is an upgrade over Willy "T-ball" Taveras and I see him as a Mike Cameron in his prime lite. Low avg,15 homers,25 stolen bases,and lots of k's. If Dusty ever is replaced then perhaps he has upside at 40 stolen bases and more walks.
 
By: TRENT13
On: 9/18/2009 10:23:00 AM
Even though he has no fantasy value I think Paul Janish could be mentioned. If for no other reason then he will end up with more career at bats then Rosales and you mentioned him. Janish has a gun for an arm and takes a back seat to only a few with his glove. Looking over the free agent shortstops I hope the Reds give Janish a shot to win the job next year. In a perfect world and with practice I can see Janish mirroring the role of Jay Bell circa Pittsburgh with his bunting sacrifices.

I think next year if you do a write up on the Reds' hitters part 2 you will probably be mentioning the likes of Yonder Alonso,Todd Frazier,Chris Heisey,and Chris Valaika.
 
By: Carson Cistulli
On: 9/18/2009 11:40:00 AM
Trent, I'm sorry that you had to suffer through Jim Bowden. As for Wily Mo: man, what a frustrating case, right? I mean, I'm just a guy with a computer, but it seems like, had Pena gotten a chance to log more than 500 PA above Class A ball, he'd have has a chance to become a real impact player. Instead, he became, in this order (a) a hacktastic power hitter with Cincinnati, (b) a semi-useful part-timer with Boston (and a little bit with Washington), and then (c) an entirely irrelevant journeyman after that. All by the age of 27!
 
By: TRENT13
On: 9/18/2009 1:46:00 PM
Yeah Willy Mo Pena was quite the batting practice legend. He hit bombs that left not only the yard but the stadium. I have seen 3 players who rivaled Big Mac in batting practice as far as distance goes and they all donned Reds uniforms. They were Willy Mo,Josh Hamilton,and Adam Dunn.

Glad to see Russell Branyan finally put it together for a full season to silence the tags of platoon status and AAAA player if for only 1 season. I mention him because he never got cheated in BP either and at least before this year may not have been a household name.
 

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