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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.

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