Continuing with our look at young talent on the playoff teams, we turn attention to the Cincinnati Reds, looking at rookies plus other players 24 or younger. This team is chock full of them.
Yonder Alonso, 1B: 23 years old, hit .207/.207/.276 in 29 at-bats for the Reds, .290/.362/.458 between Double-A and Triple-A. At this point I do not see him as a future superstar, but I do think he will have a long and productive career once he gets a full opportunity. Drafted from the University of Miami in the first round in 2008.
Homer Bailey, RHP: Still just 24 years old, so he qualifies as a young player for this article. Still trying to figure out the majors in terms of generating consistency, but he's made some progress. 4.46 ERA with a 100/40 K/BB in 109 innings for the Reds this year. I think he'll have a Gil Meche-like career, somewhat erratic but gradually figuring out what he's doing. Drafted in the first round in 2004 from high school in Texas.
Jay Bruce, OF: Just 23 years old, hit .281/.353/.493 with 25 homers this year. He still strikes out a lot (136 in 509 at-bats), but his hitting skills are gradually growing more complete and he is not a one-dimensional slugger. Assuming a normal age/performance curve, he could have some MVP-type seasons eventually. Drafted in the first round out of high school in Texas in 2005.
Aroldis Chapman, LHP: 22 years old, posted a 3.57 ERA with a 125/52 K/BB in 96 innings in Triple-A, then a 2.03 ERA with a 19/5 K/BB in 13 innings in the majors. Clocked at 105.1 MPH on September 24th, the fastest pitch ever recorded in the major leagues. A Cuban Randy Johnson if all goes well.
Johnny Cueto, RHP: 24 years old, took a step forward this year with a 12-7, 3.64 campaign, 138/56 K/BB in 186 innings. The 5-10 Dominican (signed in 2004) is further proof that simple height is not a deterrent to being a successful major league pitcher if there is enough arm strength, command, and athleticism. I don't see any reason why he can't improve further as long as he's healthy.
Juan Francisco, 3B: 23 years old, hit .286/.325/.565 in Triple-A and .273/.322/.382 in 55 major league at-bats. Has serious issues with strike zone judgment and contact, but also has enormous raw power. If he can get the zone under control he could be a very effective slugger, but it remains to be seen if it will happen. Signed out of the Dominican in 2004.
Chris Heisey, OF: 24 years old, hit .254/.324/.433 in 201 major league at-bats, with eight homers, 16 walks, 57 strikeouts. He's got some zone issues as well but at worst I think he will be a useful reserve bat. Drafted from Messiah College in the 17th round in 2006, so he's a small college guy made good.
Mike Leake, RHP: 22 years old, jumped directly from Arizona State to the majors as a 2009 first round pick. Went 8-4, 4.23 with a 91/49 K/BB in 138 innings for the Reds, allowing 158 hits. Shoulder got tired late in the season and he was shut down early. He did quite well overall considering the circumstances, but I wonder if this season really was the best thing for his long-term development, granted it helped the team.
Sam Lecure, RHP: 26 year old rookie, posted 4.50 ERA with 37/25 K/BB in 48 innings for the Reds, 50 hits, starting six games and relieving in nine. Drafted in the fourth round from the University of Texas in 2005. He snuck on people this year, and while he wasn't spectacular, it would not surprise me to see him have a really nice campaign in the next year or two.
Matt Maloney, LHP: 26 year old rookie, went 10-7, 3.34 with a 104/28 K/BB in 135 innings in Triple-A, 3.05 ERA with a 13/5 K/BB in 21 major league innings. I have liked him for awhile, and I still think he could end up being a very nice fourth starter for someone due to his command. Drafted in the third round in 2005 from the University of Mississippi.
Logan Ondrusek, RHP: 25 year old rookie, 3.68 ERA with 39/20 K/BB in 59 innings in the major league pen, 49 hits. Huge at 6-8, 225. A 13th round pick in 2005 from McLennan Community College. He received little notice pre-season but I don't see why he can't be a solid reliever going forward.
Jordan Smith, RHP: 24 years old, a sixth round pick out of Southern Nevada in 2006, posted a 3.86 ERA with a 26/11 K/BB in 42 innings for the Reds, 45 hits allowed. Not spectacular, but could hang around for awhile as a 10th or 11th man on a staff.
Drew Stubbs, OF: 25 year old sophomore, technically not qualified for this article but I want to talk about him. . .hit .255/.329/.444 with 22 homers, 30 steals, 168 strikeouts in 514 at-bats. Skilled on defense, tapped into his power this year. I doubt he'll ever hit for a high average, but with his power coming around he's looking more like a complete player now. First round pick in 2006 from the University of Texas.
Chris Valaika, INF: 25 year old rookie, hit .263/.282/.368 in 38 at-bats for the Reds, .304/.330/.408 in Triple-A. Not sure how he fits into the long-term plan, but I don't see why he can't be a decent player, a utility guy at least, though his lack of patience makes his OBP ver dependent on batting average. Drafted in the third round in 2006 from UC Santa Barbara.
Travis Wood, LHP: 23 year old rookie, posted 3.51 ERA with 86/26 K/BB in 103 innings for the Reds, 85 hits. Didn't get a lot of national attention, but a very nice rookie campaign, and I think he can be a very good number three starter going forward. Drafted in the second round in 2005 from high school in Arkansas.