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2005 Red Reporter Top 40 Prospects: A Look Back, Part III

20.) Jose Ronda, 20, SS, 83 AB, .253/.382/.398, Billings

I'd love to know the story behind Jose Ronda and why the Reds seem to be so down on him.  He hasn't hit for a real high average, but he's great at getting on base.  And yet he hasn't been an every day player for the past two years.  Something's not adding up.  I can't justify having him this high on next year's list, simply because it doesn't seem as if the Reds consider him a legit prospect, which dampens his outlook.

19.) Carlos Guevara, 23, RP, 51.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 65/14 K/BB, Sarasota

I'm looking forward to the day when both Guevara and David Shafer are in the Reds pen.  From what I've read Guevara isn't an overpowering pitcher, but he has a wicked screwball that has kept his K rate over 10 per 9 IP.  The Reds seem to be taking it slow with his advancement, but hopefully we'll see what he can do at the AA and AAA level this coming season.

18.) Joe valentine, 26, RP, 53.2 IP, 5.70 ERA, 44/39 K/BB, Louisville; 14.1 IP, 8.16 ERA, 9/11 K/BB, Cincinnati

Let's hope he was injured.  Or something.  Because otherwise he just did a pretty good job of killing his career.

17.) Ben Kozlowski, 25, SP, 111.1 IP, 4.04 ERA, 82/31 K/BB Chattanooga; 44.2 IP, 4.63 ERA, 30/18 K/BB, Louisville

Not too bad really.  This is the kind of pickup that Dan O'Brien seems to do pretty well with, finding some decent value in players that other teams don't protect for whatever reason.  He's still pretty young so there's upside.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Kozlowski with the big league club next season at some point.  I'd even go so far as to say that the only way we won't see him with the Reds will be if the Opening Day pitching staff does astonishingly well ... and yeah, I don't really see that happening.

16.) B.J. Szymanski, 23, OF, 191 AB, .262/.332/.471, Dayton

People seem willing to write off Szymanski as a bust already, something that I'm not ready to do.  He's been injury prone so far as a pro, continuing that trend in 2005 with a broken left hand, so it might be fair to say that we haven't seen what a fully healthy and capable Szymanski is capable of doing.  In any case, it's not as if he needs to be rushed since the Reds have the outfield spots pretty deeply covered for now.  He can take it slow, and I doubt we'll see him in Cincinnati until he's 26 or so.

15.) A.J. Zapp, 27, 1B, 399 AB, .243/.318/.358, Louisville

I'm an idiot.  But then again, who could have foreseen a .358 slugging percentage out of this guy? Ended up being pure AAA roster filler, which shouldn't have surprised me.  I really thought that a guy facing his last real chance would step it up a notch, but apparently Zapp wasn't capable.

14.) Junior Ruiz, 25, OF, 186 AB, .312/.419/.435, Sarasota; 272 AB, .287/.359/.342, Chattanooga

Completely mastered Sarasota and then did pretty darn well at Chattanooga.  Ruiz is a relatively small guy (listed at 5'9, 195), which, combined with his advancing age, are probably the reasons he never gets mentioned on Reds top prospect lists.  I think he's going to be a good one though, somewhat in the mold of Ryan Freel - good average/obp, little to no power.  Like Freel, Ruiz is also a decent basestealer.  He had 31 steals in 2005, and was only caught 8 times.  I'm not sure where he'll fit with the Reds, but he's going to be a good fit for someone in a year or two.

13.) Javon Moran, 23, OF, 210 AB, .329/.378/.395, Sarasota; 83 AB, .301/.341/.386, Chattanooga

Seems to be a pretty solid player, and it wouldn't surprise me if he turns up on BA's Top Ten for the Reds this winter.  He's 23 until the end of next September, which is a good age to be at the AA/AAA level.  Moran seems to me like a great guy to dangle in front of another team, because the Reds just flat out don't really need him, not in the next few years anyway.  With the development of Denorfia the Reds aren't going to have a starting outfield position come open anytime soon.  Moran seems like he'd be a great guy to throw in to a package as a sweetener.

12.) Kevin Howard, 24, 2B, 479 AB, .296/.346/.428, Chattanooga

Howard has utility guy written all over him.  Lefthanded, middle infielder, decent average and on base guy, even a little bit of pop ... it all adds up to a useful, if not spectacular player.

Part of the problem with the Reds system is that it has plenty of guys like Kevin Howard, but it rarely has the superstar prospects that other teams take for granted.  Now that Edwin Encarnacion has made the jump it'll be really interesting to see if the Reds manage to place anyone on any top 100 lists.  I imagine Homer Bailey might sneak onto some, but that'll be about it.  Guys like Howard are great compliments to a team, but you need players with a little more to offer to actually build around.  The Reds don't pump out players like that, and it's killing them.

11.) Elizardo Ramirez, 22, SP, 131.1 IP, 3.77 ERA, 82/18 K/BB, Louisville; 22.1 IP, 8.46 ERA, 9/10 K/BB, Cincinnati

Clearly wasn't comfortable in Cincinnati just yet, but he's still only going to be 23 next season.  I'd love to see him in the Reds bullpen.  Break him in for half a season or a full season, and then give him a spot in the rotation.  I'm a big proponent of gradually bringing pitchers along, and Ramirez seems like a prime candidate to give a bullpen spot.  He's done pretty well at the AAA level at a pretty young age, so why not?

I think it's like Carson Palmer sitting for a year with the Bengals.  Giving a pitcher a chance in the pen first helps them to build confidence, and you don't have nearly the chance of ruining them (ahem Brian Reith).  Otherwise I hope that Ramirez spends a full season at Louisville, because it's simply not to his benefit to bounce back and forth between Louisville and Cincinnati.  If the Reds treat Ramirez right they'll probably have a very cheap league average starter for a few years.  They could certainly use it.

Tomorrow: Prospects 1-10