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Red Reporter 40: 31-40

40. Brad Cherry, 23, RP
Last year's ranking: NR
2005 stats:
Dayton, 27.2 IP, 1.95 ERA, 24/9 K/BB
Sarasota, 18.1 IP, 1.96 ERA, 19/10 K/BB
Chattanooga, 9.1 IP, 7.71 ERA, 8/3 K/BB

Cherry is a big (6'4, 200) righthander who strikes out a batter an inning.  He's old for what he's done to date, but the Reds seemed to realize that last season as he was promoted three levels. Cherry actually wasn't even selected in the amateur draft, the Reds signed him as an undrafted free agent. Simply getting to AA is an accomplishment for most undrafted players, but I think Cherry has an even higher ceiling.  Chattanooga was a little tough on him, but 9 innings is a small sample.  I imagine he'll start the year at the AA level, and if he excels there then he could potentially be in the Reds bullpen in the next year or two.

Player bio at University of Houston

39. Jeffrey Stevens, 22, SP
Last year's ranking: NR
2005 stats:
Billings, 54.1 IP, 2.98 ERA, 58/15 K/BB

Stevens was the Reds sixth round draft pick last summer, and he impressed immediately.  The ERA isn't anything particularly special, but his 58 strikeouts in 54.1 innings is pretty solid. Stevens had some control issues at Loyola-Marymount, so that's something to watch out for, although his walk rate was pretty average his first season as a pro. If Stevens does well he could potentially end up in Sarasota by season's end.

Player bio at Loyola-Marymount

38. Blake Hendley, 24, RP
Last year's ranking: NR
2005 stats:
Dayton, 51 IP, 2.12 ERA, 45/12 K/BB
Sarasota, 17 IP, 4.24 ERA, 18/5 K/BB

Hendley was the 11th round pick from the 2003 draft, and he's moved fairly slowly through the system.  He spent 2004 in the instructional league, and it seemed to pay off for him as his 2005 was pretty good. Decent K rate, and a solid frame (6'3, 195) bode pretty well for the future.  Needs to get to Chattanooga this season to remain on a proper timeline. It's tough coming out of a college because a player has to move so quickly through the system, but theoretically these guys shouldn't be so challenged at the lower levels.

37. Brad Salmon, 26, RP
Last year's ranking: NR
2005 stats:
Chattanooga, 72.2 IP, 3.34 ERA, 71/31 K/BB
Louisville, 16.1 IP, 3.31 ERA, 8/5 K/BB

Salmon was a 31st round draft pick way back in 1998. He's obviously moved really, really slowly since being drafted, spending three entire seasons at the low-A level, and most of the past two seasons bouncing back and forth between high-A and AA.  Last season however, he made it all the way to Louisville for the first time in his career, and did pretty well in limited time. Whether he'll start 2006 in Chattanooga or Louisville is anyone's guess, but his K rate and ERA from Chattanooga last season makes you think he doesn't have a lot left to learn at the AA level.

36. Jesse Gutierrez, 27, 1B
Last year's ranking: 22
2005 stats:
Chattanooga, 100 AB, .310/.360/.530, 4 HR

Gutierrez is getting seriously old, and he had a fairly serious injury (shoulder? I think?) last season to boot.  He played ball in the Mexican Winter Leagues this offseason and did pretty well, hitting 15 home runs.  Gutierrez has the skills to play major league baseball, but at this point the clock is really ticking. If Gutierrez could get up to AAA this season he could potentially be a bench player for somebody in 2007.  However, I don't think he has much of a future with the Reds, because he's just too blocked at the first base position.

35. Thomas Pauly 24, SP
Last year's ranking: 8
2005 stats:
DNP (Shoulder)

You really hate to see this happen. Pauly was one of the Reds top prospects just a year ago, then the inevitable shoulder injury occurred. Part of the problem might be the fact that Pauly was a converted reliever, and he'd never thrown more than 47 innings in a season before his 121.7 innings pitched in 2004.  In hindsight, that just seemed to be asking for trouble, and it was delivered. Shoulder injuries are very tough to come back from, but Pauly might still have a future as a reliever.  If the Reds are at all smart then his starting days will be over.

34. Josh Hall, 25, SP
Last year's ranking: NR
2005 stats:
Sarasota, 29 IP, 6.83 ERA, 21/14 K/BB
Chattanooga, 112.1 IP, 3.53, 92/35 K/BB

Hall had two shoulder operations back in 2004, and missed that entire season. 2005 was his comeback year, and it was a pretty good one.  It's kind of amazing that Hall has never thrown a pitch at the AA level, given that he has 24.2 major league innings under his belt. Just goes to show you how backwards the Reds do things at times. After his 2005 season, Hall now has 400 pretty solid innings at Chattanooga.  Hopefully this'll be the year he gets a taste of AAA.  If he handles it well he could be in Cincinnati as soon as next season, which would be one hell of a comeback.

33. Abraham Woody, RP
Last year's ranking: NR
2005 stats:
Billings, 26.2 IP, 2.02 ERA, 38/5 K/BB

Woody spent three years at Baylor U., and never had a K/9 ratio greater than 7.54.  He promptly came into Billings and struck out 12.82 batters per nine innings.  I really don't know what to think about that. This is probably one of the more generous rankings I'll be giving, but if Woody is really this good then it's deserved.  Watch his K rate this season, that'll tell you everything you need to know.

32. Sam LeCure, SP
Last year's ranking: NR
2005 stats:
Billings, 41.1 IP, 3.27 ERA, 44/14 K/BB

LeCure was drafted for the second time last year, this time by the Reds in the fourth round.  He'd earlier been drafted by the Phillies in the 45th round, so it looks like going to school paid off for LeCure.  He was a pretty good pitcher for a major university, and he came in and did pretty well at Billings.  Not really a lot to say about LeCure, except so far, so good. We'll know a lot more after this season.

31. James Avery, SP
Last year's ranking: NR
2005 stats:
GCL, 17 IP, 2.12 ERA, 18/3 K/BB
Dayton, 16 IP, 3.94 ERA, 8/6 K/BB

Avery, like LeCure, was drafted for the second time last summer. He'd been drafted a bit higher than LeCure the first time around, going in the 29th round to the Minnesota Twins back in 2002.  He opted to go to Niagra University instead, and, like it did for LeCure, it paid off for Avery as he was drafted in the 5th round by the Reds. I actually consider Avery and LeCure to be about dead even at this point, but since Avery made it to Dayton last year I'll give him the edge for now. A good season for Avery would see him at the high-A level by season's end.

Tomorrow: 21-30