Despite the graduation of our top four prospects -- all of whom were ranked in Baseball America's top 50, including No. 1 Jay Bruce -- the Reds' farm system isn't in bad shape at the season's more-than-halfway point. Here are my top 25 prospects in Cincinnati's organization. As you all should know, I'm not a scout and haven't even seen a lot of these guys play, so this is essentially a list of guys I follow on the Internet. What do you think? Feel free to add your favorites or make your own lists.
1. Todd Frazier (SS, 22, Sarasota, first-round supplemental pick, 2007): Frazier lit up the Midwest League in his first 30 games of the season with a tidy 1.000 OPS. The former Rutgers infielder is near the top of the organization with 13 home runs this season. His production has fallen off a bit since his promotion to High A, but he's been hitting well of late. He's bounced around the infield and might have a hard time finding a home position as he advances, but that versatility could work to his advantage. Listed as BA's No. 7 Reds prospect going into the year, he will probably be No. 2 behind Yonder Alonso next year -- assuming Alonso signs. Frazier was the Little League World Series MVP in 1998 for Toms River, N.J.
2. Kyle Lotzkar (RHP, 18, Dayton, first-round supplemental pick, 2007): He's got just 55 pro innings under his belt, and he's already logged 74 strikeouts. Lotzkar has the build (6-4, 200) and stuff (96 mph fastball, "potential plus changeup") to succeed in the majors one day. I expect him to improve on his 3.81 ERA this season -- even though he's just 18 in the Midwest League.
3. Daryl Thompson (RHP, 22, Louisville, eighth-round pick by the Expos, 2003): Thompson pitched his way off BA's top 30 last season but pitched himself back into prospect-watch territory in the first half of this season. (BA even did a Q and A with him back in May when it became clear his star was not out.) He had some trouble in the majors, though, and couldn't manage more than 2 strikeouts in any of his 3 starts.
4. Drew Stubbs (CF, 23, Chattanooga, first-round pick, 2006): Stubbs still hasn't consistently shown the "light-tower power" as advertised when we took him ahead of Tim Lincecum in the '06 draft, but his other tools are working well. He is reported to have the best outfield defense in the system -- some say all of minor league baseball -- and he draws a lot of walks, managing a .372 OBP despite just a .269 batting average this year. Still, after the signing of Juan Duran, it's debatable whether he's even the best center-field prospect in the Reds' system anymore.
5. Neftali Soto (SS, 19, Dayton, third-round pick, 2007): This guy has taken off like a crotch rocket this season. It's only been 23 games, but he already has 5 homers and a 1.146 OPS, reinforcing the promise he showed last season in the Gulf Coast League. Soto broke Juan Gonzalez's youth home run record in Puerto Rico, so there's massive power potential there. He's one of many pseudo-shortstops in the Reds' system and might end up in the outfield.
6. Juan Duran (OF, 16, Dominican Reds, signed in March): In a masterstroke -- and terrific attention to detail -- the Reds realized this guy was eligible to sign when every other team thought he was off limits for a few more months. You can read the story of his signing here. Reds scouting director Chris Buckley compares him to Alex Rios. "Only he's bigger and stronger at this age than Rios was," Buckley says of the 6-5, 190-pounder. He hasn't done much in 20 games in the DSL, but then again, he's only 16. He's likely a long ways off, but he could be a future star. Duran received a $2 million signing bonus -- the most ever given by the Reds to an international free agent and tied with Stubbs for the third-most ever by the team.
7. Chris Valaika (SS, 22, Chattanooga, third-round pick, 2006): After struggling in the Florida State League last season (.642 OPS in 57 games), he lit it up for Sarasota this year with an OPS near 1.000 and 7 homers in 32 games. He earned his promotion to Chattanooga but stumbled right out of the gate once there. He seems to have adjusted to the level by now, though -- he's hitting .372 in his past 10 games and has an 11-game hitting streak. He represented the U.S. in the Futures Game in Yankee Stadium this week.
8. Devin Mesoraco (C, 20, Dayton, first-round pick, 2007): This might be low for last year's No. 1 pick, but he's shown very little at the plate as a pro. He battled thumb injuries last season, so anything from 2007 is excusable. And he's still a young player in the Midwest League. But I think it's time to see some production, and I haven't seen it yet. He's batting .250 this year with 4 homers and a .674 OPS.
9. Josh Roenicke (RHP, 25, Louisville, 10th-round pick, 2006): Featuring a wicked fastball, Roenicke could be the Reds' closer of the future. He's creeping up on 26 already, but he's been in pro baseball just 2 years total. He has a 2.95 ERA in Triple-A and has 47 strikeouts this season in 40 innings, walking just 15.
10. Matt Maloney (LHP, 24, Louisville, third-round pick by the Phillies, 2005): The "crafty left-hander" barely tips 90 on his fastball, but he has done an impressive job of getting outs -- especially Ks. He is second in the International League with 107 strikeouts in 111 innings. The Reds acquired Maloney from the Phillies last season for Kyle Lohse.
11. Zach Stewart (RHP, Dayton): The 21-year-old, who we drafted in the third round this year, has aced pro baseball so far. He's got a 0.68 ERA in his first 9 games.
12. Juan Francisco (3B, Sarasota): This might be a harsh demotion in the rankings (he's No. 8 for the Reds in BA's prospect guide), but Francisco hasn't really progressed this season and has been been passed up by some other guys.
13. Brandon Waring (3B, Dayton): Waring led the Reds' system in homers (15) before fracturing his thumb on July 3rd. He has loads of power potential -- he was second in NCAA in homers at Wofford and hit 20 homers in 68 games for BIllings last season.
14. Zach Cozart (SS, Dayton): Our second-round pick last year is swinging well of late and has 10 homers this season. He's also a true shortstop -- a very good one.
15. Danny Dorn (OF, Chattanooga): This spot might even be a bit low. The 32nd-rounder continues to exceed expectations, putting up .261/.350/.521/.871 with 10 homers for the Lookouts.
16. Justin Turner (2B, Chattanooga): Dorn's college teammate is hitting well since his promotion and has a .381 on-base percentage as a pro.
17. Sean Henry (OF, Chattanooga): One of the pieces in the Jeff Conine deal, he's been tearing the cover off in Double-A. He's batting .320 and sports an .892 OPS.
18. Alex Buchholz (SS, Billings): This 20-year-old out of Delaware is having an amazing start to his pro career since we drafted him in the sixth round in June. He's second in the Pioneer League with a .370 batting average and has a 1.041 OPS.
19. Sean Watson (RHP, Chattanooga): After the lack of control he's shown this season (29 walks in 36 innings, 6.25 ERA), he probably doesn't belong anywhere near this high of a spot. But he's also struck out 52 for 13 per nine, so I'm just hoping he figures out how to keep the Ks up and the BBs -- and ERA -- down.
20. Evan Hildebrandt (RHP, Gulf Coast Reds): The 19-year-old, who we selected in the sixth round last year, has been outstanding in his first 4 starts as a pro (1.16 ERA), and his curveball was ranked the Reds' best secondary pitch among 2007 draftees by BA.
21. Travis Wood (LHP, Chattanooga): The 21-year-old former 2nd-rounder was terrific in Sarasota (2.70 ERA) but has struggled in Chattanooga (6.43).
22. Jeremy Horst (LHP, Dayton): We picked him in the 21st round last year out of Iowa Western Community Colllege, but he's done nothing but impress since. He's got a 2.92 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 61 innings.
23. Sam Lecure (RHP, Chattanooga): He's having another consistent season.
24. Shaun Cumberland (OF, Louisville): Some are more bullish on him, especially after his breakout first half at Chattanooga -- at one time he was batting in the .330s and OPSing more than .900 -- but I'd like to see him do that again at a higher level.
25. Daniel Ray Herrera (LHP, Louisville): It's hard for me not to at least be intrigued by a junkball pitcher like him. He seems to have mastered the minors (2.55 ERAs in Chattanooga and Louisville this season), but the odds might be against him succeeding in the bigs. Still, I hope he does, because he's a lot of fun to watch.