We may be a less than a week from Opening Day, but the minor league season starts just a few days later. Which prospects should Reds fans be keeping an eye on as the season begins? As players like Chris Heisey and Travis Wood have shown us, you never can tell, but here's a list of 5 hitters that could make some waves this year in the minor league system. Pitchers tomorrow.
So I put it on you, Red Reporters. Which prospects are you excited to watch start the 2010 season? Who are you rooting for, and who seems destined for a letdown?
1. Devin Mesoraco
Yeah, yeah. Say what you want about Devin being a "bust" to this point, but he's poised for a breakout season in 2010. There may be nobody who will benefit more from the move to Lynchburg than Mesoraco, who struggled big time in the FSL last year. I look for Mesoraco to get off to a hot start in the Carolina League this year, and get right back on track at AA for the second half of the year. He has time on his side, as he's only 21, and he knows he needs a big year to keep the brass convinced that he's the future big league catcher. It's make or break time, and I think he can make it.
More after the jump...
2. Billy Hamilton
Another slow starter after a high draft position, Hamilton make some waves in 2010 based on his athleticism alone. In 36 PAs where he reached 1st last year (and 6 doubles), Hamilton stole 14 bases and was thrown out 3 times. He's still a very raw talent, but if he's able to start to get on base, he could be the HAVOC master that the Reds have been looking for in a few years. As soon as the Reds think he's ready to play everyday, he'll go to Dayton, and if he stays at extended spring training, he'll end up in Billings for another short season of ball.
3. Dave Sappelt
A solid defensive CF by most accounts, Sappelt got better as he moved up in levels last year. Not an easy thing to do when you're moving up to the FSL. He had a down year in power, but a move to Lynchburg should put him back on track to put up 12-18 HR in a full season. Paired with a decent OBP, a high SLG (mostly due to the 10 triples he had last year), and 47 SB over two levels, you have yourself a pretty good looking outfielder. I think he'll be in the Carolina outfield in no time, and could end up having a Heisey-esque year in 2010.
Just as he was the youngest player in Billings last year, he could be the youngest in Dayton this year. The dapper Venezuelan started off hot in the GCL and worked his way up to Billings, where he faced players 4-5 years older than him and still held his own. He still has plenty to work on, plate discipline being on the top of that list, but he could become one of the top hitters in the Midwest League at 17. Y-Rod has already shown flashes of brilliance, and scouts say he's a 5-tool player, and the numbers should start to bear that out this season.
5. Byron Wiley
The Reds took a chance with a 22nd round pick in 2008, finding an outfielder who didn't have a great season his junior year of college but was brilliant his first two. Risky to be sure, but what did he do? Only put up a 1.062 in Billings and a .856 OPS his first full season, that's what. The only player to put up a better number there last year was one Joseph Daniel Votto in 7 ABs. He'll likely start the year in the Hillcats outfield, and at 23, could start to move up the system quickly as long as he keeps up his .403 OBP that he's posted so far in the minor leagues.