As we hit the half-way point in the 2014 Major League Baseball season, the Cincinnati Reds have used a total of 35 players in its first 81 games. Out of those 35 players 20 of them would be considered “home-grown”, meaning that 57% of the players that have put on a Cincinnati Reds jersey this year have playing experience with only one professional organization in America. Six of the Reds everyday eight position players were drafted by the Reds organization, and all six were taken in the first two rounds of the amateur draft. Joey Votto, the longest tenured Red, was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2002 amateur draft. In the loaded 2005 amateur draft, the Reds took Jay Bruce in the first round (12th overall), along with Sam LeCure (4th round) and Logan Ondrusek (13th round). Arguably the Reds most successful amateur draft over the past 10 years, at least in terms of Major League players, was 2007. Three of the Reds current everyday position players were taken in the first two rounds of that draft; Devin Mesoraco, their starting catcher, was taken in the first round (15th overall), as was the Reds best all-around player in the first half of 2014, their third-baseman, Todd Frazier (34th overall). The Reds took their current starting shortstop, Zack Cozart, in the second round that same year. The Reds also took corner infielder Neftali Soto, who has appeared in 19 games so far this season, in the third round to go along with right-handed reliever Curtis Partch (three appearances this season) in the 26th round of the 2007 amateur draft. Two years later, in 2009, the Reds drafted up and coming speedster Billy Hamilton in the second round of the amateur draft, along with back up catcher Tucker Barnhart (10th round) and right-handed reliever Nick Christiani (13th round). The Reds also made a great pick in the 17th round of the 2006 amateur draft when they picked up current forth outfielder Chris Heisey. As far as the rotation goes, the Reds made two great first round picks in both the 2004 and 2009 amateur drafts selecting Homer Bailey as the seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft and Mike Leake, who went straight to the Big Leagues, as the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft. Tony Cingrani, the tall and lanky lefty who is currently in the minor leagues but should play a big part in the future of the organization, was drafted in the third round of the 2011 amateur draft. However, in today’s baseball world the amateur draft is only one way an organization can stock pile young talent. The other option for an organization is to sign international players, which is reminiscent of the days before the United States amateur draft was first established in 1965. This is were the scouting departments of different organizations can still compete directly with one another, as every player is available to every team, it just depends on how much money an organization is willing to spend on such young, raw talent. The Cincinnati Reds have done a tremendous job scouting internationally over the past decade, beginning in 2004 with the signing of their current ace in the rotation, Johnny Cueto. The Reds spent big money, and took a huge risk that has paid off very well so far, by signing Cuban superstar Aroldis Chapman in 2010. Chapman has become arguably the best reliever in the game and his presence helped lure recently signed Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias to Cincinnati. The jury is still out on what Iglesias will bring to the Reds, as the organization feels that he may be able to take a place in the starting rotation in the years to come. However, for the rest of the 2014 season, he will probably best be suited in the bullpen. He should be another fine addition to a team that is just starting to heat up. Having won eight of their past nine games, reaching a season high 5 games above .500 and moving into second place in the NL Central, the Reds are beginning to play like the team that has made the postseason in three of the past four years. And even more, who would have predicated that at the 81-game mark the players with the three highest WAR totals on the team would be Todd Frazier (3.4), Devin Mesoraco (2.9) and Billy Hamilton (2.2)? Yes, Joey Votto has been hurt, but any baseball fan would have expected Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to be in the top three at the 81-game mark. It’s amazing that the Reds have managed to play this well with a struggling Bruce, an aging Phillips and a hurt Joey Votto. With just a little more production from those three stars, a healthy rotation and production from Frazier, Mesoraco and Hamilton that is anywhere near what they did in the first half, the Cincinnati Reds will be back in the post-season in 2014. And hopefully, this time, they will make it out of the first round for the first time since they swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1995 division series, only to have the favor returned by the mighty Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.
* The WAR totals are those based on the formula used by Baseball-Reference. Personally, I don’t put too much stock in defensive metrics. For example, Brandon Phillips never scores well on the defensive metrics that are used to measure defense, yet he is constantly touted as one of the best, if not the best, second baseman in the game by those who are in and around the game on a daily basis.