Entering 2008 the Cincinnati Reds were supposed to feature two exciting rookies. No, not Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto. All the hoopla surrounding the Reds’ future involved top prospects Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey. But a funny thing happened along the way during spring training: It was decided Bruce and Bailey needed some more seasoning. And the emergence of Cueto, as well as the late March addition of free agent Corey Patterson, afforded the Reds that luxury.
Votto has enjoyed a solid season in Cincinnati, so far. He is hitting .294/.348/.506 and has four home runs in 85 at-bats. The 24-year-old Canadian has done the unthinkable: He’s taken playing time away from a veteran (Scott Hatteberg) under manager Dusty Baker’s watch.
Cueto was blowing everyone away early in the season – fans, writers and batters, alike. He’s likely hit the inevitable wall, after allowing 12 runs in his last two starts (including a stinker where he allowed seven runs in 1.2 innings against the surprising St. Louis Cardinals). In truth, his first major league appearance probably did him more harm than good after he caught everyone’s attention by allowing one run on one hit over seven innings, while striking out 10. The bar was raised a little too high after that, and he’s only been ‘pretty good’ since then, as his 5.40 season ERA shows.
Meanwhile, down on the farm in Triple-A, Bruce and Bailey are quietly going about their business showing that they are ready whenever the Reds organization decides it needs them.
Bruce, who turned 21 a month ago, is hitting .284/.308/.505 with five homers in 109 at-bats. He still has some rough spots, as witnessed by the fact he’s racked up 27 strikeouts and only six walks. But he’s stolen seven bases in as many attempts and the left-handed batter is hitting .303 against southpaws with an .801 OPS (but no walks in 33 at-bats). He’s been slumping lately and has hit only .152 in his last 10 games with 11 strikeouts in 32 at-bats.
Bailey has had only one bad outing in six appearances for the Triple-A Louisville Bats. On April 25 against Indianapolis he allowed four runs in six innings on six hits (Oh, the horror). Other than that, he’s been great. Overall, he has a 2.29 ERA and has allowed 30 hits in 39.1 innings of work. He’s improved his control and walked just nine batters, while striking out 32. He’s still obviously working up in the zone a lot and has a GO/AO (ground out to air out) rate of 0.76. The right-handed pitcher is holding left-handed batters to a .189 average.
Given the struggles of Bronson Arroyo (8.63 ERA) and Josh Fogg (9.27 ERA), Bailey could be up before Votto celebrates Victoria Day (May 19). Bruce could potentially help ignite the offence with outfielders Ken Griffey (.228/.310/.377), Patterson (.200/.263/.433), and Adam Dunn (.221/.375/.389) struggling.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.