Coming into the season third base was one of the strengths of the Reds system. This year saw some high profile guys take interesting turns by seasons end. At the big league level the Reds acquire Scott Rolen and Walt was quoted as saying he wanted to extend him beyond his current contract (currently through 2010) and that is likely the reason we saw some of these things transpire.
Todd Frazier began the year in left field. After about half of a season out there the Reds decided to try him out at second base. The results there weren’t as smooth as the transition to left was. However during that transition Terry Reynolds was quoted as saying that the Reds knew Frazier could play third base and its why he was playing everywhere else. So despite coming into the year as one of the best third base prospect in the system and playing only 4 games there in 2009, he is now the top guy at the position. He is the best hitter overall right now of the guys because of his high contact rate along with his power and plate discipline.
Juan Francisco has to be the next guy on my list. El Nino Destructor, as Red Reporter first tabbed him showed another season of improvements in the biggest area of concern for him. In 2008 Francisco had a K/BB rate of 6.47, a mark that certainly will not work in the majors. This season the Dominican third sacker lowered that to 4.55 in AA, although did revert some in AAA with a 6.00 in 99 plate appearances. In an even smaller sample size at the MLB level Francisco showed signs of ‘getting it’ with a 2.33 K/BB. The kid can hit the ball with the best of them, which can be seen by his .300/.337/.522 line between Carolina, Louisville and Cincinnati. Defensively he struggled with the errors (39), however he did improve in a small sample from AAA where his fielding percentage went up 67 points. Francisco however will be in instructional league trying to learn how to play the outfield. Another move likely being made not only to try and get his bat into the lineup at some point, but also because Scott Rolen looks like he will be around longer than his current deal.
Neftali Soto came into the season as my #2 prospect in the system. The 20 year old had a season to forget as he hit just .248/.281/.362 for Sarasota. Now there is some good to be taken out of it, his walk rate went up, strikeout rate stayed at a similar rate and he had a high line drive rate. His power dropped off, but that happens to just about everyone in the FSL. Offensively I am not concerned by the line he put up, as his peripherals are fine (although I would like to see a few more walks mixed in) and they project well moving forward. On the defensive side of the ball, Soto also struggled defensively with a .901 fielding percentage.
Carlos Mendez manned third baase for Dayton for a majority of the season. The 22 year old hit .308 with a high contact rate, but currently lacks the power to be a starter there at the major league level. Wes Bankston split some of his time in Louisville at third base. As noted in the State of the Farm – First Base post, Bankston was either very good or very bad by the month. When on, Bankston has a strong bat and with a bit more consistency could have a major league future ahead of him.
Overall I would rate the position as a B because of the uncertainty the Reds have with both Francisco and Frazier as far as third base itself goes. Soto had an uninspiring line, but I am not that concerned with him as far as his bat goes. Bankston and Gomez both add solid depth to the position along with three higher upside guys.