Projecting the Bakersfield Roster

The opening day roster for Bakersfield will have a high turnover compared to one year ago. They did receive strong performances from some of the low-A players after promotions. Organizational depth will keep good talent in the low-A level and if some of the holdovers can reach the next step in their development the Blaze should again be an exciting team to watch in 2013.

Initial thoughts might be low expectations at Bakersfield in 2013 after their main feeder, Dayton, finished with the worst record in the Midwest League last year. However, they will be getting some good prospects to join holdovers to form what should be a formidable roster. Crowding of talent in some positions may even hold back some of last year's Blaze that would have normally been promoted.

Rotation: Robert Stephenson, Radhames Quezada, Tanner Robles, Stalin Gerson, Daniel Renken

Many feel that 2011 first-rounder Stephenson has the best arm in the Cincinnati system. He debuted at Billings last year and made it to Dayton for eight starts. The Reds have been careful since drafting him out of high school and may decide it's time to let him go for his first full professional season.

Southpaw Robles impressed with a 2.50 ERA in seven starts at Bakersfield at the end of last year, which was two runs lower than the one he put up previously in low-A. Quezada and Gerson led the Dragons in starts last season and finished with sub-four ernies. Renken disappointed after a solid 2011 at Dayton and should get another crack at California League hitters.

Bullpen: Carlos Contreras, Kyle McMyne, Justice French, Michael Dennhardt, James Allen, Blaine Howell, Daniel Wolford

Contreras was solid closing for Dayton in 2012 and continued after a late-season promotion. The former Dominican-Leaguer's performance prompted the Reds to give him a spot on their 40-man roster to protect against the Rule 5 draft.

The Reds invested a fourth-round selection on McMyne and his mid-90's fastball in 2011 and he started strong at Dayton in 2012 before getting hit hard after a promotion. Dennhardt allowed only 2.27 earned per nine in the Midwest League last year which earned him five appearances at the next level.

Both Allen and French split time between the rotation and bullpen and finished with ERA's under four. Wolford and Howell both got knocked around by Cali League hitters after keeping sub-two ernies at Dayton in 2011.

Catchers: Danny Vicioso, Mark Fleury

Vicioso hit .290 in 33 games at Bakersfield Fluery is a former sixth-round selection who struggled mightily at the plate for Pensacola all season after hitting .279/.390 OB at Bakersfield in 2011.

Infielders: Sean Buckley, Ryan Wright, Seth Mejias-Brean, Juan Perez, Dominic D'Anna, Joe Terry Wright has a solid all-around game and emerged as the top middle infield prospect in the Cincinnati system while splitting time between high and low-A. He's a candidate to make the jump to AA before the end of the season.

Buckley projects as the top Reds prospect for raw power and should be able to take advantage of the Cali League venues. D'Anna got most of the action at first base for the Blaze last season after Donald Lutz left. He doesn't project power normally expected at the position, but he does have a lifetime .385 on-base percentage over three minor league seasons. Mejias-Brean was a pleasant surprise at the hot corner for Billings after helping the University of Arizona to a College World Series championship and is a candidate to skip over low-A.

Shortstop Juan Perez hit .253/.336 at Dayton in his second professional season and he will need to work on consistency with the glove in 2012. Terry hit .260 as a back-up while getting action in 90 games, mostly at Dayton.

Outfield: Juan Duran, Yorman Rodriguez, Kyle Waldrop, Theo Bowe, Juan Silva

Bowe had an excellent 2012, hitting over .300 at Bakersfield and swiping 70 bases total between high/low A. It appears that outfield depth upstream will keep him in low-A to start the season, but he could end up in Pensacola instead.

Rodriguez and Duran represent a combined $4.5 million in signing bonuses invested on Caribbean teenagers. Both struggled at high-A in 2012 and Rodriguez even got demoted where he finished strong in low-A. Both are still young and the Reds will be content to let them continue working to improve their game.

Waldrop got on base at a .346 clip for Dayton and he is another candidate to see his home run total surge in the California league. Silva showed good plate discipline, hitting .271/.380 OB with the Dragons and is ready for the next level.

Kurtis Muller will try to force some playing time somewhere. He started out slowly with the Blaze last year, got hot during a demotion, and came back to raise his AA average to .262/.327.

When projecting rosters uncertainty increases when going deeper in the system. Sometimes a team will keep a young player in place after a strong performance because they prefer he continues to get regular action instead of spending time on the bench at a higher level. The 2012 Dayton players in this projection have earned their way to the high-A level and if some of the holdovers can live up to the potential it should translate into a lot of wins on the field in the upcoming season.

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