Sorry for the lack of mailbags lately because of Thanksgiving, the Winter Meetings, Redsfest, etc.
This mailbag will be the last one of 2007, so I'd like to wish everyone a happy and safe holidays. Please continue reading the Web site and keep the questions coming for 2008.
What do you think of Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey and their chances to make an impact in 2008 for the Reds? -- Casey J., Seattle, Wash.
Assuming that neither is traded in the offseason, both could have key roles. Bailey had mixed results after he debuted (4-2, 5.76 ERA in nine big league starts), but was often fighting a groin injury and missed much of the second half of the season. The 21-year-old has the inside track for the rotation's fourth spot right now, but isn't assured of that or any spot. He will have to compete for it. This will be a big developmental year for him to show he's Major League ready and able to stay.
As for Cueto, he could probably make the rotation of some organizations right now. But the Reds organization seems poised to stick to its mantra of not rushing prospects. Although he pitched at three levels last season (12-9, 3.07 ERA and 170 strikeouts combined), only four of his starts were at Triple-A. He'll be turning 22 in February and general manager Wayne Krivsky seems to want to give the right-hander more seasoning at Louisville.
Cueto will be in the big league camp as a non-roster invite. I'd like to see him be given every shot at the Reds rotation. He's shown he can work nearly 200 innings in the Minors and winter ball this year. If awarded the fifth spot, the team could control his starts and innings more and there would be less pressure. Despite being listed as 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, I've heard some people rate Cueto's stuff and ability as better than Bailey's. I think it'd be electric to have those two young arms at the end of the rotation behind Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo and Matt Belisle. Until there is another pitching acquisition via trade or free agency, the Reds are thin with starters on their roster.
Where do you think Tom Shearn fits in the Reds' plans next year? Does he have a realistic shot at making the starting rotation? -- Alan C., Great Mills, Md.
Shearn was removed from the 40-man big league roster, but was retained and invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player. It makes his odds a little bit longer, but, as I mentioned above, the Reds currently don't have enough healthy starters on that 40-man roster to fill out a rotation. Shearn was a neat story as a 30-year rookie in late August and September. He's not going to blow anyone away with his stuff, especially that 68-mph curveball, but his guile and ability to locate (not to mention great run support at times) helped him succeed.
Do the Reds have a legitimate up and coming catching prospect in their organization? -- Fred Y., Kettering, Ohio
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Catching is one position where many organizations are often thin on talent and prospects. The Reds have made efforts to beef up their depth there. Devin Mesoraco was their first-round Draft pick in 2007. Mesoraco batted only .219 in his first pro season at the Gulf Coast League but the organization was pleased with how he handled himself and got used to playing everyday for the first time while also being away from home for the first time. Another catcher that emerged was Craig Tatum, who reached Double-A last season. Tatum was rated as a good catch and throw guy but his bat came alive with a .320 average at Class A Sarasota before his promotion. He also was rewarded with some more exposure in the Arizona Fall League this year and performed well.
After reading the Reds mailbag last time, I noticed the question where Edwin Encarnacion switched from No. 12 to No. 28 so Dusty Baker could have it. I don't really think that is fair because Encarnacion has been there longer, so why should he give it up to Baker? -- Eric S., Pleasantville, Ohio
Encarnacion made the gesture and offered the number to Baker, the skipper said during Redsfest. He did it out of respect for his new boss and because Baker has worn the number his entire career. I have a thing for uniform numbers too, and how they're assigned, but this really isn't a big deal.
Do you think the Reds will put something on their jerseys to honor Joe Nuxhall next season? -- Jeremy D., Blue Ash, Ohio
This was asked a little while back, but the Reds revealed their plan for that honor at the recent Redsfest. All of the players' jerseys had a round black patch on the right sleeve that said "Nuxy" in white letters. Pending Major League Baseball's approval, the Reds will wear that patch through the 2008 season.
With the Reds looking for a new Spring Training home, how does it affect the Sarasota Reds and the Florida State League? -- John B., Port St. John, Fla.
Since the Reds own their high Class A FSL affiliate, all indications are that the team would go wherever the organization goes -- assuming a suitable location and facility is found. The Reds' lease with Sarasota is up in October 2008, but three one-year club options could extend the stay through 2011.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.