"The thing we always go back to, even though it seems cliché, is the makeup," said Jeff Graupe, the Reds' assistant director of player development. "We have a lot of really good kids. They're going to be as good as their talent will let them be. There has not been a whole lot of hiccups in their development because of off-the-field problems or a lack of work ethic. These kids have really pushed it, and as we've seen, they've developed ahead of schedule because of the work they've put in."
One of the fastest-rising players in the system from last year's Draft class is third-rounder Tony Cingrani. The left-hander went 5-1 with a 1.11 ERA in 10 starts at Class A Bakersfield this season, including one outing in which he struck out 12 and walked none. On Saturday the 22-year-old was promoted to Double-A Pensacola.
Cingrani, who was a third-round pick and came to the table with a strong three-pitch mix, was a reliever when he was selected out of Rice University.
"It was the only reason we weren't able to push him more last year," Graupe said. The need to build up his innings per game kept him at [rookie-level] Billings, where there is an expanded roster and it's easier to cover for a guy you're trying to stretch out. This year we're able to push him a little bit more."
A second baseman for Class A Dayton this season, 2011 fifth-round pick Ryan Wright impressed the organization last season when he made just one error in 40 games for Billings. This season his bat has been strong for the Dragons as well.
"The quality of his at-bats far exceed his age and experience level," Graupe said. "He's played on high stages before, both at college and Team USA. He grinds out at-bats. He's a good defender and a very good baserunner. He does all the little things that help teams win."
Wright's teammate, third baseman Sean Buckley -- the son of Chris Buckley, senior director of amateur scouting -- also demonstrated offensive prowess out of the gate, with 14 home runs for Billings last season. He's been off to a slower start this season, batting .215 with three homers entering Wednesday.
Two pitchers who have impressed the club have yet to even pitch in a professional game. Right-hander Robert Stephenson, a first-rounder (27th overall) in 2011, has been at extended spring training and will begin with a rookie-level team later this month. Like Stephenson, 18-year-old righty Sal Romano brings a power arm to the mound.
"He and Romano have clicked together and push each other, work-wise," Graupe said. "It's a good pair. There is a lot to be excited about.
"There's been a conscious effort to get power arms and athletes. When you put that all together from a development standpoint, it makes our job a lot easier."
From the 2010 Draft class, center fielder Ryan LaMarre has stood out after being taken from the University of Michigan in the second round. LaMarre, who brings size and speed similar to that of current center fielder Drew Stubbs, reached Double-A by the end of his second pro season, in 2011.
In 59 games for Pensacola entering Wednesday, LaMarre was batting .274 with a .368 on-base percentage, two homers, 15 RBIs and 15 steals.
"Ryan plays a really good center field," Graupe said. "He can run and throw and has a good feel for hitting. He's got power potential. He's the typical five-tool guy you talk about. He's a good kid with a good work ethic and a team leader. He's an exciting guy to watch."
Also at Pensacola, Brodie Greene has demonstrated versatility in the infield, and last season showed some pop, with 14 homers at Bakersfield. The 24-year-old has played primarily at second base this season but could be an outfielder if the need arose.
Buzz isn't limited to players taken in the past couple of Drafts. A second-round pick in 2009, shortstop Billy Hamilton has become the organization's top prospect. The 21-year-old is batting .322 for Bakersfield and already has 63 steals. Last year he stole an organizational-record 103 bases for Dayton.
The Reds raided their farm system last winter to make trades for two established pitchers. To get Mat Latos from the Padres, Cincinnati gave up former first-round picks Yonder Alonso (first baseman, 2008) and Yasmani Grandal (catcher, 2010) and a 2009 sandwich-round pick in reliever Brad Boxberger. In acquiring reliever Sean Marshall, the Reds sent the Cubs three young players -- pitcher Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and Minor Leaguer infielder Ronald Torreyes.
"If it wasn't for the work that the amateur and international scouting guys are putting in, we wouldn't be in position to make trades like that," Graupe said. "From a development standpoint, they've kept the pipeline flowing. It's exciting this time of year for us. We get to see new talent and new guys to work with. It continues to add to the excitement of what the coaches get to do every day."