From a Baseball America feature on why the Reds are their 2012 Organization of the Year -
But more than the long playoff drought, it’s worth remembering just how broken Cincinnati’s scouting and player development was a decade ago. From 1992 to 2002, the team drafted in the top 10 four times, and during that 11-year span landed only one regular (Austin Kearns) with its first-round pick. Four of the 10 first-rounders failed to make the big leagues. Ryan Wagner, the 2003 first-round pick, did make the majors in his first year as a pro, but he was out of the majors after fewer than 150 innings because of injuries and ineffectiveness.
A team reliant on developing homegrown talent can’t swing and miss on 10 out of 11 first-round picks. The Reds began their turnaround with the hire of Terry Reynolds as scouting director in 2004. They haven’t missed on a first-round pick since.
Reynolds’ two drafts paid off with Bailey (2004) and Jay Bruce (2005). He then moved over to player development when Chris Buckley came aboard with the arrival of new GM Wayne Krivsky in 2006. Buckley’s first draft brought in first-rounder Drew Stubbs (2006) followed by Devin Mesoraco (2007), Yonder Alonso (2008), Mike Leake (2009) and Yasmani Grandal (2010), all of whom were big leaguers in 2012 (Alonso and Grandal with the Padres).
“The 2004 draft, from then on the drafts have been outstanding,” longtime Reds field coordinator Freddie Benavides said. “You’re only as good as the players you have. The scouting department has done an outstanding job of getting players, and the player development staff has been outstanding at getting guys ready.”
Benavides should know, as he’s one of the few people still in the organization who was working for the Reds during the dark days of 2000-2004. He has seen the club go from having few big league-caliber prospects in the farm system to last winter, when the team could trade three big league-ready players (Alonso, Grandal and reliever Brad Boxberger) to the Padres for righthander Mat Latos because all three could be traded without appreciably affecting the big league club.
“Back then it would have crippled us completely to do a trade like that,” Benavides said. “We have the players to do that now. Our big league team had a first baseman, we have some catchers and the bullpen is one of our biggest strengths.”
Seeing this, and thinking about how many times the Yankees “swing and miss” on their first round picks, well, you start to realize why the Yankees are signing so many free agents over the age of 38 at this time and trying to trade for players like Vernon Wells…who no one would want right now.
Yes, the Yankees developed players like Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and David Robertson. And, they’ve traded away some guys like Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. But, the hit and miss ratio is way too heavy on the miss side when it comes to scouting and player development for the Yankees. I know that Brian Cashman’s M.O. in the draft has always been “swing big.” But, maybe it’s time to start thinking “make some contact” once in a while too?