Trio of Reds Make Baseball America’s Top Rookie Team of 2012 - a Fan Perspective

The Reds have made some huge deals this winter, but it may just be the new home-grown players who propel the team into the playoffs in 2012.

The latest issue of Baseball America ranked the top rookies at each position heading into spring training, and three of the nine are Reds players. That number would be four, but Cincinnati traded Yonder Alonso. Now a member of the Padres, Alonso is the publication's highest ranking rookie first baseman.

Devin Mesoraco, who will share time with Ryan Hanigan, is the best rookie catcher.

"Like many Reds prospects, (Mesoraco) was ready for the majors in mid-2011," said BA's Jim Callis, who ranked the rookies in his latest column.

Todd Frazier is the highest ranked rookie at third base, where he figures to give veteran Scott Rolen a lot of rest to stay healthy.

"(Frazier) may get more at-bats in left field," stated Callis, who added that Frazier "deserves to get them somewhere."

An obvious choice is at shortstop, where Zach Cozart will start for the Reds. Cozart proved that he could hit major league pitching in a call-up last year, but he still qualifies as a rookie because of a season-ending elbow injury in July.

The ranking clearly indicates the strength of the Reds organization. Five other clubs had one player filling out each of the other five spots, and three other clubs filled the three rookie pitching slots. In all, nearly half the clubs had no top-ranked rookies, leaving them to envy the young talent of the Reds.

The last time Cincinnati had a trio of talented rookies even close to this one was over 25 years ago, when two outfielders and a future Hall-of-Fame shortstop began their major league careers in 1986 wearing Reds uniforms.

Leftfielder Kal Daniels ended up hitting .320 with six home runs in just under 200 at-bats. Outfielder Tracy Jones, now a popular radio host in Cincinnati, batted .320 and swiped seven bases in a part-time role. Shortstop Barry Larkin took over for Kurt Stillwell and hit .285 with eight steals on his way to a Hall-of-Fame career.

This trio was instrumental in the Reds' 86-76 record that year, in spite of a suspect pitching staff. Only Bill Gullickson and Tom Browning posted ERAs under 4.00, while Chris Welsh and the aging Mario Soto went a combined 11-29.

This year's trio should contribute even more, since several of them will be starting the season in the everyday lineup. The pitching staff is much improved, almost guaranteeing that the Reds will add over a half a dozen more wins than the '86 club. Those extra wins should easily put Cincinnati in the post-season.

Doug Poe once delivered newspapers to Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan, three customers who have made him a lifelong Reds fan.

Sources:

Baseball-reference.com

Baseball America,2/6/12-2/19/12

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Updated Sunday, Jan 29, 2012