Reds top prospect, starting pitcher Homer Bailey has added one more accolade to his resume. On Wednesday, the organization named Bailey winner of the Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award as the 2006 Minor League Player of the Year.
The 20-year-old Bailey received his award at the annual LaSalle High School Sports Stag. Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky, manager Jerry Narron, reliever Todd Coffey (another ex-Lookout) and second baseman Brandon Phillips were among others on hand.
Reds decision makers were given plenty to think about by Bailey last season, when he was 10-6 with a 2.47 ERA in 26 starts combined at Sarasota and Chattanooga. The right-hander struck out 156 batters, compared to just 50 walks.
The seventh overall pick of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Bailey was an All-Star from both the Florida State and Southern Leagues last season and named as both leagues' top prospect. He was also selected to pitch in the MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Featuring a mid-90s fastball that can reach 98 mph, Bailey's adjustment from Class A to Double-A was impressive. He did not allow a run over his first three starts, covering 17 innings, and twice notched a season-high 11 strikeouts in a game. The organization wanted Bailey to mix in more off-speed pitches and do better at holding runners, which was something he worked on during the summer.
When he went 7-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 13 starts with the Lookouts, the clamoring intensified for Bailey to be promoted to the Majors.
That didn't happen, as the Reds have been deliberate and cautious with Bailey's development. He will be in Major League camp as a non-roster player during Spring Training with an outside chance of joining the rotation as the fifth starter.
Krivsky and Narron have previously indicated that Bailey will likely begin 2007 at Triple-A Louisville.
There appears to be a delicate balance in deciding between making the Reds better now and what's best for Bailey's future?
* * * * *
Other Reds prospects were also recognized on Wednesday.
First baseman Joey Votto was named the organization's Hitter of the Year and pitcher Johnny Cueto the Pitcher of the Year.
Playing for the Lookouts, Votto led the Southern League with a .319 average and was its Most Valuable Player. The 23-year-old had 22 homers and 77 RBIs and also led the league in hits (162), doubles (46), on-base percentage (.408), slugging percentage (.547), extra-base hits (70), total bases (278), runs scored (85) and walks (78).
Cueto was 15-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 26 starts at Class A Dayton and Sarasota. The 21-year-old right-hander led all Reds Minor League pitchers in victories, and he was second behind Bailey in strikeouts with 143.
Adapted from article on the Major League Baseball website.