The Minor League Baseball web site’s top 50 prospects list included Homer Bailey as #3 and Jay Bruce as #8. In the follow up Jonathan Mayo mailbag article there is the following discussion on Bailey vs Hughes (who was a close #4). The comparisons shed some lite on Bailey as a prospect.

How on earth could you possibly rank Homer Bailey ahead of Phil Hughes??? Hughes had better numbers in EVERY stat. He pitched in a tougher league. He turned water into wine while Bailey merely turned it into juice. Please explain yourself.

To those who sent in such e-mails, please take a deep breath. Bailey finished just one spot ahead of Hughes. If you look at the cumulative scores, Bailey had 407, Hughes 395. That’s ridiculously close. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s basically a toss-up between these two right-handers (with Yovani Gallardo not too far behind, by the way). Overall, the basic feeling among the scouts is that Bailey’s got the better pure stuff, a slightly better power arm. Hughes has got slightly better command and mixes his pitches well. It’s all a question of what you like better in a pitching prospect. In the end, just barely enough voters chose pure power. But again, not enough to really justify everyone getting all up in arms about it. Here’s a sampling of what some scouts who did like Hughes a touch better said:

“I think Hughes is a little better athlete, and I think he’s going to command the baseball better,” said a scout who put Hughes on top of Bailey. “Bailey’s stuff, pure stuff, may be a little more sexy than Hughes’, but Hughes has a little more pitchability. It’s close, but I’d go with the power/pitchability guy more than with the pure power guy.”

“They’re very, very close,” another scouting director said. “Both will be good big-league pitchers. You could flip a coin, but I think Hughes has the chance to be better than Bailey. In Hughes’ case, there’s more pitchability. Bailey’s velocity may be better, but the package on Hughes is better. And there’s Gallardo, who’s got four pitches. He doesn’t have the velocity Bailey does. But would I take all three of those guys? Sure.”

To get a real sense of just how close it was, there was even one scout who felt conflicted about which one he’d rather have.

“Although I gave you Bailey over Hughes on that list, if I had to take one of them right now I might take Hughes,” he said. “Both can be frontline guys, Bailey may have the bigger, easier arm, but I like Hughes’ size and angle better, he’s more developed and on his way, his changeup is further along than Bailey’s, but Bailey has a great raw arm and breaking ball. It’s a tough call. Maybe there’s less risk…with Hughes, but Bailey could jump on the scene quick and just outstuff everyone.”

The article also has some information on Joey Votto, who was one of the top prospects to just miss the top 50 list.

There were three players who got the most love from fans asking/demanding why they weren’t in the Top 50. The Blue Jays’ Adam Lind probably topped that list, with Humberto Sanchez and Joey Votto not too far behind. Colby Rasmus got some attention as well.

The thoughts on Joey Votto were again mixed, though even the scouting executive who did rank Votto, did so at the bottom of his list.

“I like the guy,” that scout said. “He’s a pretty good looking hitter. Period. I think he’s going to hit, he’s going to be a nice looking hitter. He’s got power. He needs to work a little more on his defense, but there’s enough bat there to play.”

“Joey Votto is a solid first base candidate who had a nice bounce back year in the Southern League,” said the scout who didn’t rank him in his Top 30. “He controlled the strike zone better and showed power. To his credit he has been quoted that the previous Reds regime was strict about taking pitches early in the count and it affected his production in the Florida State League. With that being said, he’s a first-base-only type who has had success at Double-A at 23 years old. Generic profile. If you truly believe he’s going to be an impact hitter at the big-league level, you put all your chips in. If you have some reservations, like me, you hedge your bet and see what happens.”

It’s pretty exciting to have three Reds prospects near the top in all of baseball. It’s great to know that we will soon be getting some internal help to fill some of the holes in the major league roster. Look for Bailey and Votto to make appearances in Cincinnati this upcoming season. Bruce could make his first appearance late in 2008 if he advances quickly, or more likely in 2009.