Via JD, I see that Baseball America has an interesting note on Reds farmhand Craig Tatum. Before I get to that, however, I want to echo JD in that I am very encouraged to see the comments manager Dusty Baker had about 3B Edwin Encarnacion (you can read the quotes at the link above). You know we are big EE fans here at Redleg Nation, so I’m happy to see that.

(We’ve had plenty of criticism for Baker; it’s only fair to point out when we think he’s on the mark.)

Anyway, on to the Baseball America piece. RN editor Bill, in particular, has been a big Tatum supporter for some time, so we were intrigued at this report from the Arizona Fall League:

An exceptional receiver during his college career at Mississippi State, the Reds signed Tatum for $450,000 as a third-round pick in 2004 and he struggled through his first two seasons as in pro ball.

Tatum was sidelined by Tommy John surgery early in his career and when healthy spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons at low Class A Dayton, hitting .277/.344/.408 in ‘06 before moving to the Florida State League this past season.

Always a solid catch-and-throw guy, Tatum’s offense began to emerge in 2007. He hit .320/.348/.525 as a 24-year-old at Sarasota and earned a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga where he threw out 34 percent of baserunners in 46 games with the Lookouts.

“I look at him and he doesn’t show you anything on his throws between innings,” one scout from an American League club said. “But when there’s a runner challenging him, he shows you a cannon.”

Tatum gunned down two runners on Saturday, showing off a 1.92-second pop time down to second base in the process.

In addition to arm strength, Tatum has all the tools defensively. He’s an above-average receiver, blocks balls well and shows excellent leadership skills.

“He might be the best catcher I never read about,” Surprise reliever Randy Newsom said. “He just quietly does his job and he’s one of the best defensive catchers in this league.”

On top of that, Tatum has a short, compact stroke from the right side and uses all fields in his approach. While he scuffled early in his career, the AFL has been a coming out party of sorts for the Hattiesburg, Miss., native.

“He kind of got the reputation for being lazy early in his career,” said another AL scout who saw Tatum in college. “But he’s always had the tools. I think coming to the Fall League is the best thing for him in terms of allowing him to recognize that he’s for real. I think he might not have believed that before and this has been a huge confidence boost.”

Nice. This is an organization that isn’t exactly filled with catching prospects (other than 2007 first rounder Devin Mesoraco), so it would be a great development if Tatum turned into a legit player.