Who is Edinson Volquez? Welcome to the first installment of Redleg Nation‘s three-part series about the young hurler who is making his Reds debut in 2008.

A fair amount has been written about him since the Reds traded Josh Hamilton for him over the winter. Volquez was signed by the Rangers out of the Dominican Republic in October of 2001 at age 18. His name has been spelled Edison and Edinson, depending on the source.

With Volquez lighting up spring training and earning a spot in the rotation, let’s take a look at what some of the bigger scouting and prospect analysis experts are saying and have said about him.

Here’s what the folks at Baseball Prospectus had to say about him in their 2006 book:

Volquez used to be Julio Reyes, but international documents are checked for accuracy these days. The third pitcher of the DVD set (note: the others were John Danks and Thomas Diamond) is a 6’1″ Dominican with a slight build and a low-to mid-90’s fastball. He made strides with his changeup this year, posting great ratios in A-ball before struggling after the big leap to Double-A. He was rushed to the majors in late August and struggled with his control, but he’s just a 22-year-old with less than 60 innings above High-A ball. He will get an outside shot at the fifth spot in the rotation, but is more likely to spend time in Double and triple-A, with a probably August or September call-up. Volquez’s only injury was a slight oblique problem early in the year, so he’s making his way through the injury nexus more gracefully than most.

So Volquez was part of the Age-Gate discoveries. I imagine his age jumped 2 years and the Rangers thought he was 16 when they signed him.

Baseball America was so high on him in 2006 that they ranked him as the top Rangers prospect. It wasn’t a particularly deep system, in hindsight but he was ranked above John Danks and Ian Kinsler. Some highlights of their scouting report:

…draws Pedro Martinez comparisons as much for his electric personality as his electric arm. Though he’s a fierce competitor, Volquez often has a smile on his face when he’s not on the mound…He’s not intimidated pitching in front of 20,000 passionate fans in the Dominican League…Volquez transformed himself from sleeper to top prospect. Both his fastball and changeup rate as the best in the system. His fastball explodes out of his hands and tops out at 97 mph, showing good sink and run when he throws it at 93-95. He holds his velocity late into games…He has a clean, repeatable delivery…he must improve his erratic breaking ball.

John Sickels runs the Minor League Ball blog. He also wrote the Minor League Scouting Notebook for Stats Inc, until they dropped the publishing side of their operation. He’s since self-published the book the past 6 years. In terms of the number of prospects and the in-depth scouting reports, he’s only rivaled by Baseball America. Sickels rated Volquez a B+ in his 2006 book:

A Dominican signed in 2001, Edison Volquez was the recipient (or victim) of a gigantic amount of hype last spring and summer. For some reason, he started getting mentioned as ONE OF THE TOP PITCHING PROSPECTS IN BASEBALL!!! OK, now it is true that he has a great arm. his fastball can hit 95 mph, with movement. People who have seen him pitch rave about the movement on his heater. His slider is also promising, but erratic. His changeup is very inconsistent, sometimes outstanding and sometimes distinctly below average. He will occasionally telegraph the pitch, allowing the hitters to pick it up. however, when the changeup works, it is very effective, possible his best pitch overall. His control is good, but not great. His statistical record is decent….good, solid numbers, but not quite in the elite category, and he was destroyed by big league hitters in an ill-advised trial in Texas. To me he looks like a solid grade B/B+ type prospect, a guy with a lot of natural talent who has made progress putting things together, but who isn’t quite there yet. Don’t get me wrong: he is a very good prospect, but Volquez is not the second coming of Juan Marichal, not yet anyway, and letting the hype get out of control will hurt more than help. Grade B+

Deric McKamey is the writer of the Minor League Baseball Analyst, put out by the folks at Baseball HQ, and an adviser to the St. Louis Cardinals since 2004. He had this to say in the 2006 book:

Explosive fastball, with plus movement and easy velocity, complemented by a plus changeup and quality slider. Needs to set-up pitches better and command isn’t always there, despite being able to repeat delivery. Missed time with a strained oblique. May pitch in relief initially.

McKamey saw him as a potential #2 starter.

So at the end of 2005, Volquez was viewed very highly by those with a scouting bent (Baseball America), those who concentrated on performance analysis (Baseball Prospectus) and those who use both (Sickels and McKamey). He was the highest rated prospect in the Rangers system according to Baseball America and he was the 29th best pitching prospect according to Sickels. It’s safe to say the consensus at the time was the Volquez was a top pitching prospect.