With the emergence of Aristides Aquino as the Reds right fielder of the future, I thought it would be altogether fitting and appropriate to do an article on five “can’t miss” Reds in the modern era (1956 to present) who didn’t quite work out.
Not that this is going to happen to Aquino. He’s hanging tough. I hope he’s the Reds right fielder for the next several years.
But we all know that young phenoms tend to fizzle out. Especially Reds fans.
There’s not a lot to choose from in the 1960s. Billy McCool comes to mind as he was a pretty good lefthanded relief pitcher that faded away quickly. Gene Locklear was a hitting machine for the Indianapolis Indians but there wasn’t any room on the roster for him in Cincinnati during the era of the Big Red Machine. He was eventually traded to San Diego. Ditto for Dave Revering, a power hitting first baseman traded originally to Oakland for for Vida Blue and cash (but negated by Bowie Kuhn in an outrageous move) and then sent to San Diego in a trade for Fred Norman.
But here’s five who made my list.
The All-American Boy started the 1990 season on fire, streaking to an 8-1 record. He not only made the NL All-Star team, he started and pitched three scoreless innings. But the Reds righthander slumped in August and September and was moved to the bullpen. He did a nice job pitching in relief during Game 2 of the 1990 World Series, in which the Reds swept Oakland but he was pretty much a non-factor after that. A first round draft pick by the Reds, Armstrong went 12-9 with a 3.42 ERA in 1990. He pitched one more season with the Reds and his career was finished after he suffered torn rotator cuff in 1994.
Like Armstrong, LaCoss started the 1979 season on fire, going 9-0 to start the season. Like Armstrong, he made the All-Star team. Like Armstrong, he faded as the season went on. The tall, lanky righthander finished the 1979 season with a 14-8 record and after two lackluster seasons post-1979, the Reds released him. His career record was 98-103 career with a 4.02 ERA.
This power-hitting third baseman was going to be a key in the Reds rebuild in 1982. A first-round draft choice, Esasky showed promise and twice hit more than 20 homer runs for the Reds. Tall and powerful, Esasky had a decent season after his call up from Indy. The Reds even took a photo of Esasky, sitting in the red seats at Riverfront Stadium, preparing for him to start hitting home runs in those seats. It never worked out. Esasky suffered from vertigo (stemming from an ear infection.) was moved to first base and was eventually traded to Atlanta. His best season came with Boston in 1989 when he hit .277 and hit 30 home runs and drove in 108 runs. Overall, he had a decent career, just not with the Reds.
This swift outfielder was another key component in the 1982 rebuild. A 15th round pick by the Reds, Redus dominated in the Rookie League (Billings) for the Reds hitting .462 with 17 homers and 62 RBI in just 253 at bats. But Redus was 21, which was two years older than the average player in that League. He was incredibly fast and could hit for some power and was an outfielder. He went on to have a decent major league career, mostly with Pittsburgh. What hurt Redus with the Reds was winning a home run contest. Those were just starting in that time era and while Redus won one, it led to bad habits at the plate. He focused on home runs and forgot about his tremendous speed. In his 12-year career, Redus batted ,246 and hit 90 home runs. His best years were with the Pirates– not with Cincinnati.
This switch-hitting rightfielder was the designated player to replace Ken Griffey. Then General Manager Dick Wagner loved this guy. It never worked out. Householder was the starting rightfielder on Opening Day for the Reds in 1982. His career spanned seven years with four teams and he was a career .236 hitter. A 2nd round draft pick for the Reds, Householder’s best season in Cincy was in 1983 when he batted .255 before being traded to St. Louis for pitcher John Stupor.
Jeremy Sowers, Chris Gruler, Ryan Wagner (all first round draft picks and all pitchers). Between arm injuries and ineffectiveness, none panned out. This is why I cringed when the Reds drafted Hunter Greene. A great talent , yes. But the Face of the Reds? I hope he proves me wrong and can come back from his injury.