Bailey has been cast as something of a savior for the Reds, or at least for a pitching staff that has been unimpressive for several years running.
They've been talking about Bailey in Cincinnati ever since the team made him its first pick in the 2004 amateur draft. He won a host of national player of the year awards after going 41-4 with a 0.98 earned-run average and two state championships in his career at LaGrange (Texas) High School.
But the Reds have a first-round pick every year. So what makes Bailey so important?
"Unfortunately, we haven't developed a lot of starting pitching in our own system in quite some time," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "Homer being a No. 1 pick and he's got that explosive fastball people get excited about."
Krivsky said all draft picks are the same once the draft is over and they're off to the minor leagues, but that isn't necessarily so. The Reds have kept a close watch on Bailey in his three minor league seasons.
"That just shows how much confidence they have in me," he said.
Krivsky and manager Jerry Narron took a long look at the 6-4 right-hander and his 98-mph fastball when he was in the major league spring training camp last year, and they followed his progress closely during the season as he went 10-6 with a 2.47 earned run average in 26 starts at Class A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga.
"He's one year further down the road in his development," Krivsky said. "He had an outstanding year last year. He did exactly what we hoped he would do. He had good success at two levels. You can't ask for much more than that."
Bailey was named the Reds' minor league player of the year, and Baseball America rated him as the organization's best prospect for the third straight season. The next step is for him to develop a better command of his curveball and changeup, something he started to do in the second half of last season.
"Toward the end of the season, I showed them a lot as far as what I can do with command of my second and third pitches," he said. "I feel real comfortable with them, believe it or not.
"I was very successful in Double-A, so I didn't need to show them as much. I guess that's why I look forward to the upper levels being able to show off my second and third pitches."
Krivsky and Narron have said Bailey will probably begin this season at Triple-A Louisville rather than in Cincinnati. They weren't with the Reds when Bailey was drafted, but Bailey said he is confident that Krivsky and his team will make the best decision for the club and for him.
"He really has the team's best interests at heart. They have a winning mentality, where before (they just wanted to) compete or work to a plan," Bailey said.
Bailey said he's also looking forward to spring training because it will give him a chance to soak up some knowledge from the team's veteran pitchers, just as he did last spring.
Willingness to learn
"I was very pleased to have that experience. It taught me a lot," he said. "That was definitely part of my success this year.
"I'm still young, and the biggest thing I hope they understand is my willingness to learn."
Bailey is willing to work, too. He spent the winter at his home in Texas, where he said the workouts have been "rough."
He'll be in Florida when pitchers and catchers report to the Reds' camp in Sarasota on Feb. 17 doing his best to impress and to make it hard for the Reds to leave him in the minor leagues.
"I'm really trying to prepare the right way to make the decision tough on Jerry and Wayne," he said.