As with any organization, the last week of spring training for the Reds has brought lots of questions about where different players will start the season. There were questions about where top prospect Yonder Alonso would be sent (he’s headed to high Class A Sarasota) and whether Homer Bailey will make the Opening Day roster or be sent to Triple-A (still to be determined).
But perhaps just as importantly with the Reds, there have been a lot of questions about where some of the team’s top prospects will be playing on the field. Last year Todd Frazier, primarily a shortstop, also played a lot of third base, some first and some outfield. WIth him and third baseman Juan Francisco both ticketed to head to Double-A Zebulon, there was a big question of whether the two would share time.
That’s been settled, according to farm director Terry Reynolds. Francisco will be the team’s everyday third baseman, while Frazier, for the first time as a pro, will also have a set position as the Mudcats’ everyday left fielder.
In an interview before the game, Frazier said that he’ll happily make the move and is looking forward to learning the nuances of playing in the outfield, even if it was apparent reading between the lines that he’s clearly a shortstop at heart.
" I’m going to be working on knowing the field, how to get help from the center fielder. I want to make sure I feel comfortable out there," Frazier said.
The move might set up Frazier’s fastest path to the majors. The Reds are entering the season with Chris Dickerson and Johnny Gomes pencilled in for left field, but if they falter, Frazier will have extensive time in left field.
In Triple-A, Chris Valaika will also be on the move, as the plan is to get him plenty of at-bats as the everyday second baseman. Valaika has played some second base in the past, but this year will see him get a lot of work turning two and working on the other aspects of second base to try to increase his versatility.
"The only adjustment is making that turn (on double plays)," Valaika said.
Some scouts have questions Valaika’s range at shortstop, although others have said they believe he can be adequate defensively at the position. With a solid bat, Valaika may profile best at second base, although he’s blocked there for Cincinnati by Brandon Phillips.
Here are some other notes culled from an enjoyable evening watching the Reds Futures Team take on the big league club in Zebulon.
• Of the few Reds Top 30 prospects not on the Futures Team, most were held out because of injury. Outfielder Juan Duran (knee) and righthanders Darryl Thompson (shoulder), Kyle Lotzkar (tired arm) and Carlos Sulbaran (blister) will all remain back in extended spring training when the season begins this week, although all three pitchers are expected to join their respective minor league clubs before too long. Duran was ticketed for rookie ball before his injury.
Sulbaran is an interesting case for the Reds. He’s a 2008 high school draftee who has yet to throw an pitch in an official game for the Reds, but he has extensive international experience with the Dutch National team, having faced Cuba in the World Cup and Olympics and having also worked out of the bullpen in the World Baseball Classic. But because of the World Baseball Classic and the blister issue, he’s thrown in only three games as a Red this spring according to Reynolds.
While Sulbaran’s a neophyte as a pro, his international experience does play a part in the Reds decison on where to send him. Because he’s faced so many older hitters, the Reds expect to send him to low Class A, skipping short-season ball, once he’s healthy.
• While the game was a highlight for Futures Team players, as they showed that at least for one night they could play with the big leaguers, the batting practice was the great moment for prospect watchers. Juan Francisco put on a show, connecting on several long home runs including a rocket shot to straight center field. While a strong wind was blowing out to center field, several of Francisco’s shots were no-doubters without the wind. Yonder Alonso also impressed with power to all fields.
Yorman Rodriguez, the 16-year-old who is headed back to extended spring training, looked very raw as you would expect. He struggled to square the ball up and popped up two of his three bunt attempts to start off his first turn in the cage, but when he did connect solidly, he showed an impressive ability a 16-year-old to drive the ball to both power alleys. As you would expect, he also showed impressive speed.
• The game was a chance for the minor leaguers to face off against big leaguers in front of a sold-out Five County Stadium, but the total big league experience was also very much part of the package. The minor leaguers flew up to Zebulon, N.C., and were flying on to Dayton, Ohio, on the big league charter. For one day, they had a extensive selection of food on the flight, dropped their bags off in the morning and then saw them deposited at their rooms worry free. It’s a long ways from the normal life of a minor leaguer, where you tote your own bags wherever you go.
"I dropped them off this morning, and I still haven’t seen them," Valaika said with a smile before the game. "This is a great opportunity to take something out of (the experience).
• Kary Booher will have much more on the actual game, but it’s worth mentioning that we had the BA Stalker Pro II out for the game. Reds starter Dallas Buck was sitting at 88-90 mph, although it was his location and his slider that caused problems for hitters. Ramon Geronimo was 88-90 mph as well to go with a high 70s changeup and Sean Watson was throwing 89-91 mph. He showed his knuckle curve during his warmup for the ninth, but didn’t use it much during his inning of work.
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