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Big-Time Producer

CINCINNATI–When Mark Schramek turns 23 in June, he’ll be as old as outfielders Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn, who are already starring in the major leagues. This doesn’t necessarily mean Schramek is behind schedule as he tries to establish himself as one of the organization’s top offensive prospects. He might just have to accelerate his timetable.

"He’s a guy who can be pushed," Dayton manager Donnie Scott said.

Scott doesn’t know if he’ll be managing Schramek all summer. Batting .308-1-26 through the Dragons’ first 39 games, Schramek showed signs of being upwardly mobile, though with Aaron Boone in the majors, Brandon Larson at Triple-A Louisville and Edwin Encarnacion at Double-A Chattanooga, the Reds are blessed with considerable depth at third base.

"He’s eventually going to have to move up, whether it’s this year or whatever, and be challenged," Scott said of Schramek, the former University of Texas-San Antonio star who didn’t sign until December after Cincinnati selected him 40th overall in last year’s draft.

Schramek has proven capable of responding to most challenges in his first professional season. Though he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the 2001 Southland Conference tournament, he has not allowed his injury to impede his defensive progress, though he’s still working on improving his lateral movement.

"He doesn’t have plus range by any means, but he’s very, very solid and he has an above-average arm," Scott said. "He’s very good on the routine ground balls, he has shown he can make the backhand play and he has great instincts."

Schramek’s offensive performance reflects his ardor for big-time situations. Scott cited statistics that demonstrated Schramek’s superior ability to hit with runners on base, teammates in scoring position or men in scoring position and two outs. In each instance, Schramek’s average was .400 or above, compared to barely .200 while leading off innings.

"He’s a big run producer," Scott said. "He’s a line-drive, gap-type hitter whose power numbers eventually will increase. He has a chance to be a 20- to 30-home run guy in the big leagues."

Red Hots

• Shortstop Rainer Olmedo, known for his slick defense, has begun to sparkle offensively at Chattanooga. He hit .397 during a 19-game binge that lifted his average from .211 to .304.

• A sore left shoulder cost Louisville’s Larson, eyeing a return to the big leagues, five games in early May.

• Previous organization report: Chris Gruler

 
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