Progress apparent in Reds prospects during AFL
Rodriguez led Desert Dogs with 13 RBIs; Barnhart challenged from both sides of plate
CINCINNATI -- The Arizona Fall League completed its season over the weekend, and although the Glendale Desert Dogs did not compete for the title, the Reds' prospects on the team all came away better for the experience.
Reds player development director Jeff Graupe spent a few days in Arizona to watch the eight members of the organization play and monitored their numbers throughout the short season.
"I was happy," Graupe said on Monday. "Generally it's a league where you send some guys where you hope they try to keep progressing or building on positives from the second half. I thought our guys played hard and played well. I thought they each made some progress."
Continuing his upward trend in 2013, outfielder Yorman Rodriguez batted .271 with four home runs and a team-leading 13 RBIs in his 22 games. Rodriguez, who was signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela for a then-record $2.5 million, reached Double-A Pensacola this year and is ranked No. 15 among Reds prospects by MLB.com.
"I was very happy with Yorman," Graupe said. "Organizationally, we saw a lot of progress from him. He played well in both center field and right field. Offensively, he swung the bat with authority."
This year combined at Class A Advanced Bakersfield and Pensacola, the right-handed-hitting Rodriguez batted .259 with 13 homers and 66 RBIs. It was a nice turnaround from 2012, when his offensive struggles got him demoted from Bakersfield to Class A Dayton.
"Even with that, he is still 21 years old," Graupe said. "He's so young. Really, it's just going out there to keep on playing and seeing himself compete against such a high level of competition. We keep challenging him, and he keeps answering the bell."
After a season at Pensacola, switch-hitting catcher Tucker Barnhart was sent to Arizona with a directive to grind out quality at-bats. He appeared to do that as he posted a .356 on-base percentage with nine walks while batting .245 with three doubles and two RBIs.
During the regular season, the 22-year-old Barnhart batted .260 with a .348 on-base percentage in 98 games. Behind the plate, he caught 37 percent of runners attempting to steal.
"Tuck continued to handle new challenges, defensively," Graupe said. "He threw out a lot of baserunners, blocked well and handled an entirely new pitching staff basically and did great with it. Offensively, he continued to take quality at-bats. As a switch-hitter, we have to keep getting him more at-bats so he is constantly challenging himself from both sides. It definitely happened with Tucker."
On the pitching side, the numbers were not robust for power right-hander Michael Lorenzen, who was the 38th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft in June. Lorenzen, 21, was 0-3 with an 11.42 ERA in six starts. He gave up 29 hits and 12 walks while striking out five.
The Reds were less interested in Lorenzen's results, compared to his continuing the transition from short-inning reliever and closer in college to professional starter.
"We kind of threw the results away on that," Graupe said. "We do expect guys to go out there and compete well, especially a guy like Michael. With the transition to being a starting pitcher, this is all about the routine and the process. I think if he had gone there and pitched the way he had in the past, he would have a little more success. In the long run, going there and finding his secondary pitches and continuing to work on all the things that will be required of him as a starting pitcher, I think it will pay off in the end."
Drafted out of Cal-Fullerton, where he was a reliever and center fielder, Lorenzen played at four different levels in his first pro season and reached Double-A.
In the bullpen, right-handers Drew Hayes and Chad Rogers posted stingy numbers. Hayes was 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA, one run, seven hits, seven walks and 11 strikeouts in 11 innings over 11 games. In nine appearances totaling 13 2/3 innings, Rogers had a 0.66 ERA with one earned run, 10 hits, four walks and 12 strikeouts.
"Both guys continued to attack with their fastball and got ahead of hitters," Graupe said. "I was really happy to see them not give the hitters too much credit. It's an offensive environment out there. To see the numbers they put up, it was pretty staggering."
Here's a look at how the rest of the Reds performed this fall:
• Corner infielder Travis Mattair batted .236 with two homers and seven RBIs while playing well defensively both at first and third base. Mattair, who had 13 homers and 57 RBIs this season for Pensacola, was a finalist for the Dernell Stenson AFL Sportsmanship Award.
• Outfielder Ryan LaMarre was 2-for-5 in his five games.
• In eight games, including three starts, right-hander Jamie Walczak was 2-0 with a 4.11 ERA, seven runs, nine hits, 10 walks and 16 strikeouts over 15 1/3 innings.