State of the Catching Pipeline

State of the Catching Pipeline

After the promotion of top prospect Devin Mesoraco and the trade of Yasmani Grandal the Reds are now re-stocking their catching pipeline. Tucker Barnhart was recently promoted to AA and is on the top of the list. Danny Vicioso has hit well while sharing duties. His bat could earn more consideration for the Reds future behind the plate.

Bakersfield tied their game at Visalia on a ninth-inning balk before losing 10-8 in the eleventh. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI triple by Devin Lohman who scored eventually scored on a groundout. Lohman struck again when he led off the sixth with a solo home run. He and Danny Vicioso each contributed two hits to the Blaze attack.

On the mound Daniel Renken was the first victim in the slugfest. He was lifted in the sixth inning and allowed six runs on eight hits. Jamie Walczak was charged with a blown save when he allowed two runs in three innings. Daniel Wolford contributed two scoreless innings before Andrew Brackman allowed a walk-off homer in the ninth for the loss. The Blaze will send out Tim Crabbe when the two teams resume their three-game series Sunday.

After a slow start at Dayton this season Vicioso is making a case for more playing time at Bakersfield. In thirteen games with the Blaze he's 18-54 (.333). Before this season the Reds pipeline was rich with catching talent. After the promotion and trade of first round selections Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal, Tucker Barnhart was left the top catching prospect in the organization. He was promoted recently from Bakersfield to Pensacola leaving Vicioso and Chris Berset sharing duties with the Blaze.

Vicioso became a product of the Reds effort to find talent in the Dominican Republic when he signed as a free agent in 2007. In 2008 he hit around .200 as an eighteen year-old in the Dominican league. They saw something in him that prompted a stateside move in 09 where he responded by hitting well ever since. In 09 he had a .288 average in 23 Gulf League games. He did even better last season at Billings where he hit .341 in 28 games. He's split time behind the plate wherever he's been, but one would expect that if he keeps on hitting he'll get regular duty somewhere.

Vicioso has not showed much power at the plate and is slugging less than .400 in now his fifth minor league season. He's also a free swinger, receiving only 19 walks in 507 lifetime minor league plate appearances and only once in thirteen games with Bakersfield. If he wants to advance he'd better improve that or keep a lofty average because his on-base percentage is only about .040' higher. He's struck on in 18.3% of his PA's.

The 23 year-old is listed at 6'3"/190#. Most of his action has been behind the plate where he's committed 21 errors in 143 games while throwing out 24% of base stealers. He has played 30 games at first base, but his lack of power probably limits his future there to back-up duty. However, there will be opportunities for advancement behind the plate if he can improve defense and maintain his on-base skills. Veteran Dioner Navarro is hitting .339 at AAA Louisville will probably try his luck to return to the majors with another organization next season. Another veteran with the Bats, Corky Miller will be 37 years old next year.

Barnhart hit .278 while throwing out 39% of his runners before he was promoted to Pensacola. Previously behind him was Mark Fleury who is struggling with a .178 average at AA. Vicioso's catching parter Berset is hitting only .239 at Bakersfield, but he's walked enough to have a nice .362 on-base percentage. Yovan Gonzalez has gotten most of the action at Dayton where's he's hitting .243. The Reds invested a top-10 pick in this past draft on Joe Hudson out of Notre Dame. He's currently at Billings awaiting his professional debut. None in this list projects to have much power except perhaps the new arrival Hudson.

It's been a while since the Reds have had one catcher get the lion's share of the action behind the plate. Jason LaRue was the last Reds catcher to get more than 400 plate appearances in a season back in 2005. Still they have benefitted from good production with Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez. It really doesn't hurt to split time between two catchers because the rigors of the job require two roster spots anyway. Hernandez was replaced by Mesoraco who was the top-rated prospect in the Cincinnati organization, making Grandal expendable. As is often the case, once a posion is shorted up it's time to re-stock the pipeline. There will always be a job for a high on-base receiver with good defensive skills like Hanigan. He's now 31 years old and under contract through 2014. Even if Mesoraco takes over the bulk of the duties the Reds will still have their eye on backup options for the future. Barnhart is at the top of the list and there are some expectations with Hudson. Meanwhile others like Vicioso will continue to work on skills so they can crash the party.

Other News from the Farm:

Louisville fell behind early and lost in a 9-1 blowout at home to Pawtucket. Denis Phipps went 2-4 with a walk. Pedro Villarreal took the loss after allowing five earned runs in four innings.

Pensacola lost 6-2 at Mobile. Ryan LaMarre and Beau Mills had two hits each for the Wahoos. Daniel Corcino allowed six runs (four earned) in five innings to take the loss. Previously the right-hander had put in five quality starts in his last six appearances. Wilkin De La Rosa and Brian Pearl combined for three scoreless innings of relief.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton walked in the third and stole second before scoring the first Wahoo run. He walked again in the seventh and was thrown out attempting to steal. He walked a third time with two outs in the ninth and did not try to steal with a four-run deficit. He now has 112 steals in 136 attempts over 91 games.

Dayton hung up six in the eighth to win 7-1 over visiting Clinton. Yorman Rodriguez and Sean Buckley had three hits each for the Dragons. James Allen got no decision from a nice outing where he allowed only one run on four hits in seven innings while striking out seven without a walk. Carlos Gonzalez threw two scoreless innings and was rewarded with a win.

Billings took a two run lead into the ninth and held on for a 2-1 win at Orem. They were limited to five hits. Five Mustang pitchers navigated around twelve hits without allowing an earned run. Jonathan Mascot got the start and threw two shutout innings allowing only one hit. Joel Bender relieved him with no runs on eight hits in 3+ innings for the win. Jimmy Moran finished the game for the save.

The AZL Reds won 12-6 at the AZL Padres. The visitors amassed nineteen hits. Brent Peterson and Tanner Rahier led the way with four each. Jose Valdemar had two hits, three RBI, and a solo home run. Humberto Valor, Daniel Paula, and Bryan Arias added two hits apiece. Starter Mike Saunders allowed two unearned runs in four innings. He was relieved by Michael Salter who allowed four (one earned) in 1+ inning and got the win.

The DSL Reds scored two in the tenth for a 5-3 win at the DSL Orioles. Jose Fernandez and Rusbel Farinez had two hits each. Josue Castellano ended the game pitching two scoreless innings to raise his record to 3-0.

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