Thursday news from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida. John Gast,…
Bakersfield Continues to Roll
Jesse Winker continued swinging a hot bat. Two games after going 4-4 he came back for a 4-5 night and is now 9-12 over the first three contests of the four-game set. David Vidal plated the first runs of the game with a two-run home run in the second. The home team continued the next inning when Zach Vincej led off with a double and scored on a single by the next batter, Juan Silva. John Tolisano put Bakersfield ahead for good with a three-run homer in the fourth. High Desert rallied for two more runs before the Blaze plated three in the seventh on an RBI single from Seth Mejias-Brean, bases loaded walk to Vidal and a sac fly from Tolisano. They scored their final run in the eighth when Silva led off with a single before an RBI double from Ryan Wright.
In addition to Winker, Silva and Vincej added three hits apiece to the offensive attack. Mejias-Brean reached safely on two hits and a walk while Vidal worked three walks to go with his homer. Ben Klimesh entered in the fourth and gave up two runs in three innings with timing good to get the win. Kyle McMyne worked two shutout frames and turned it over to Carlos Gonzalez who threw a shutout ninth despite walking three. Gonzalez still has a zero ERA after nineteen appearances.
Some considered Vidal one of the top third base prospects in the Cincinnati system before a disappointing season at the plate last year before and a demotion back to Bakersfield. Sunday's game was his eighth with the Blaze this season and he's been behind the plate in all of them. He's likely going to see some more action because he's 10-25 (.400) with two homers and a .531 OBP/.880 /SLG.
Given his absence in the lineup at the hot corner it appears he's going through a position change. It's the first time in his professional career that he's donned "the tools of ignorance" and he's thrown out two of eleven stolen base attempts. Although it's not easily explained, sometimes a position change can trigger improved offensive production, but normally cases like that don't have a player moving behind the plate. Actually, catcher is a position that sometimes tempts teams to move good hitters out of to prolong their careers. Cincinnati drafted Joey Votto as a catcher in 2002, but he never saw any professional action behind the plate save seven rookie league games in his first minor league season. Of course being 24 years old and facing single A pitching in his fifth minor league season and third in the California League probably helps Vidal's hitting as much as anything.
The Reds aren't ready to throw in the towel on this prospect despite lackluster hitting since his promotion to AA in 2012. If he can stick behind the plate then it would reduce the competition in the pipeline above him which is filled mostly by journeymen and Tucker Barnhart who is now at AAA Louisville. On the other hand, Mejias-Brean has taken over ownership of the hot corner at Bakersfield after splitting time there with second rounder Tanner Rahier who stayed behind and is putting together a solid season his second year at Dayton. Above them former White Sox prospect Juan Silverio is getting the job done at Pensacola and has hit well since signing a minor league free agent contract with the Reds before last year.
Time will tell if Vidal's position change is cause for congratulations or condolences. If he continues to hit he'll be playing somewhere. He was projected as a good defender while at third and if his arm strength and release can translate successfully behind the plate he could change easily change his direction on the Cincinnati prospect list and start climbing upward again. He's been a good hitter in the past and at Dayton in 2011 he put up a slash line of .280 AVG/.350 OB/.498 SLG with 20 homers. He continued swinging a strong bat at Bakersfield the next year, but in retrospect it appears that his promotion to Pensacola after only 35 games was premature. Now he's got another chance to get back on track and the early results are looking good.
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