Movin' on Up

Waldrop Over .300 for Pensacola

Achieve and ascend is the game-plan for all prospects in the minor leagues. Cincinnati was generous with promotions to AA Pensacola this year and a few of them are making early marks in the Southern League.

Kyle Waldrop hit a two-out double in the top of the ninth to drive in two unearned runs in Pensacola's 3-1 win at Chattanooga Saturday. Waldrop stroked two of his team's seven hits and for a while it looked like his RBI single in the fifth would hold up until Carlos Gonzalez allowed his first run since promotion to tie the score in the bottom of the eighth. Gonzalez was fortuitous to be the pitcher of record when the winning runs crossed the plate before Shane Dyer tossed a perfect bottom of the ninth for the save. Ben Lively got the start and no decision for five-plus scoreless innings during which he allowed three hits/three walks while striking out five.

The win lifted Pensacola's record to 4-6 during the second half season as they compete with a made-over roster. Seven players received midseason promotion from Bakersfield who finished with the top first half record in the California League. Waldrop, Gonzalez, and Lively are three of them along with Jesse Winker, Marquez Smith, Seth Mejias-Brean, and Ryan Wright. Previously Waldrop had torched Cali pitching with a league-best .359 batting average and he's cracked the .300 level after nine games against AA competition.

Waldrop is a 12th round selection out of the Florida high school system in 2010. He's hit at every level thus far and it was a bit of a surprise that he began this year back at Bakersfield again. He's now 22 years old and the way he's swung the bat since his promotion suggests when he leaves Pensacola he won't be going west.

Lively has also fared well since promotion with a sub-three ERA after two starts. During the first half season he put up a low-two ernie against Cali League hitters and it was much lower before he allowed four or more runs in each of his final three starts. He's continuing to find a way to get to strike three since arriving in the Southern League with thirteen K's in nine-plus innings, but thus far the higher level hitters have managed eight walks in his two starts, half of what he allowed in thirteen high-A appearances.

Gonzalez has already run out of the pen four times for Pensacola and is doing well despite the blown save Saturday. Try as he may he likely won't repeat the 0.57 ERA success that he enjoyed before the midseason break. He's 24 years old and has been in the Cincinnati organization since they selected him in the 21st round in 2011. It was just one year ago when Carlos Contreras got a midseason promotion from the Blaze to the Wahoos and he recently three a perfect inning of relief in his MLB debut. The way Gonzalez is throwing the ball he could be on a similar track.

Winker, Wright, and Smith are still below .200 since promotion while Mejias-Brean has started off a little better, flirting with the .250 mark. It's still early and Winker is perhaps the top hitting prospect in the Cincinnati organization while competing in AA at the age of twenty. Wright and Mejias-Brean are 24 and 23 years old and should be able to come up to speed after a little more experience. Smith is a minor league veteran at the age of 29 and should be ready to be plugged in at any level.

After a 10-1 defeat on Saturday Bakersfield is also sitting on a 4-6 second half mark while competing with Dayton players who were promoted into the vacancies left by the new Wahoos. One of them, Jeff Gelalich is a bit of an interesting case. There have been high hopes for the outfielder since Cincinnati drafted him with a supplemental first round selection out of UCLA two years ago. Though his performance on the field since hasn't been notably bad, he's been getting promoted up without any eye-popping stats. However, he's sitting on a .300 AVG/.366 OB after ten games with the Blaze.

The wheels keep turning and players continue getting opportunities to prove themselves at higher levels while working toward their dream of playing in the major leagues. A couple of years ago there was a nice core of prospects that migrated from first half success at Bakersfield to Pensacola which included Tony Cingrani, Donald Lutz, Billy Hamilton, and Tucker Barnhart-all of which have seen action in a Reds uniform since. Like that class there are multiple candidates in this bunch of prospects to be knocking at the door to join the Reds before the end of the 2015 season.

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