Down On the Farm: Quick Hits From Cincinnati Reds' 2014 MLB Draft Picks

By Illya Harrell
taylor sparks reds prospect
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds have proven they can survive horrible management in Dusty Baker, questionable management from rookie skipper Bryan Price and a GM, Walt Jocketty, who is too old and out-of-touch to field a competitive team. Scouting — both amateur and international — keeps the Reds farm loaded and re-loaded year-after-year. Here are six players from the 2014 MLB draft who big media will place on 2015’s organizational top-30 lists.

Nick Howard continues to impress in low-A with Dayton. In four innings pitched, the right-handed reliever out of the University of Virginia, is literally perfect. No hits, no walks, four strikeouts and has faced the minimum 12 batters. Howard is ready to advance, and the Reds would be smart to skip high-A and give him some double-A experience before the 2014 season is over. He is the only member of the 2014 draft class in single-A ball.

Infielder and Stanford product, Alessandre (Alex) Blandino is rocking the Reds’ rookie league affiliate in Billings, Montana. He’s hitting .316/.429/.969 with four homers in 98 at-bats. If Blandino can cruise through the Reds minor-league system next season, he may be a 2015 September call-up. The Reds could use a better stick than Zack Cozart at short, but it remains to be seen whether or not Blandino can handle the position. In 26 games — mostly at short — he has six errors.

Another collegiate bat, third baseman Taylor Sparks (pictured), is making his presence known in Billings as well. He is strong and athletic enough to play third but, like Blandino, is having trouble in the field to the tune of five errors in 21 games. Nothing wrong with his bat, he swings hard and makes solid contact. Sparks is currently slashing .303/.432/1.011 with three homers in 76 at-bats.

Fourth-rounder, Gavin LaValley continues to look good in his first professional season. Unlike the three aforementioned prospects, LaValley is straight out of high school. Though he’s better suited for first base, the big Oklahoma native is playing third for the rookie league AZL Reds. He’s batting .313/.400/.875 with three jacks in 99 at-bats and 27 games. LaValley is the Reds best 2014 high school draft pick.

Selected in the ninth round, right-handed reliever Brian Hunter is looking like a steal. Out of the University of Hartford, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is tossing great numbers for the Billings Mustangs. In 11 appearances, he’s allowed runs in only two games. Hunter is pitching a 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .223 BAA, 14 strikeouts and has allowed only one home run in 14 innings pitched.

First baseman/outfielder Brian O’Grady was the Reds’ eighth-round selection out of Rutgers. A left-handed bat, O’Grady is an extra-base machine. Of his 30 hits, 16 have gone for extras: 11 doubles, two triples and three homers. His line reads .288/.408/.927 in 104 at-bats. He’s also nabbed four stolen bases without being caught.

The big-league club is in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, and falling out of the Wild Card race alarmingly fast. Reds fans can take solace in the amateur scouting crew who put together another stellar draft in 2014.

Illya Harrell is a Cincinnati Reds writer for Follow him on Twitter @Illya_Harrell, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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