Gregorius Drives in Four

Last night Didi Gregorius led the way offensively with three hits including a home run and four RBI. The athletic shortstop is a consensus top-10 prospect in the Reds system. Coming into the season there were concerns with his plate discipline and consistency with the glove. Thus far in 2012 he's shown improvement in both areas.

Pensacola lost leads of 2-0 and 4-3 before scoring three in the sixth inning to win 7-5 at Jacksonville. The Wahoos got the scoring started with a two-run homer by Didi Gregorius, his first longball of the season. They added two more in the fourth which included a solo homer by Beau Mills and a double by Josh Fellhauer. Their final two runs were plated by a two-RBI single by Gregorius. The shortstop finished the day going 3-4 with a homer, triple, and four RBI. Fellhauer added two hits to the attack.

On the mound starter Kyle Lotzkar only finished four innings while allowing five runs on six hits. Mark Serrano relieved him and threw one scoreless inning for the win. The bullpen combined for five scoreless on one hit with Curtis Partch pitching the ninth for his fifth save. Pensacola won the series two games to one and will return home on July 4 to open a three game set against Birmingham.

The three hit game lifted Gregorius's average to .281 with a .354 on-base percentage. Coming into the season he was a consensus top-10 prospect among those remaining in the Cincinnati system. He started out the season on fire hitting .333 over April. His bat cooled off since then but he's still managing to put up good averages at the top of the Pensacola lineup. He came into the season with two items high on his agenda for improvement: plate discipline and consistency with the glove.

Last year Gregorius walked 19 times in 363 plate appearances (5.2%) while splitting the season between high-A and AA. That rate qualified him for the "I never met a pitch I didn't like" club. It also left some doubts about his projection as a top-lineup hitter at the MLB level. Thus far in 2012 he's drawn 29 BB in 327 PA (8.9%) which is a significant improvement. The extra patience did not come at the expense of his exceptionally low strikeout frequency. This season he's only fanning 13.6% of the time or fewer than once every 7 plate appearances.

When checking out attributes of Gregorius's game one of the first things noticed is his exceptional arm. That with his athletic ability allows him to go deep into the hole at shortstop and make the highlight play. There has been a knock on the consistency of his hands. Last season he was charged with 21 errors in 80 games (1E/3.8G). This season he's reduced that to 14 in 75 games (1/5.4G) or about a 40% lower frequency. His fielding percentage (.953) has remained about the same and his range factor per game (Assists+PO per game) declined from 4.71 to 3.55.

Many analysts expect that one day Gregorius will battle Zach Cozart for playing time at shortstop at the major league level. If that indeed happens, it will be a case of a higher potential/higher risk rookie versus better consistency offered by the current Red. Offensively he does not have as much power as Cozart, but his contact would project him as a classic number two hitter if he can maintain his on-base skills. He is on the Reds 40-man roster making him available for a call to the bigs this season, perhaps a cup of coffee after roster expansion. However, it would seem more likely that his next promotion will take him to his first action at AAA.

Now 22 years old, Gregorius is making the Reds feel very good about their $50,000 investment to sign him as a free agent out of Curacao (Netherland Antilles) in 2007. After last season he started at shortstop for a Dutch national team that won a World Cup in Panama. His skills provide a legitimate reason to get excited when projecting him as a major leaguer. He's not been a base stealing threat which is odd considering speed. Should he manage to add that to his repertoire it would make him an even more attractive action at the top of a lineup. As for right now his walks are increasing, errors are decreasing, and the Reds are smiling.

Other News from the Farm:

Louisville lost 7-3 as Indianapolis finished off a four-game sweep at Louisville Slugger Field. Dioner Navarro had three more hits. The veteran catcher is now hitting .421 over his last ten games and raised his overall average to .349 on the season. Sean Gallagher was charged with five runs in five innings for the loss. The two teams will resume playing each other for two more games at Indy.

Lake Elsinore poured it on visiting Bakersfield with a 10-0 win. A ninth inning double by Kurtis Muller prevented the Storm from throwing a no-hitter. Starter Daniel Renken took the loss. He was roughed up for five runs in the first inning and was replaced to start the second.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton failed to reach base safely on the evening and still has 100 SB in 79 games.

Dayton lost the rubber game of their series at Bowling Green by a score of 5-1. Sean Buckley was the only Dragon with two hits. James Allen allowed three runs in five innings for the loss. Billings scored six in the fourth and cruised to a 10-4 win at Missoula. Beau Amaral, Jesse Winker, Spencer Dickinson, and Robert Maddox had two hits each. Maddox tripled, drove in three and scored twice. Joel Bender pitched the first four innings and allowed three runs on three hits. Jimmy Moran did not allow a run in 1 2/3 innings and picked up the win. Sean Lucas threw 2+ scoreless for the save.

The AZL Reds dropped a home game to the AZL Rangers 7-4. Argenis Aldazoro had two hits and scored a run. St. John's basketball player Amir Garret got the start and allowed on in less than an inning pitched. Jose Williams relieved him and took the loss.

The DSL Reds scored five in the fourth and eight in the sixth while winning 14-4 over the visiting DLS Cubs1 team. Kevin Garcia had four hits and drove in three. Jose Duarte and Miguel Mendez had three hits each. Jesus Parra threw 2+ scoreless innings of relief for the win.

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