Could LaMarre Be a Future Leadoff Hitter?

For years the Reds have searched for a leadoff hitter through both free-agency and players from within. At Pensacola this year outfielder Ryan LaMarre is showing strong leadoff skills with increased plate discpline and speed on the basepaths. The 2nd-round selection received a late-season promotion in each of his first two seasons and is set to see action at Lousville later this season.

Pensacola scored two in the seventh to win 5-3 in the rubber match of a three game home series against Birmingham. Their margin of victory was provided by a triple by Didi Gregorius after Ryan LaMarre was hit by a pitch. Gregorius then scored on a sac fly by Brodie Greene. The Wahoos had only five hits, but they benefitted from five Birmingham errors that led to three unearned runs. Their scoring got started in the first when they took a 2-1 lead. LaMarre lead off the inning with a bunt single and later stole home on the back end of a double steal. Gregorius advanced to third on a throwing error on the play then came home on a wild pitch.

On the mound Tim Crabbe battled control issues and was lifted before getting an out in the fifth. He was charged with three runs on five hits and five walks while striking out five. Brian Pearl, Curtis Parch, and Justin Freeman combined for five scoreless innings of relief with Parch getting the win and Freeman notching his seventh save.

Pensacola has won six of their last eight games and their 10-6 record ties them for first place in the Southern League South Division. They remain home tonight to open a three game set against Mobile with Tony Cingrani expected to start. Also, the Fish can expect the arrival of Billy Hamilton from Bakersfield after the speedster participates in the Futures Game next week.

One constant question over the Reds lineup for years now has been the leadoff spot. Brandon Phillips did well at the job at the end of last season but this year he was pulled back to provide a right-handed bat to clean up. For years they've tried unsuccessfully to fill the spot through free agency and from within the organization. In the near future Ryan LaMarre may force his name into the conversation.

The Reds invested a second-round draft pick in LaMarre, out of the University of Michigan, in the second round in 2010 after he finished the season hitting .419 for the Wolverines. He skipped the rookie leagues and started playing at Dayton that same year where he hit .282 with a .370 on-base percentage. Most of his 2011 season was at Bakersfield where he turned in similar numbers, .278/.350. Remaining steady, after 84 games this year he's back around the same level, hitting .277/.366.

LaMarre is listed at 6'2"/205#. He bats right-handed and throws with his left. In the field most of his action has been in center, but it is felt that he has the arm to play right field if necessary. While in center his speed has enabled him to run down 2.2 putouts per game. He's committed only 10 errors in 269 total minor league appearances and thrown out 40 base runners.

LaMarre really projects as a top-of-the-order type hitter. He's really developed his plate discipline this year because against the more advanced pitchers he's walking in over 11% of his plate appearances compared to 8.4% over his two previous seasons. It was previously expected that he would have more raw power than he's showed thus far as his lifetime slugging percentage is below .400. That might be because he's shown a consistent leadoff hitter's approach, using a quick bat to hit to all fields and even dropping an occasional bunt.

LaMarre is a good athlete and was the leading tackler on a high-school state championship football team. He's a skilled base-stealer and swiped 55 bags last season. That number would get more attention if he were not in the same organization as Billy Hamilton. His bat will determine if he ends up as a regular in the big leagues or a utility outfielder. The 23 year-old has answered the call at every level he's played thus far. In each of his first two professional seasons he had a late-season promotion to the next level and it would be no surprise to see him at Louisville by the end of the year.

Other News from the Farm:

Louisville was shut out by visiting Toledo in an 8-0 loss. Neftali Soto had two of the Bats' four hits. Tim Gustafson allowed six runs in 5+ innings for the loss. Travis Webb and Kanekoa Texeira combined for three scoreless innings of relief.

Stockton completed a sweep at Bakersfield by a score of 7-4 in a 15-inning game. The Blaze scored a tying run in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings and then tied it again in the bottom of the 11th to extend it further. Theo Bowe led the Blaze with three hits and drove in one. Danny Vicioso and Niko Vasquez added two hits and one RBI each. Chad Rogers got the start and allowed two on seven hits over five innings. Daniel Wolford started the fifteenth and allowed the winning runs for his fifth loss.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton led off the bottom of the first with a single and promptly stole second. He advanced to third on a balk and scored the game's first run on a single by the next hitter, Bowe. He also walked in the fifteenth inning, but did not have an open base in front of him. He now has 104 steals in 82 games as he takes his skills to the Futures Game and then on to Pensacola.

A two-run homer by Ryan Wright gave Dayton a sixth-inning lead and they held on to win 4-3 over visiting South Bend. Wright and Yorman Rodriguez had two hits and a home run each. Starter Stalin Gerson allowed two unearned runs on four hits over five innings. Cole Green relieved him and got the win. Carolos Contreras retired the side in order in the ninth for his ninth save.

Billings had two five-run innings in a 12-7 home win against Helena. Robert Ramirez led the Mustang offense with three hits, a walk, a triple, and five RBI. Gabriel Rosa had two doubles and drove in two. Seth Mejias-Brean was 2-3 with two walks, drove in one, and scored three times. Fray Sosa added two hits and an RBI. Sal Romano got the start and allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits in four innings. Dan Langfield pitched two innings for his second win. Erik Miller allowed two in 1+ innings but still got the save. Supplemental 2012 first-round pick Jeff Gelalich made his second start for the Mustangs.

The AZL Reds lost 12-9 at the AZL A's. Jonathan Reynoso and Wilfrel Estevez had two hit each for the Reds. Chris Valaika homered in his first rehab start since going on the DL at Louisville. Bret Tomko also made a rehab start and took the loss after he was tagged for eight runs in less than two innings.

The DSL Reds were shut out 3-0 at the DLS White Sox. The Reds offense was limited to only four hits. Starter Julio Torrealba threw three innings of no-hit ball but walked four and allowed one run for his second loss.

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