Bakersfield Drops Another

Former Cub prospect Marquez Smith has bounced around a bit since they released him before last season. What is unusual about his career is that he's managed to hit well at every stop while moving around to find jobs. It's no surprise that he's started off well against single A pitching this season and he could give the Reds another option in their pipeline at third base.

Bakersfield last at Modesto 7-4 to drop their record to 8-20. They tied the score at four in the fourth inning but allowed the winning runs when the Nuts struck for a three-run rally in the sixth. The Blaze took a brief lead in the first inning off of a two-run homer by Marquez Smith. Kyle Waldrop led off the fourth inning with an inside-the-park home run before Yorman Rodriguez ended their scoring with an RBI single. Smith finished the game with three of the seven Blaze hits. Starter James Allen was victimized by an error and allowed six runs (two earned) in five plus innings for the loss. Jimmy Moran and Michael Dennhardt combined for over two innings of scoreless relief.

The game raised Smith's average to .324/.432 OBP after ten games this year. Cincinnati signed him as a free agent prior to this season. After signing him it appeared that he was headed to Texas who selected him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft, but he was again available to the Reds who re-signed him last month. Last year he split time between the Mexican and Independent Leagues and also hit .293/.350 OB in 71 games for Boston's AA affiliate in Portland. Originally he was drafted by the Cubs in the 8th round in 2007. He had been drafted three times previously but elected to instead play at Daytona Beach Community College and later Clemson.

After signing Smith rose up the Cubs prospect charts by hitting well in single A and even slashed .314 AVG/.384 OB/.574 SLG with seventeen home runs in 91 games for AAA Iowa in 2010. He did not repeat that level of production when he returned the next season, but still didn't fare that badly, hitting .278 while injuries limited his action to 71 games. That was enough to prompt the Cubs to release him before last season and he's been bouncing around since.

Smith stands 5'10"/210# and bats right-handed. Most of his action has been at third base and he's also seen time at second. At the hot-corner he's .944 fielding percentage and range factor around 2.5 over 500 minor league games. That percentage gets higher when omitting games earlier in his development. His thick build projects him more as a classic third-baseman with marginal power and below average speed.

Marquez Smith is bit unique for a prospect in his third organization without an MLB debut because he's hit well at every stop. It's not a surprise to see him thrive against high-A pitchers because he's a 28 year-old in his seventh minor league season and seen success against AAA pitching in the past. Bakersfield is most likely a holding area for him right now while Cincinnati ponders his future with the organization. Reds prospect David Vidal still hasn't proven himself against AA pitching since his promotion early last season and last year's Blaze third baseman, Travis Mattair has seen most of his action at first base for Pensacola.

Stats don't always tell the whole story, but Smith has now put up a long history of numbers that say he plays solid baseball, at least against minor league competition. It's kind of a head-scratcher to wonder why he hasn't at least had a cup of coffee in the big leagues. Many expected him to land a spot on the Cubs 40-man roster in 2010, but they chose to leave him unprotected against the Rule 5 draft that year. More versatility in the field would help his cause because rosters today have only two utility infielders and they must be able to handle two positions each, either the middle infield or the corners. Smith has no experience at shortstop but could provide an attractive option to someone who didn't need him to back up first base.

After one month into the season both Vidal and Mattair are hitting under .200 for Pensacola so he may be able to force his way up a level if neither improves. As for now Bakersfield fans can expect to see more production from Smith as long as he remains on the team. A good bat is normally an effective way to advance in the developmental leagues. Smith is hoping that it will be a recipe for success for him eventually.

Other Organizational News:

The Reds opened their series at Wrigley with a win. They got on the board first with a run in both of the first two innings and took a four-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. They needed all of them because the Cubs got to closer Aroldis Chapman for three runs before J.J. Hoover came into to pick up his first save by retiring a hitter to end the game with bases loaded and preserve the Reds 6-5 win. Mike Leake picked up the win by turning in a "near-quality" start by allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings while navigating around nine hits allowed. Sam LeCure, Sean Marshall, and Jonathan Broxton relieved him with a combined two-plus scoreless innings. Shin-soo Choo and Joey Votto both reached safely three times with a couple of hits and a walk each. Votto scored on a doubles by Todd Frazier in the first and Jay Bruce in the sixth. Frazier also reached via a walk while Xavier Paul walked twice with a hit and scored a run.

Johnny Cueto's rehab outing at Pensacola has been postponed. He was originally scheduled to start yesterday's game for the Wahoos after a successful bullpen session but that was scratched because soreness in his oblique, the same muscle that knocked him out of last year's divisional playoffs. Meanwhile his replacement, Tony Cingrani will be taking a 2-0/1.50 ERA to the mound Saturday against the Cubs in his fourth professional start.

Louisville failed to reach .500 when they lost 4-3 at Buffalo in eleven innings. Henry Rodriguez, Felix Perez, and Emmanuel Burris each had two of the Bats ten hits while Mike Hessman and Denis Phipps both reached base twice with a hit and walk. Hessman delivered a solo home run in the sixth that tied the game at two. Greg Reynolds got no decision from a quality start and held the Bison to two runs even though he allowed nine hits and a couple of walks over six innings while striking out six. Mike MacDougal entered in the final inning and allowed the game-winner for the loss.

Pensacola jumped out to a two-run lead after one inning before losing 3-2 to visiting Montgomery. Ryan LaMarre had three hits and an RBI to raise his average to .261. Daniel Renken got no decision after allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits in six innings while walking three and striking out six. Lee Hyde entered in the sixth inning and walked three while he was charged with a run which pinned the loss on him. Drew Hayes and Loek Van Mil each tossed a scoreless frame.

Dayton was rained out at Clinton and will travel to Kane County to open a three-game series on Saturday.

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