AAA Learning Curve

Daniel Corcino entered the season as one of the top Cincinnati pitching prospects only to struggle mightily after debuting at AAA to begin the season. He's coming around a bit as he goes through the learning curve and has turned in three quality starts in his last four appearances.

Louisville tied their game Thursday with two runs in the eighth inning and pushed the game-winner across in the ninth to reach a .500 record with a 3-2 over visiting Indianapolis. Neftali Soto drove in the first Bat runs with a two-run double and Kristopher Negron delivered a pinch-hit, walk-off single to end the contest. Soto and Denis Phipps both finished with two of their team's nine hits. Phipps also walked and led off the ninth with a single before crossing the plate with the game-winner.

On the mound Daniel Corcino had a nice outing. He still had some control issues, issuing four walks, but he held the Indians to two runs on three hits over seven innings without getting a decision. Zach Duke tossed a scoreless eighth inning and maintained his zero ERA after his eleventh appearance with the Bats. Kevin Whelan threw a scoreless ninth and took home the win.

Coming into this season Corcino was generally regarded as one of the top four prospects in the Cincinnati system and had even entered some of the lists for top 100 overall MLB prospects. After debuting at Louisville at the start of the season he commenced pitching like he didn't belong at the AAA level. He's now turned in quality starts in three of his last four outings after going 3-10 with a 7.36 ERA over his first fourteen. He's been struggling with command, walking 4.7 hitters per nine innings thus making an anemic K/BB ratio of 1.23.

Of course Corcino's lofty prospect status came after a strong season at Pensacola last year where he finished with a flat three ERA and tossed most of a no-hitter. He showed improvement over his tenure in the Southern League, keeping a 2.38 ERA over his final fourteen appearances and obviously Reds fans would like to see him step it up in the International League this year. It's exciting when a prospect shooting up a fast track through the system only to feel disappointment when they struggle at a new level. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there is a reason they are playing in the minor leagues in the first place.

The first thing that should be noticed about Corcino is that he's only 22 years old and looking to complete an entire season in AAA. Teams at that level actually have a two-fold purpose in their organization. They are the highest level of development before reaching the major leagues. However, many of the roster spots are used as holding areas for MLB veterans providing organization depth should a need develop. These journeymen looking to keep alive their MLB careers often become savvy veterans when facing minor leaguers. There have been only nine occasions this season when Corcino has faced a hitter younger than himself.

Corcino's background and physique often draw comparisons to current Reds ace Johnny Cueto and it is unfortunate for any prospect to hang expectations on them to duplicate a veteran who's coming off a season when he was a top-four Cy Young vote recipient. When Cueto was Corcino's current age he was skipped over AAA and taking regular turns in the Reds roation. Lack of pitching in Cincnnati that season prompted his early arrival and he proceeded to turn in a rookie ERA close to five. Now the Reds are enjoying good organizational depth in the rotation which gives them the luxury of more time on the farm for youngsters do develop.

It should not be a huge surprise that Corcino is walking so many this year because he issued free passes to over four per nine in 2012. It's very common for young pitchers to work on control in the minors and he will continue to do that. Besides, even if he were ready for the Reds next season they would have a problem finding a spot in their rotation. Tony Cingrani has acquitted himself well replacing the injured Cueto this season and he gives the Reds a five starting pitchers even if they don't re-sign Bronson Arroyo.

Billy Hamilton is another example of another top prospect taking his lumps at a higher level. It was easy to put him atop the list of top Reds prospects after back-to-back seasons of triple digit steals. He had an unimpressive spring training and struggled his first month with the Bats, hitting .189 on May 6. Of course Hamilton is only 22 years old and before this year he'd had only half of one season facing pitchers above the single A level. Also, of paramount importance on his agenda this year was learning to utilize his speed in a new position in center field. He's not gotten his average up to .245 /.300 OB% while running down 2.8 putouts per game defensively.

24 year-old Soto is an example of a prospect that struggled after arriving at AAA when he had a .224 average through May of last year. This year he's hitting .281 and the Reds have moved him back across the infield to third base to groom him as a utility corner infielder at the MLB level. Another infielder, 23 year-old Henry Rodriguez, is hitting about the same at AAA as he did after a promotion last year, but atop his list for development was improved plate discipline and his OB% is almost .030' higher. 25 year-old outfielder Josh Felhauer hit .167 over his first month after debuting in AAA this season and has an average of .287/.375 OB over his games since May 1.

By the time many prospects reach this level their projections have changed. Professional baseball is a competitive business and they often are trying to prove themselves as utility players at the next level instead of regulars. They are likely less concerned about that as they are about just getting that call and the opportunity to compete at the highest level. Lackluster results initially against AAA competition may not look as impressive on their career stat lines as flashy numbers in AA, but it's sometime necessary in order to reach their ultimate goal, especially when they've been fast-tracked like Corcino and Hamilton.

Other Organizational News:

The Reds got off on the wrong foot in their series opener at Atlanta and fell to the Braves 6-5. They started off well enough when Shin-soo Choo opened the game with a hit and scored the first of two first-inning runs that came from RBI-singles from Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. An error by the catcher on a third strike and another one that would later be changed to an infield hit kept Mat Latos on the mound longer and he took the loss for allowing six runs while completing only four innings. Choo did his job at leadoff with two hits and a walk. Phillips also had two hits and Joey Votto had a single, sac fly, and a walk when he was pitched around in a 3rd base/one out situation. The Reds bullpen extended their streak to 32 shutout innings when Logan Ondrusek and Alfredo Simon both tossed two scoreless frames. The last time a Reds reliever allowed a run was on June 28.

Pensacola rallied for four runs in the fourth inning and cruised to a 7-2 win at Montgomery. Ryan LaMarre broke a scoreless tie with a three-run homer that was followed by a triple from Brodie Greene who eventually scored on a sac fly. Donald Lutz doubled in the seventh and scored on Tucker Barnhart's single. Those two duplicated that sequence to provide the final Wahoo run in the ninth after Corey Wimberly led off the inning with a homer. Travis Mattair had three hits and a walk for the fish while Wimberly, Lutz, Barnhart, and Greene added two hits apiece. Yorman Rodriguez reached safely twice with a single and walk. Starter Tim Crabbe tossed six shutout innings for the win while allowing six hits and striking out four without a walk.

Bakersfield blew a three-run lead when they allowed three runs in the eighth and then the game-winner in the ninth in their 4-3 loss at Lake Elsinore. The Blaze took the lead with three in the seventh from a two-run homer by Juan Silverio and RBI-double from David Vidal. Ryan Wright singled home an insurance run the next inning, but it would not be enough. Jon Moscot had his best outing of the season and got no decision from allowing one run on five hits in six innings while striking out seven without a walk. Pat Doyle gave up a leadoff single in the ninth and then threw three wild pitches for the loss.

Dayton blasted double-digit runs for the second consecutive game in their 13-9 win at Cedar Rapids. Jesse Winker got the party started with a three-run home run in the first inning. Brandon Dailey added another three-run homer when the Dragons plated four in the third. Tanner Rahier and Seth Mejias-Brean both finished with three hits for Dayton while Beau Amaral added two. Seven Dragons reached first safely at least twice on the night including Jeff Gelalich who drew three walks. Ismael Guillon lasted only four innings while allowing four runs on six hits and five walks. Tony Amezcua relieved him and allowed three runs in one-plus innings, but the offense made sure he got the win.

The Billings game at Grand Junction was suspended by rain with the score tied at two in the ninth inning.

The AZL Reds lost a two-run lead in the eighth and their game against the visiting AZL Royals by a score of 7-6 after ten innings. Aristides Aquino, Logan Uxa, and Oviel Florentino each had two of their team's nine hits. Starter Manuel Aybar allowed three runs off seven hits over four innings for no decision. Fabian Roman allowed the game-winner in extra innings for the loss.

The DSL Reds game against the DSL Giants was postponed by rain.

The DSL Rojos allowed three in the seventh inning in their 7-4 loss at the DSL Cardinals. Luis Gonzalez led the Rojos with two hits and two RBI. Starter Jean Lara got no decision for allowing four runs (two earned) while pitching six innings. Alfredo Mateo started the seventh, but didn't finish it and got the loss for allowing three runs (two earned).


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