Sparks Fly in Cincinnati's 2nd Round

In Thursday's second round the Reds went after another college player and another third baseman in UC Irvine's Taylor Sparks. He's big and athletic and will arrive with superb credentials. First things first for Sparks however, as he prepares to help the Anteaters when they continue their season at Omaha in the 2014 College World Series.

Historically Cincinnati's best draft picks have been taken in the second round. It all started with their first one, Johnny Bench in 1965. Others include Barry Larkin (81), Chris Sabo (83), Adam Dunn (98), Joey Votto (02), and Billy Hamilton (09). (Technically they didn't sign Larkin until they drafted him again in the first round of 95). This year's candidate to join that group is third baseman Taylor Sparks out of Cal-Irvine.

Sparks will arrive with plenty of credentials. He was named Big West Co-Player of the Year as a sophomore and followed that up as a preseason first-team All-American this season. He hitting .307 AVG/.389 OBP and leads his team in extra base hits (29), slugging percentage (.502) and is tied for the lead him home runs (5) and stolen bases (8). Cincinnati won't be signing him in the near future because right now he'll be focused on helping the Anteaters in their first College World Series since 2007. Prior to college he prepped at St. John Bosco High School in Southern California before the Indians drafted him in the 24th round in 2011.

Defensively the right-hander has good range with his 6'4"/200# frame and a quick, accurate arm. Actually, his selection might influence Cincinnati to move their first round selection, Stanford 3B Alex Blandino to a middle infield position. He'll also get put into the pipeline with a younger 3B, Kevin Franklin, whom the Reds drafted out of high school in last year's second round.

Sparks is very athletic and makes solid contact. His size and bat speed suggest that more of his balls will clear the fence as he develops. Though his walk total (27) is one behind the team-leader he could stand to improve selectivity and be less aggressive going after pitches that opposing pitchers want him to chase.

Still, that's no reason to sound the alarm because most young hitters need in improve plate discipline when they begin minor league careers. Sparks will likely start his at Billings at the age of 21 where he'll probably meet another California prospect Franklin. If he makes it to Dayton he'll see yet another Cali second-round 3B Tanner Rahier. Need for playing time might move someone over to the other side of the infield, but that probably won't be Sparks's glove and even if it is, he still projects as above average at the hot corner.

Sparks was the 59th overall selection and in spite of Cincinnati's history, there's no reason to get more excited about any team's second round selection than their first. Still, there's plenty of reason to get excited about Sparks. He'll face a lot of competition at third base in the Reds organization, but that won't keep him from getting generous playing time somewhere. After the College World Series he won't be hanging up his spikes, but most likely will be preparing to start his professional career in the short season.

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