LaMarre Re-Signs with Reds

With brisk activity in the Cincinnati active roster recently the Reds had to deal with some constraints to the 40-man roster feeding it. A former top prospect, Ryan LaMarre was a casualty when he was recently outrighted to make room for a pitcher. He will remain in the organization after signing a free agent contract.

The Reds have been keeping the shuttle hot between its parent team and affiliates lately covering for some injuries and bullpen problems. Most recently prospect David Corcino made the leap all the way from AA Pensacola. Before that Jumbo Diaz came up from AAA Louisville and stuck in the bullpen. Carlos Coricino and J.J. Hoover were recently sent down to AAA where they’ll join Curtis Partch who is has become very familiar with the stretch of I-75 connecting Louisville and Cincinnati. Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg have also made the trip to cover turns in the rotation.

Of course all the transactions have to take place within the 40-man roster and when they increase in frequency sometimes its limit becomes a problem. A recent casualty has been outfielder Ryan LaMarre, the team’s second round draft selection in 2010. He was given a spot on it before this season and designated for assignment for removal. Though the bump in the road was not on LaMarre’s preferred career path he will remain in the organization after signing a free agent contract.

It must be a frustrating season for LaMarre who went on the 7-day DL back in April for a sprained knee and hasn’t seen action since. Right now his stat line for the season is 10-50 (.200) with eight walks and three extra base hits. This comes after two years at Pensacola where he hit a combined .255 with a .343 on-base percentage.

His performance in AA wasn’t too bad but bigger things were expected of LaMarre when Cincinnati used the high draft pick on him after he finished his career at the University of Michigan. Actually he was a candidate for a breakout year in 2013 when he returned for a second season at Pensacola after putting up okay numbers while dealing with plantar fasciitis the previous year. Instead his batting average and on-base percentages dropped before he got a cup of coffee at Louisville. Since then he’s failed to make an impact at the AAA level.

He was once projected as a top lineup hitter, spraying the ball to all fields with an advance plate discipline while wielding good leather in centerfield. Now at the age of 25 he’ll be trying to prove he’s more than minor league filler whenever he does return to action. The most recent Reds second rounder to wash out in the minors was 2006 pick Sean Watson who threw his last pitch in the Reds organization in 2010. Between him and LaMarre have been a couple of number two’s that have since secured regular MLB duty, Zach Cozart and Billy Hamilton. 2011 pick Gabriel Rosa has struggled, but he turn pro out of high school so his youth will likely get him some extended time.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for LaMarre who is now entering the age range that is normally the most productive one of a baseball player’s career. It wasn’t so long ago when he was a darkhorse to compete with Billy Hamilton for leadoff/centerfield duties while Hamilton was learning a new position. Now he’s the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year while LaMarre is just trying to get back on the field.

There appears to be continued interest in him, hence the new contract. In fairness to LaMarre he’s seen action in only 20 AAA games and hasn’t been given a chance to prove himself at that level. Looking ahead there appears to be the same uncertainty for the Reds at left field next year as they’ve been accustomed to in recent years with option to buyout Ryan Ludwick’s contract after this season and Chris Heisey’s inability to take ownership of the job since he arrived in 2010. There aren’t any other candidates at AAA to get in his way except possibly Donald Lutz who’s preferred position is first base and the only other outfielders on the Cincinnati 40-man are behind LaMarre in the pipeline.

First he needs to get back on track for an MLB debut. His defensive and on-base skills should be good enough to get him duty as a utility outfielder if there’s now a perceived limit on his upside. He’s got to prove himself on the field, but then again so does every other prospect eventually. It’s uncertain how much health has affected his game over the past few years and five months seems like a lont time to recover from a sprained knee. Still, a second round pick (62nd overall) is a considerable investment, especially for a small market team like Cincinnati that must have a good success rate for developing prospects to maintain competitiveness. It makes sense that they would like to see LaMarre finally get a fair shot at the AAA level.

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