Part 3 of 8 in the Dragons 2010 Positional Preview
Today we look at the second base position.
Hands on deck: Shane Carlson, Yen-Wen Kuo, Henry Rodriguez.
The Dragons got a lot of offensive production out of the second base position in 2009 when Cody Puckett led the team in home runs, runs scored, and doubles while tying for the team lead in runs batted in. Puckett is expected to move to Lynchburg in 2010. Some have predicted that Puckett will eventually move to the outfield where his speed should provide good range.
As early as late-summer of 2009, close observers were predicting that opening day rosters throughout the Reds system in 2010 would feature many more players repeating with their 2009 clubs than have been present in past years. This is primarily because of the high number of injuries last season that forced many more promotions within the season than typically occur, and would result in a logjam when those injured players return to their teams as healthy contributors in 2010. If second baseman Alex Buchholz returns to the same level to play second base at Lynchburg in 2010, would Puckett get pushed back to Dayton? Unlikely, although that scenario might result in an outfielder getting bumped back to Dayton to open a spot for Puckett in Lynchburg.
Shane Carlson is one of four players drafted by the Reds in 2008-'09 out of the University of California-Santa Barbara. Carlson's best year at UCSB was 2008, his junior season, when he was selected 2nd Team All-Big West Conference, a strong honor in a conference that has sent at least one team to the College World Series in eight of the last 11 years. He started the 2008 season with an 18-game hitting streak, the longest in the conference all season. He finished at .349 (12th in the conference) with six home runs and 22 extra base hits in 212 at-bats with a slugging percentage of .519. He also struck out just 18 times in those 212 at-bats and drove in 53 runs to rank seventh in the Big West.
But in 2009, Carlson's numbers fell off dramatically. He ended the college season at .256 and was not drafted by the Reds until the 32nd round. Once signed, he was assigned to the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League. However, shortly thereafter, the rash of injuries in the Reds system left the club without a shortstop at the advanced-A level with Sarasota. Rather than disrupt the outstanding progress that Dayton's Miguel Rojas was making in a breakthrough year at the plate and move him to a higher level, the Reds sent Carlson to Sarasota. He held his own against older and more experienced players, but his offensive numbers were predictably modest at .210 in 124 at-bats. Carlson has played second base in the past. With Mariekson "Didi" Gregorius expected to claim the shortstop position with the Dragons in 2010, Carlson may get a crack at the second sacker spot.
Yen-Wen Kuo would have received the Reds frequent flyer award in 2009 if such an award existed. The native of Taiwan began the season in extended spring training in Sarasota before joining the Dragons in late May. He remained with Dayton until early June before heading to Billings, Montana to join the Mustangs. He flew back to Dayton 17 days later and played one game with the Dragons before flying back to Billings. He stayed with Billings for one month, then flew back to Dayton in late July for seven games. He then flew back to Billings to close out the season. It added up to six cross-country flights for Kuo.
Kuo's ability to play multiple positions made him a valuable commodity in 2009 and led to the string of assignment changes. With the Dragons, he appeared in 15 games including four at second base, four at third base, three at shortstop, and three as a designated hitter. He hit .231 in just 39 at-bats. At Billings, Kuo appeared in 49 games, mostly at second base or third base. He was hitting .302 as late as August 19th before wearing down and finishing at .265. A contact hitter from the left side of the plate with a chop-style swing, Kuo is not a power threat but did connect on 10 doubles and one homer with Billings.
Henry Rodriguez is a switch-hitting infielder who will also be a candidate for the Dragons third base job. Of the three second base candidates, Rodriguez played at the lowest level in 2009 but enjoyed the best year offensively. With the Reds Gulf Coast League affiliate at the spring training complex in Sarasota, Rodriguez batted .322 in 42 games. Listed at 5'10" and 150 lbs., he connected on just one home run but added 10 doubles in 150 at-bats and was successful on all nine of his stolen base attempts. Rodriguez had a red-hot stretch in mid-season when he collected 13 multi-hit games in 15 days.
Rodriguez enjoyed a tremendous 2009-'10 season in the Venezuelan Winter League, playing against players of various ability levels including some Major Leaguers and many Triple-A talents. He hit .368 in 57 at-bats during the regular season, then batted an even .400 in 75 at-bats in the playoffs to tie for the league lead, serving as his team's starting shortstop. Dragons 2009 shortstop Miguel Rojas played in the same league and hit .284, 11 points higher than he batted in Dayton. Rodriguez will be 20 years old throughout the 2010 season.
There have been some examples of position players jumping from the GCL Reds to the Dragons in recent years, skipping the Billings club. Catcher Kevin Coddington, first baseman Humberto Sosa, and third baseman Frank Pfister all spent most of the 2008 season in the GCL and then opened 2009 with the Dragons, though Sosa and Pfister were later sent back to Billings. Third baseman Juan Francisco and outfielder Denis Phipps made the jump from 2006 to '07.
2009 Dragons Second Basemen
Cody Puckett: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg in 2010.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.