FSL notes: Long sheds tools of ignorance

Reds prospect credits Larkin for smooth transition to middle infield

Shed Long is hitting .360 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 20 games for Daytona. (Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)

By Guy Curtright / Special to MiLB.com | August 17, 2016 10:00 AM

With Hall of Famer Craig Biggio a notable exception, players rarely are moved from behind the plate to the middle of the infield.

That is what happened to Shed Long at the end of Spring Training in 2015, though, and the Cincinnati Reds prospect's reaction was definitely mixed at the time.

"I'd spent a week the winter before working with Charles Johnson and I thought I'd gotten a lot better as a catcher," Long said.

But the Reds saw a better future elsewhere for their 12th-round pick in the 2013 Draft and gave Long a crash course at second base.

"All I did was take ground balls," the Alabama native said. "I didn't get to swing at all."

Long may not be a polished infielder quite yet, but the move has certainly proved to be a good one.

"I was a very athletic catcher, and I think being back there was hiding my true ability," he said. "Now I get to play and hit every day. My bat was the best part of my game."

That has been on full display, especially since Long was promoted from Class A Dayton to Class A Advanced Daytona in late July. The 5-foot-8 left-handed hitter had seven multi-hit games, including a four-hit performance, over a nine-game stretch in early August, putting his ability at the plate at the forefront.

Long drove in 23 runs in his first 20 games with Daytona and was batting .360 with a .613 slugging percentage and 1.011 OPS.

Did someone forget to tell Long, who turns 21 on Aug. 22, that the Florida State League is notoriously tough on hitters?

"I heard that," he said. "I'm starting to find it out for myself."

It's true Long is not hitting over .400 any more, but that hardly translates into a wake-up call.

Long added four homers to the 11 he hit this year in the Midwest League and had a combined slash line of .295/.376/.485 with 45 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases through 114 total games. Not bad for a player who spent two years in Rookie ball before switching positions and then was held back in Florida until mid-June last year to work on the conversion before being sent to Daytona for the second half.

Long credits Hall of Famer Barry Larkin with helping him make the transition to the middle infield and Eric Davis, another former Reds star, with his progress as a hitter. They are Cincinnati special assistants.

"I talk with both of them every week," Long said.

It was Larkin who started the crash course at second base for Long. Davis has helped add polish at the plate.

"I was always blessed with good hands," Long said. "Where I've made big strides is with plate discipline. He's helped a lot there."

At Jacksonville High School, located outside Anniston, Alabama, Long was his team's ace pitcher. When he wasn't on the mound, he'd play where he was needed the most, including behind the plate.

Now the Reds have freed him from those duties. The Cincinnati media guide may still list Long as a catcher, but his future is definitely elsewhere now.

"It's worked out great," he said.

In brief

Bickford impresses: Right-hander Phil Bickford, the first-round choice of San Francisco in the 2015 Draft, struck out 10 over five innings at Dunedin on Aug. 13 in his second start for Brevard County after coming over to the Milwaukee organization as part of the exchange for reliever Will Smith. The Brewers' No. 6 prospect has a 2.79 ERA, 15 strikeouts and three walks over 9 2/3 innings with the Manatees. Bickford, 21, made 11 starts for Class A Augusta and six for Class A Advanced San Jose before the trade, posting a 2.73 ERA and becoming the Giants' top prospect. He is No. 61 on MLB.com's Top 100 list.

McBroom goes boom: Dunedin first baseman Ryan McBroom took over the Florida State League RBI lead with 72 after driving in 13 runs in a seven-game streak Aug. 7-13 that included three homers. The 15th-round pick in the 2014 Draft out of West Virginia University ranked third in the league with 19 home runs and had a .272 batting average. McBroom hit .138 in nine games during a brief stay with Double-A New Hampshire before getting back on track after his return to Dunedin.

Romero on target: Fort Myers right-hander Fernando Romero struck out 11, walked none and gave up just five hits over seven scoreless innings against Charlotte on Aug. 12 but didn't get a decision. Minnesota's No. 7 prospect had struggled against the same team on the road in his previous start, allowing four runs (three earned) in three innings. Romero, 21, was 3-2 with a 2.30 ERA in nine starts for Fort Myers after going 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in five games for Class A Cedar Rapids to start the season.

Garcia sharp in return: Clearwater left-hander Elniery Garcia pitched five scoreless innings in his return from the disabled list Aug. 13 in a victory at Lakeland. Philadelphia's No. 20 prospect gave up five hits, walked none and struck out five while improving to 10-3 and lowering his ERA to 2.55. Garcia, 21, hadn't pitched since a loss at Fort Myers on Aug. 1 that snapped a six-game winning streak.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More