Cincinnati Reds Taylor Sparks finally heats things up in AFL

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

After a lost season for the Cincinnati Reds prospect, Taylor Sparks is showing the talent that made him elite.

After a circuitous route through the Cincinnati Reds minor league system, Taylor Sparks appears close to earning a big league tryout.  The Reds drafted Sparks back in 2014 and assigned him to the rookie team in Billings, Montana.  He appeared ready for great things, but that never materialized.

The Reds drafted Sparks in the second round in 2014 out of UC-Irvine.  They expected him to beat Nick Senzel to the majors before they even drafted Senzel.  Instead, he had progressed slowly through the minors.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t realized his potential.  He batted just .232 in 55 games in 2014.  He did hit ten home runs and fourteen steals.

The next season the Reds promoted him to High-A in Daytona with the Tortugas.  He batted .247 with an OBP of .302.  That is a product of striking out 162 times in 125.

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In 2016 Sparks split his time between Double-A and Daytona.  He split the season nearly perfect in half batting .179 in Daytona and .220 in Pensacola.  His home runs, steals, and strikeouts all went down in 2016 compared to 2015.

Taylor Sparks spent 2017 battling injuries for the Cincinnati Reds, needing the Arizona Fall League for extra reps.

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In nineteen AFL games Sparks batted .274 with an OBP of .341.  He also had four home runs and fifteen RBIs with 33 strikeouts.  Among his twenty hits, Sparks collected a double and a triple as well.

Earlier in 2017 Sparks played in both Double-A and Low-A.  In Double-A he batted .129 with an OBP of .260.  He played eighteen games, striking out 21 times.

In Dayton he looked more like the player the Reds think that he is based on talent.  He batted .226 with an OBP of .319.  

Over 33 games he struck out 47 times, walking twelve times.

When the Reds drafted Sparks, they thought that they had a smooth swinging high OBP skillset third baseman.  The projections showed him adding power, while potentially having average problems.  Unfortunately, injuries and strikeouts have appeared more frequently than the touted expected power.

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Now in the AFL Sparks appeared like the batter the Reds thought he would become.  His swing has returned after a wrist injury in 2017.  He may not catch back up to Senzel, but he has reset his potential to make the big league club soon.