Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 12

LaMarre Pushing for AAA Spot

A lot of scrutiny has been given to the Reds leadoff production last season and their offseason moves to address it going forward. Even though much of that attention doesn't go deep enough into their organization to pick up on the development of second rounder Ryan LaMarre, he's still an option on the Cincinnati radar to fill that need in the future.

There's been a lot of excitement this offseason with moves the Reds have made to address their leadoff needs. Shin-soo Choo was brought in for the job and top prospect Billy Hamilton was moved from shortstop to centerfield to prep for it next year. Lost in the shuffle is another CF/LO prospect in the Cincinnati system, Ryan LaMarre.

The Reds invested a second round selection on LaMarre out of the University of Michigan in 2010. He came into the organization with a reputation of speed on the base paths, strong defense, and good plate discipline and has lived up to it at every stop. He skipped the rookie leagues and began his professional career at Dayton in 2010 where he got on base at a .370 rate. Most of his action the next season was at Bakersfield when he stole 55 bases with an OB of .350. Last season at Pensacola he got on base .356 percent of the time and stole 30 bags while dealing with plantar fasciitis.

At the plate he coaxes enough walks to provide a nice .083' differential above his batting average (.272). That rate jumped against higher level pitching in 2012 when he drew free passes 11% of the time compared with 8% previously. He hasn't shown as much power as expected but part of that is probably because he steps up to the plate with a leadoff hitter's mentality, hitting line drives to all fields and dropping an occasional bunt. He's even been hit by 31 pitches in his first three seasons.

In the outfield nearly all his action has been in center where he ran down 2.11 putouts per game last season and increased his range factor with 20 assists. Normally teams would love someone with LaMarre's athleticism in the middle, but if the Reds want to start him out at Louisville this year that job is already occupied by Hamilton. A run producer is preferred in right, but LaMarre has the arm to play it defensively and Cincinnati can sacrifice some power to provide AAA experience for him.

The competition gets tougher for everyone as they rise up the system but LaMarre has answered the bell at each stop and is on the cusp of breaking into the highest minor league level. Hamilton is learning a new position while fast-tracking up the organization and if he spins his wheels LaMarre could provide a plan B for Choo's expected free agency. He hits right-handed which might affect his chances for a fifth-outfielder spot behind Chris Heisey. Then again both of them posted identical OB's against LH/RH pitching in 2012. Given the Reds recent history, finding an active roster spot for an MLB-ready leadoff man is not a problem that worries them. LaMarre projected as a regular at the MLB level when he was drafted and he's maintained that status since.

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