When the Cincinnati Reds drafted Taylor Sparks in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft he was lauded as a very toolsy player, but one who was perhaps a little bit raw in his plate approach. Both of those things have turned out to be true over the last two years.
In 2015 he walked 30 times and struck out 162 times. Those numbers were very ugly in the first half where he had just nine walks and 93 strikeouts, but things were better in the second half with 21 walks and 69 strikeouts. He’s continued to show a better approach this season with 10 walks and 36 strikeouts, though you’d still prefer to see the ratio a bit better than that.
Despite the better approach the results haven’t quite been there for the third baseman in 2016. He’s hitting just .212/.265/.342 for the Daytona Tortugas. Part of the reason for the struggles is that his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is just .234, which is a very low number (it was .350 in 2015 and .333 in 2014). He’s cut his strikeout rate nearly in half, going from 33% to 18%, which is very impressive.
Sparks has made improvements, big ones at that, but the production just hasn’t followed along. At least not yet. However, his weekend was one of the better ones that we are likely to see this year.
On Saturday at Dunedin, Sparks had three hits in five at-bats. He had a double and homered twice while driving in four runs. That may not even have been his best game of the weekend. The third baseman followed up on Sunday at home against Dunedin by getting hits in all four of his at-bats. Two of those hits went for extra-bases as he tripled, homered and drove in three runs. He didn’t draw a walk or strikeout in either game.
In total that’s seven hits in nine at-bats with a double, triple and three home runs. It also included four runs scored and seven runs driven in. That’s going to be tough to top for anyone this season.