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Name: Gavin LaValley
Acquired: 4th-round selection in 2014 amateur draft
Highest Level: Rookie Ball Billings Mustangs
2014 Statistics: 6 HR, 32 RBI, .276 BA, .361 OBP, .429 SLG
Gavin LaValley dominated pitchers on the Oklahoma high school baseball scene for four years, and, even though he dropped 35 pounds between his freshman and senior seasons, his prodigious power stroke never left him. At 6’3″, LaValley is in no way small, but he is agile enough to play third base, at least for now, and the combination of better mobility and power potential led the Reds to take him with their fourth-round pick in 2014.
He spent most of the summer with the Arizona League Reds, where he tallied five home runs and 30 RBI in 189 at-bats over 54 games. That performance earned a late call-up to the Rookie League Billings Mustangs, with whom he connected for one more homer in 21 AB.
The downside to LaValley’s first pro season was his fielding, as the youngster committed 14 errors in 96 total chances at third base for the AZL Reds, which figures to an unsightly .854 fielding percentage. He will get a chance to improve on those numbers this spring and will likely open the year in Billings.
If LaValley continues to struggle in the field, he is still big and strong enough for the Reds to give him opportunities in other slots around the diamond, likely at first base or as a corner outfielder.
Should LaValley stick at third and manage to outpace fellow 3B prospects Tanner Rahier and Seth Mejias-Brean, then timing might be an issue for his ascension to the Majors. It seems unlikely that the 20-year-old would be ready to take over the Major League job when Todd Frazier‘s contract expires at the end of 2016, so Cincinnati might have to bring in a stopgap at third if the veteran leaves via free agency.
If Frazier can build on last season’s breakout performance, though, and turns in two more big seasons, there will be tremendous pressure on team brass to sign him to a long-term deal. In that case, LaValley may have to look for another team.
Riverfront ETA: Too early to tell.