Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reds New No.1 Catcher David Ross Heads for Fall

Reds catcher David Ross -- mired behind such players as Paul LaDuca in Los Angeles -- had been held to just 419 major league at-bats -- total -- in the first eight years of his professional career. The book on him was short, but as soon as he began hitting homers and bidding for more playing time in Cincinnati, pitchers finally took notice.

Sure, in limited action Ross hit .320 in May, .316 in June and .286 in July. But by August opposing batteries began to fully appreaciate not only that Ross' power stroke was generated from a big, sweeping swing, but that his bat passed through the zone at an angle and had a hole or two high and inside.

Thus Ross began swinging through breaking stuff and hit just .222 in August and a mere .167 in September. Ross wound up hitting .255 for the season with 52 RBI and an astonishing 21 homers in 247 at-bats.

Even though Ross is coming into his prime at 29, major league pitching likely will not allow him to reach that stratosphere again. Until Ross learns to compensate for the pitches he'll be seeing from now on, expect him to connect for an occasional longball but remain little better than a bottom-of-the-order slugger.

Unfortunately for the Reds, Ross' numbers have prompted the team to send No. 1 catcher Jason LaRue to Kansas City, giving Ross the starting job and a two-year $4.5 million contract worth up to $4.5 million, or a potentail $7.6 million if extended over three years. Don't be surprised if the team buys him out in 2009.

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