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School: UC Irvine; Class: Junior
Position: 3B; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-4; Weight: 225 pounds
Previously Drafted: Cleveland Indians, 24th round, 2011
Background: On a roster loaded with first round talent – Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto, Bradley Zimmer, Mike Papi and Trea Turner – it was Sparks’ bat that lead the way for the USA National Collegiate Team last summer. The 6-foot-4 third baseman hit a scorching .396/.475/.434, though that came at the expense of power; he hit just one extra-base hit, a triple.
After playing sparingly as a true freshman, he exploded offensively in 2013, hitting .360/.388/.581 with 11 doubles, four triples, 10 homeruns, and seven stolen bases. His production declined a bit through UC Irvine’s first 51 games this season: .295/.382/.490 with 13 doubles, seven triples, four homeruns, and seven stolen bases.
Projection: Now the bad news: while Sparks’ plate discipline has taken a major developmental step forward this season, it’s still quite underwhelming; he’s posted a 58-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which has improved from 40-to-6 last season.
He’s going to swing-and-miss a whole lot during his professional career, likely regularly topping 120 strikeouts in a year, and isn’t going to walk a whole lot either. The power, though, is solid average to a tick better, with the potential to reach 25-HRs if everything breaks right.
Not a true impact bat, but one that could an above-average everyday player. But make no mistake about it, there’s some risk here.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player (starter) to 3.5-win player
Floor: 1.0-win player
Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate
Draft Projection: Second Round
Photo Courtesy of UCIrvineSports.com.