Reds want to see Buchholz at shortstop
Infielder made seamless transition from college to the pros
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
Imagine what Alex Buchholz can do when he's actually healthy. The Reds seem to have a pretty good idea after watching their young infielder tear up the Pioneer League this summer, despite playing hurt early and suffering a broken wrist midway through the season.
Buchholz, whom the Reds selected out of the University of Delaware in the sixth round of June's First-Year Player Draft, hit .396 in 134 at-bats for Billings. He flirted with .400 for nearly two weeks at season's end before going "only" 1-for-4 in his final game to finish just shy of the magical mark. He also fell short of qualifying for the league batting title, which was won by Orem's Roberto Lopez (.400).
"I would call it an almost seamless transition," Cincinnati director of player development Terry Reynolds said. "A majority of guys have a problem moving from aluminum to wood bats. But he didn't seem to have that issue."
Buchholz, who hit .366 in three years at Delaware, came to the Reds with a deep leg bruise he suffered during the college season. It kept him from playing back-to-back days for the first week or so he was at Billings. Still, it was evident he could hit. Buchholz picked up three hits in his first professional game and had hits in his first eight contests before Great Falls found a way to keep him off base.
In fact, Buchholz hit in 18 of his first 21 games and was riding a nine-game hitting streak when Ogden's Javier Solano hit him with a pitch on July 18, breaking a bone in his left hand. He was third in the league in batting (.366) at the time.
Buchholz returned to action on Aug. 25, and if the hand was ever an issue, it never showed. He got nine hits in his first three games back, including a five-hit effort against Missoula on Aug. 26. He pushed his average to .416 on Aug. 31 before finishing the season on a 6-for-20 run. Overall, after his return from the broken hand, he hit .442 (23-for-52).
"I happened to be there when he came back from the hand injury and he didn't miss a beat," Reynolds said. "We were concerned about how he would come back and he came back just fine."
Despite his obvious adaptability at the plate, Buchholz is taking part in the Florida Instructional League this month. He spent virtually the entire season playing second base because Billings already had an established shortstop in Miguel Rojas. The folks in Cincinnati want him to get in some time at shortstop during instructs to see what they have in him position-wise.
"Rojas was playing shortstop for us at Billings after playing in our Dominican Academy and extended spring," Reynolds said. "He's as natural a shortstop as you're going to see. And when he [Buchholz] got there he couldn't play every day. The question is whether Rojas' bat (he hit .183) is ready to move to the next level. If not, we'll need a shortstop to fill that gap.
"I haven't seen enough of Buchholz at shortstop to know what his better position is. We're trying to determine where he fits. It's easy to see he has the skills. If he has the physical ability, we'll lean toward letting him try it. We know he has the mental ability, it's just a matter of whether his physical skills will allow it. If he can play shortstop, we'll keep him there until he runs into someone better, but we want to see exactly what his abilities are."
Buchholz committed five errors in 158 total chances at second base and had no miscues in two games at short.
Reynolds said the youngster will definitely play at Class A next spring, it's just a matter of where. That's a determination that won't be made until March. Still, Reynolds is enjoying what he's seeing in Buchholz.
"He has a confidence he exudes when he plays the game," Reynolds said. "He looks like he believes he belongs and he hits like it. He's all business and I appreciate that. He looks like a guy that will succeed at each level."
In other Cincinnati news, first-round pick Yonder Alonso took part in the early stages of the Florida Instructional League before participating in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Reynolds said it hasn't be determined where Alonso will be next season but added that he probably will begin Spring Training on the Reds' Florida State League roster.
"How he does in the Instructional League and Hawaii will help dictate that," Reynolds said. "But the normal course of progress for him would to be in the Florida State League."
Alonso, who is playing for the Waikiki Beach Boys, hit .316 with two RBIs in 19 at-bats in the FSL this year after signing at the deadline.