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Reds add third baseman Sparks in second round

CINCINNATI -- With their second-round pick, 58th overall, in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday, the Reds selected third baseman Taylor Sparks from the University of California at Irvine.

A 21-year-old who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Sparks was the 2014 Big West Conference co-Player of the Year and a member of the U.S. National Collegiate team. He was ranked No. 56 among Draft prospects by and the second-best third baseman in the Draft by Baseball America.

"Sparks is regarded as a very good defensive third baseman," said John Manuel of Baseball America on MLB Network's Draft coverage Thursday night. "The whole key here with Sparks is how much contact he will make. [His] strikeout rate was up this year, and the walk rate was down. That's why he fell a little bit in the Draft. He had a chance to be a first-rounder coming in."

In 61 games this season, Sparks is batting .297/.383/.491 with five home runs and 34 RBIs. In 232 at-bats, he's struck out 67 times with 27 walks. He is a native of Long Beach, Calif.

Earlier in the Draft with their two first-round picks, the Reds took right-handed pitcher Nick Howard at No. 19 overall from the University of Virginia. Selected at No. 29 was another infielder in shortstop Alex Blandino out of Stanford.

All three players have something in common in that they are all still playing out their seasons in the NCAA Super Regionals and trying to reach the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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