Yesterday afternoon, MBP and I had the privilege of heading up to Dayton on a nice Sunday afternoon to watch the Dragons take on the West Michigan Whitecaps. Little did we know going into the game that their magic number was one at the time, and that upon winning the game, would be crowned 2nd half champions in the Midwest League East. In fact, we didn't even know until the final out, when David Vidal made a tough play to throw out a runner at first, he hugged pitcher Daniel Wolford and the team rallied around the mound and jumped around. It was then when we figured out that they weren't just really, really, ridiculously happy to beat West Michigan, but had clinched a playoff spot with a 43-19 record so far. Here are some observations about the game:
- Dayton's a pretty nice place to watch a ballgame. Nice stadium, easy to see from everywhere around the concourse, and a good crowd on hand. A far cry from the half-empty stadiums a lot of minor leaguers are used to playing in, I'm sure.
- Josh Smith got the start, and was pretty damn impressive. He's a bigger guy, and we couldn't see a stadium gun but it looked like his fastball was pretty sharp. He mixed in a lot of off-speed stuff, too. He was dominant, only giving up 3 hits in the 6 innings he pitched, with 6 strikeouts to extend his league lead.
- Billy Hamilton didn't steal any bases, but really didn't have much of a chance. He got on base a couple times (one beating out a grounder that he had no business beating out), and I can see why scouts rave about his speed. He got picked off his first time on base and didn't steal the other time. Oh well.
- One thing that really struck me about this team is how short they are. Ronald Torreyes is DRH short, Tucker Barnhart looks like a normal guy you'd see out at the bar, and David Vidal is listed at 5'11", but is actually probably about 5'9". That said, all three of those guys can absolutely rake.
- Juan Duran honestly impressed me. He was 2 for 4 on the day with a single up the middle and a homer that just about his the foul pole in LF (but cleared the wall by about 30 feet). He's so strong that he almost went opposite field and narrowly missed a homer down the RF line too, barely foul.
- Since a lot of the talk at the big-league level was about defense, it's worth mentioning that Duran was pretty solid in this game, to the point where it looks like he'll be able to stick in LF. The most impressive infielder for me was Vidal, who made a couple of sliding catches and nice spin moves to throw out runners from 3B. Torreyes was okay too. On the other hand...
- Unfortunately, Billy Hamilton's defense. He had 4 ground balls hit to him (in my recollection), and bobbled two of them. He made both of the plays where he had to move to his left, and completely shit on the ones where he had to go to the right. No errors due to a generous scorekeeper, but I'm considerably less optimistic on his future as a SS after seeing him play in person. Then again, he did make a great catch where he ended up in the spot where the LF usually plays, but his range on ground balls and his throwing arm are suspect. Why hasn't there been any talk about trying him out in CF?
- The bullpen was solid, as Pat Doyle pitched 2 shutout innings and Daniel Wolford pitched a scoreless 9th. By the way, there isn't an anonymous Reds prospect having a better under-the-radar year than Wolford right now. 34 1/3 scoreless innings in a row, and he hasn't given up an earned run since JUNE. That's crazy.
He's had quality starts in 7 of his last 8 starts. His control is better too, only issuing 27 walks in 80 innings. I think we may see him again in September, whether we like it or not.
29 homers so far this year, leading all of the Reds teams and is now 2nd in the Southern League. Raise your hand if you expected a breakout power year here? We didn't either, but could he be ready for a big league role next year?
Yeah, you know about the stolen bases (94 and counting), but he's OPSing .989 in his last 10 games. A .500 OBP in that span for a leadoff hitter is pretty good too.
As impressive a rookie ball debut as we've seen in some time. 66 strikeouts, 5 walks, in 40 2/3 innings. A 1.56 ERA in 11 starts.
- Louisville lost 2 of their 3 games over the weekend. They won 7-4 against Lehigh Valley on Friday. Chad Reineke pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 4. Juan Francisco hit his 15th homer. They lost 5-4 on Saturday, wasting a good start by Edinson Volquez. Wagon pitched 6 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 11. Chris Valaika had 3 hits. They lost to Columbus 8-5 on Sunday. Valaika was 2-for-5 with a homer and Kris Negron also went deep. Travis Wood gave up 6 runs in 3 innings, so that's not a good sign. Up next: Daryl Thompson takes on the Clippers at 7:05.
- Carolina got swept. They lost 12-9 on Friday, even with Henry Rodriguez hitting 2 homers and driving in 6 runs. Cody Puckett and Neftali Soto also homered. They lost 5-4 on Saturday. Soto and Bill Rhinehart had two hits each. They finished off the weekend losing 4-3 on Sunday, and the only good thing that happened was Neftali Soto hitting his 29th homer of the year. Up next: Mudcats will take on Montgomery at 8:05.
- Bakersfield lost 2 of 3. They lost 7-6 to High Desert. Chris Manno pitched another scoreless inning, taking his count to 13 1/3 since joining the Reds. They lost 6-4 on Saturday. Carlos Mendez homered. They won 12-4 on Sunday. Chris Richburg hit 2 homers and Mark Fleury hit a grand slam. J.C. Sulbaran started, went 5 innings, and struck out 8. Up next: Dan Renken takes on High Desert at 10:05.
- Dayton swept their weekend, because they're a good team. They beat Great Lakes 13-4 on Friday, behind a solid outing by Tanner Robles. Billy Hamilton had 3 hits, and Chris Berset went 4-for-5. Tucker Barnhart and David Vidal homered. They shut out West Michigan 2-0 on Saturday with Daniel Corcino on the mound. Corcino went 5 innings and struck out 6, only giving up 4 hits and a walk. Hamilton singled and then stole second and third bases to take his steal total to 94. They won 6-0 on Sunday, the details of which can be read above. Up next: Mitch Clarke takes the hill at 7.
- Billings swept their weekend too, to bring their winning streak to 6. They won 11-3 on Friday. Junior Arias and Danny Vicioso drove in 3 runs each. Cole Green gave up 1 run in 5 innings. On Saturday they won 3-1 behind what might have been the best pitching performance by a Reds prospect I've ever seen. Tony Cingrani started and pitched 6 no-hit innings, walked nobody, and struck out 13 hitters. Juan Perez homered and Ryan Wright had 2 hits. On Sunday they won 9-4, and Ismael Guillon gave up a run in 5 innings. Up next: Off day.
- The AZL Reds split their two games. They lost 6-3 on Friday to the AZL Dodgers, and had an off day on Saturday. On Sunday, they won 4-3 behind a good outing by Joel Bender. The local product pitched 6 innings, gave up no earned runs and struck out 8. Up next: Dodgers again at 2.