The Dayton Dragons opened Midwest League play last night (and lost). And so begins another wonderful season of Dragons baseball, consistently one of the best baseball experiences in America. If you have not visited 5/3 Field to take in a ballgame, I suggest you do so with all reasonable alacrity.
So who are the kids slapping on Dragons lids this summer? Let’s take a look!
Dayton is generally the first full-season stop on a young player’s ascent through the Reds organization. Most of these fellas spent last summer getting drafted and putting in reps with short-season squads in Goodyear or Billings or Greeneville or all of the above. Or maybe they’ve spent a few years working in Dominica or Venezuela, but either way, Dayton is the first real test for most of these kids.
Notably absent on this year’s roster is first-round pick Jonathan “Baseballywood” India. He spent a few weeks at the end of last season in Dayton, but he is already moving on and will begin his season in high-A Daytona. IRREGARDLESS, there are a fair number of interesting young bat-flippers on the team.
At first base is notorious galoot and 1920s Irish middleweight bare-knuckle pugilist Bren Spillane. Last season, he won the Triple Crown in the Big Ten Conference, slugging a blasphemous .944, before being drafted by the Reds in the third round. Mike Siani, a fourth-rounder, will patrol center field. He is the Reds’s no. 8 prospect according to Baseball America. He stands out as one of the best defensive outfielders in the minor leagues. Mariel Bautista is another notable CF, though he will likely play the corners more often with Siani around. Bautista is a Bruno Mars-level hit machine, carrying a .314 batting average in 865 PAs across the short-season levels of the Reds’ minor leagues. He also shows promising pop and discipline, making him one of the most intriguing bats in the Reds’ system.
Among the notable pitchers, Lyon “no nickname required for a handle like that” Richardson, James “The Argonaut” Marinan, and Jacob Heatherly of Snootshire County stand out. Richardson was drafted in the second round last summer. He is one of the youngest cats on the Dragons roster as he was born in the 21st century. He struggled in his pro debut with Greeneville last summer, but expect him to anchor the Dragons’ staff throughout the summer. Marinan came to the Reds last summer in a trade with the Dodgers for Zach Neal. He was a 2017 draft pick, snatched by the Dodgers in the fourth-round. Heatherly is another ‘17 pick (third round by the Reds). He struggled a bit in Greeneville himself, but he has the devil’s left hand and no sense of decorum.
Every spring I tell myself I’m going to see more than a few Dragons games in Dayton, but then my dumb life gets in the way and I never get to do the things I want to do. I suppose that is my fault though, as I have made choices in my life that make it more difficult to see the Dragons when I want to. That’s on me.
Anyway, go Dragons. I hope Birdzerk comes around again this year.