Today we look at the bullpen.
Possibilities: Donnie Joseph, Jordan Hotchkiss, Ezequiel Infante, Brian Pearl, Doug Salinas, Jamie Walczak, Mike Konstanty, Junior Martinez, Hector Santana, Adian Kummet, Arshwin Asjes, Daniel Corcino, and others already previewed in the starting pitcher breakdown.
As noted in the Dragons 2010 starting pitching preview, projecting in early-March which pitchers will finish spring training with the Dragons is a roll-of-the-dice process. Some of the pitchers here could wind up as starters after the Reds evaluate their fit in Goodyear later this month. Some will also be candidates to make the Lynchburg roster. And of course, some of the pitchers listed in the starting pitcher preview could wind up in the Dayton bullpen.
In the interest of accuracy, there are several other pitchers not listed here who struggled at Billings in 2009 but could lift themselves into contention with a good spring. Among those pitchers are Ricky Bowen, Jason Braun, Forest Cannon, Tzu-Kai Chiu, Greg Dombrowski, (missed all of 2009), Luca Panerati and Jake Wiley. Those pitchers are not previewed here.
Donnie Joseph was signed by the Reds after being drafted in the third round in June, 2009, out of the University of Houston, becoming the highest-drafted Conference USA player selected in 2009. Joseph had a solid first year of professional baseball and is now considered by many to be the top left-handed relief pitching prospect in the Reds organization. He is listed as the 21st best overall prospect in the Reds system by Baseball America. Joseph will also be a candidate to begin the 2010 season with Lynchburg.
Joseph was an outstanding three-sport athlete at Hays High School in Buda, Texas, once scoring 30 points in a basketball game and finishing his football career as the second leading receiver in school history. Joseph was utilized as a starting pitcher in his freshman and sophomore seasons at the University of Houston, and the results were mediocre at best. But in the spring of 2009, he was moved to the bullpen and was an instant fit. His deceptive motion and outstanding slider led to his selection as the lone relief pitcher on the 1st Team All-Conference USA roster. He went 3-1 with 11 saves and a 2.16 ERA in the spring of 2009 at Houston, allowing just 33 hits in 50 innings and striking out 75.
After signing with the Reds, Joseph was assigned to Billings and allowed just one earned run in eight relief appearances there, leading to a promotion to Dayton. With the Dragons, Joseph made 16 relief appearances, going 2-2, with a 4.35 ERA with four saves. But his final ERA was very misleading. Entering his final inning of the year with the Dragons, Joseph had a 2.61 ERA. In his final game, the biggest game of the year for the Dragons, Joseph had already pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless relief (already his longest outing of the year) when he went out for the 10th inning of a tie game. Joseph simply ran out of gas, allowing four earned runs without recording an out as his ERA ballooned. It was an unfortunate ending for Joseph and his final numbers were not indicative of how well he had pitched for the Dragons. Between Dayton and Billings for the season, Joseph allowed just 19 hits in 32 innings and struck out 42.
Based on performance alone, Jordan Hotchkiss clearly deserves a promotion after a strong season in Dayton in 2009. He probably will get to Lynchburg at some point in '10, but the logjam of available arms could result in a return to Dayton at the start of the season.
Hotchkiss was a 31st round draft pick by the Reds in 2007 out of Brevard College in North Carolina. He filled virtually every role on the Dayton pitching staff in 2009, working as a starter five times, serving as a closer (three saves), pitching in long relief and working in middle and set-up roles. He was the hard-luck member of the staff, finishing with a 3-6 record despite a fine ERA of 2.73. In his five starts, Hotchkiss allowed a total of just five earned runs, yet posted a record of 1-2. Overall, he walked just 19 and struck out 75 in 85.2 innings and was one of the most consistent pitchers on the staff from opening day until the end of the season. He will turn 24 years old in April. If he returns to Dayton to start 2010, he should be one of the league's best hurlers.
Ezequiel Infante is a 21-year-old left-hander who has primarily pitched out of the bullpen over the course of his career, but he did make seven starts for the Dragons in 2009. Infante, a native of the Dominican Republic, spent the 2007 and '08 seasons with the Reds Dominican Summer League team, and the results in '08 were eye-popping. He pitched in 26 games covering 47 innings and allowed only one earned run, posting an ERA of 0.19. He began the '09 season with Billings and made just three relief appearances before being promoted to Dayton.
With the Dragons in 2009, Infante was 2-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 15 games. He walked just nine and struck out 46 in 52 innings. His first start was his most memorable when he fired six no-hit innings to earn Midwest Pitcher of the Week honors. Like Hotchkiss, Infante could also be in the mix for the Dragons starting pitching rotation. Infante and Joseph are the only left-handers on this bullpen preview list.
Brian Pearl began his college career as the starting shortstop as a freshman for the University of Washington in 2007. He split his sophomore season between third base and the Huskies bullpen, and then moved to the mound full-time in 2009. Pearl was drafted by the Reds in the ninth round in 2009.
Entering the 2009 college season, Pearl had garnered just 11 innings on the hill during his career at Washington. In 2009, he pitched in 23 games at UW, notching eight saves with a 1-5 record and a 3.05 ERA.
Pearl signed with the Reds and was assigned to Billings, where he served as the Mustangs' closer. He appeared in 20 games and posted eight saves, going 1-0 with a 3.77 ERA. He struck out 43 batters in 28.2 innings. He got better as the season progressed, allowing runs in only one of his final nine outings. Of all relief pitchers on this list, he is probably the closest to a sure thing to begin the year with the Dragons.
Doug Salinas was acquired by the Reds from the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2009 Minor League Rule V Draft. He will spend his first year in the Reds organization in 2010.
Salinas is in the somewhat unique position of being with his third different professional organization prior to spending a day with a full-season affiliate. He was originally signed by the Seattle Mariners in 2005 and spent three years in their organization. He was released by the Mariners after the 2008 season and signed by Tampa Bay. He played with Hudson Valley of the New York/Penn League in 2009 and put up solid numbers, going 5-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 22 relief appearances. His secondary numbers were even better. He limited opposing batters to a combined average of just .201 while walking only eight and striking out 36 in 41.1 innings. Minus one bad outing in July, his ERA for the year was 1.85. He is only still only 21 years old. Regardless of his long term potential, he looks like a great pick-up by the Reds farm department and should add quality depth to the bullpen.
Jamie Walczak was drafted by the Reds in the 15th round in 2009 out of Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. At Mercyhurst, an NCAA Division II school, Walczak was an All-Conference center fielder, but the Reds like his future as a pitcher.
Baseball America chose one sleeper for each of the 30 Major League organizational drafts in 2009 and Walczak was the player selected from the Reds draft class. The magazine commented that Walczak features a 92-94 mph fastball with a solid curveball.
Walczak started all 55 games in the outfield for Mercyhurst in 2009 as the team advanced to the NCAA D2 Regionals and finished as the #25-ranked team in the country. He batted .357, setting the school record for most hits in a season, with six home runs and 19 stolen bases. On the mound, he appeared in 17 games out of the bullpen and posted a record of 4-3 with a 0.93 ERA and five saves, but logged just 19.1 innings.
Walczak joined the Billings Mustangs after signing with the Reds and appeared in 18 games out of the bullpen, going 2-2, 3.94. He struck out 33 batters in 29.2 innings. After nine of the 18 games he pitched in, his ERA stood at 7.59. Over the last nine games, his ERA was 1.89. Like Brian Pearl, Walczak is a converted position player without a lot of innings of experience as a pitcher.
Mike Konstanty spent the 2008 and '09 seasons as a first baseman/outfielder in the Reds organization before being converted to pitcher during the Reds Fall Instructional League program after the '09 season. Konstanty, the grandson of 1950 National League Most Valuable Player Jim Konstanty, was drafted by the Reds in the 39th round in 2008 out of SUNY-Albany. He has excellent size at 6'4", 230 lbs. Konstanty played at Billings in '08 and batted .253 with 10 home runs and 43 runs batted in. With the Dragons in 2009, he hit .218 with 3 HR and 21 RBI in 156 at-bats.
Konstanty impressed Dragons pitching coach Tony Fossas with his arm late in the '09 season and began working with Fossas in side sessions in the bullpen. He pitched in four games in relief with Dayton before becoming a pitcher full-time in Instructional League. Fossas feels that Konstanty can develop a consistent 90+ mph fastball with improved mechanics and experience and was encouraged by his audition on the mound in '09.
Junior Martinez, according to many observers, is the hardest thrower in the Reds organization. He regularly reached 97 miles per hour with his fastball in 2009. Unfortunately, his ability to throw strikes was lacking, as evidenced by the fact that he walked 26 batters in 20.2 innings.
Martinez was signed as an international free agent by the Reds before the 2006 season and has spent the last four years in the organization. He performed in the Dominican Summer League in '06 and '07 before coming stateside with Billings in '08 when he made 19 relief appearances and went 1-0, 6.67. With the Dragons in '09, Martinez occasionally showed signs of emerging as a threat out of the bullpen, but he could not find consistency. In 17 games, he posted a record of 2-1 with a 9.15 ERA. Over the last two seasons, Martinez has logged 50.1 innings and walked 52 batters while striking out 37. He suffered a knee injury that shortened his 2009 season.
Martinez, a native of the Dominican Republic, will turn 24 in April. He has strong support from Fossas, who stated in 2009 that he felt Martinez had the potential to be a big league closer. Martinez faces a make-or-break 2010 season.
Hector Santana was signed as a 16-year-old international free agent by the Reds in December of 2004 out of the Dominican Republic. He pitched in the Dominican Summer League in '06 and '07 and spent most of '08 with the GCL Reds. Santana began the 2009 season with Billings, working in 10 games out of the bullpen. He went 0-1, 3.38 in 21.1 innings. He made six appearances with the Dragons in '09 and pitched well (2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings). Overall in 2009 between Dayton and Billings, he went 0-1 with a 3.21 ERA, issuing just six walks in 33.2 innings while striking out 21. Over his career, he has given up just 17 walks in 85.1 innings with a 2.85 ERA in 54 games.
Adian Kummet was drafted by the Reds in the 31st round in 2009 out of the College of St. Scholastica, a powerhouse NCAA Division III program in Duluth, Minnesota. College of St. Scholastica has posted the highest winning percentage of any D3 team in the nation over the last 10 years and went to the NCAA Regionals all four years that Kummet played there. Kummet went 24-6 over his four-year career at CSS, posting the second highest victory total in school history. He was a 1st Team All-Conference selection all four seasons. In 2009, Kummet went 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA that ranked 10th in the nation among D3 players. Opposing batters hit just .180 against him as he was selected 2nd Team All-American and 1st Team All-Midwest Region.
Kummet was just the second player in school history to be drafted. After signing, he was assigned to Billings and pitched in 19 games (one start), going 1-2 with a 4.31 ERA and three saves. Similar to the notation on Jamie Walczak above, he was much better in the second half than in the first. His ERA over his first nine games was 6.17. The rest of the season, over 10 appearances, his ERA was 3.20.
Arshwin Asjes (pronounced AH-shez) is an interesting story and one of several players with a connection to Reds scout Jim Stoeckel. Stoeckel has served as a manager or coach with the Dutch National Team on several different occasions over the last 30 years. The Team Netherlands roster in the 2009 World Baseball Cup, with Stoeckel as a coach, featured five players with Reds and/or Dragons connections including '09 Dragons pitcher J.C. Sulbaran, '07 Dragons pitcher Alexander Smit (still a member of the Reds organization), shortstop Mariekson Gregorius (expected to be the 2010 Dragons shortstop), Reds outfielder Wladimir Balentien, and pitcher Arshwin Asjes, who was, at the time, a member of the Midwest Sliders of the independent Frontier League. Impressed by what he saw, Stoeckel signed Asjes as his contract was purchased by the Reds from the Sliders.
Asjes was born and raised in the same town as Sulbaran on the island of Curacao. He moved to Maine during high school but received no scholarship offers with a fastball in the low 80's. Despite speaking little English at the time, Asjes set out on a mission to contact virtually every college and junior college coach on the east coast in an effort to continue his playing career. Eventually, he found a taker at Gloucester County College in New Jersey and when the coach there moved on to Temple University, Asjes followed. In his senior year at Temple in 2008, having lost 35 lbs. and added about 10 miles per hour to his fastball, he set a school record with 10 saves to lead the Atlantic 10 Conference. Undrafted out of college, he signed to play independent baseball in the Frontier League and appeared in 33 games out of the Sliders bullpen. He tied for fifth in the league with 12 saves while posting a record of 1-4 with a 5.00 ERA that ballooned over his last few outings. His ERA over his first 17 games was 0.89 and it was still a solid 2.45 through 26 games before he allowed 12 runs in 6.2 innings over his last seven outings to more than double his ERA over that short period. Asjes is 24 years old.
Daniel Corcino, a 19-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, is the youngest pitcher on this list. He has drawn some comparisons to fellow Dominican and former Dragon Johnny Cueto because of a fastball that can get into the mid 90 mph range and his sub-six foot frame (Corcino is listed at 5'11"). Corcino spent most of 2010 at Billings, posting a record of 1-4 with a 4.91 ERA. He struck out 30 batters in 25.2 innings. Cueto blossomed in his third professional season with the Dragons in 2006, and Corcino will enter his third year in the Reds system in 2010. Dragons pitching coach Tony Fossas was highly-impressed with Corcino in instructional league. Among the pitchers on this list, Corcino, Pearl, and Infante were listed by Baseball America as honorable mention prospects who missed the Reds top-30 list (Joseph made the list at #21). If Corcino makes the kind of jump that Cueto made in Dayton, he will certainly be on the BA top prospects list next spring.
2009 Dragons Relief Pitchers
Mace Thurman: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg or Double-A Carolina in 2010.
Aguido Gonzalez: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg or Double-A Carolina in 2010.
Scott Gaffney: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg in 2010.
Andrew Bowman: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg in 2010.
Donnie Joseph: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg or Dayton in 2010.
Jordan Hotchkiss: Expected to play at Lynchburg or Dayton in 2010.
Mike Bohana: Will battle for a job with Lynchburg or Dayton in 2010.
Mark James: Will battle for a job with Lynchburg or Dayton in 2010.
Ezequiel Infante: Expected to play with Dayton in 2010.
Junior Martinez: Will battle for a job with Dayton in 2010.