November 14, 2012
Former Dragons in the Arizona Fall League
Several former Dragons are competing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, made up of the top Double-A and Triple-A prospects from all 30 Major League clubs. Each big league club is allowed to send six players to the AFL where they play a 32-game schedule. Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Roy Halladay, Torii Hunter, Josh Hamilton, and former Dragon Joey Votto are some of the biggest names to play in the AFL. The 2012 AFL season ends tomorrow (November 15).
Former Dragon Billy Hamilton, playing center field, and right-handed pitcher Curtis Partch played in the 2012 AFL All-Star Game, and Hamilton contributed one of the game's most unique plays. After stealing second base in the first inning, he then stole third base, not on a pitch, but as the catcher tossed the ball back to the pitcher. Hamilton is tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 10 despite the fact that he has played in only 15 of his team's 30 games.
Former Dragon Donald Lutz likely would have also appeared in the AFL All-Star Game if not for a broken finger that ended Lutz's AFL season. Lutz was hitting .395 in 11 games at the time of the injury. Lutz was a key member of the 2011 Dragons team that set a franchise record for victories, going 83-57 for manager Delino DeShields. In 2011, Lutz became just the second player in Dragons history to hit at least .300 and belt at least 20 home runs (joining Austin Kearns in this accomplishment).
Former Dragons in the 2012 Arizona Fall League and their statistics:
Billy Hamilton ('11 Dragons): .273, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 10 SB, 15 G (all in the outfield).
Donald Lutz ('11 Dragons): .395, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 11 G (first base/outfield).
Didi Gregorius ('10 Dragons): .282, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 19 G (shortstop).
Drew Hayes ('11 Dragons): 2-0, 4.50 ERA, 11 G.
Curtis Partch ('08-'09 Dragons): 0-0, 3.86, 11 G, 1 Sv.
Tim Crabbe ('10-'11 Dragons): 1-1, 4.26, 6 GS.
Josh Ravin ('08-'10 Dragons): 0-1, 6.97, 9 G.
Meanwhile, six other former Dragons are gaining experience in various international winter leagues. Outfielder Josh Fellhauer ('09 Dragons) and third baseman Henry Rodriguez ('10 Dragons) are playing in Venezuela. First baseman Neftali Soto ('08 Dragons) and third baseman David Vidal ('10-'11 Dragons) are playing in Puerto Rico. Outfielder Denis Phipps ('07-'08 Dragons) and catcher Danny Vicioso ('12 Dragons) are playing in the Dominican Republic. Alex Pelaez, the Dragons hitting coach in 2011-'12, is coach in the Arizona Fall League.
Former Dragons infielder Todd Frazier finished third in the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year voting, announced Monday night. Frazier spent the last week of the 2007 season with the Dragons and then played in Dayton for the first two months of the 2008 campaign. Frazier returned to Dayton for the 2009 Reds Futures Game and has frequently verbalized his enjoyment with his time playing in Dayton. Once referred to as a "national born leader" by Dayton Daily News columnist Tom Archdeacon, Frazier is becoming as popular with Reds fans as he was in Dayton. Frazier did win the 2012 National League's "Most Outstanding Rookie" award as voted upon by big league players.
In previous weeks, several other former Dragons have received Major League awards or recognition. Former Dragons outfielder Jay Bruce ('06 Dragons) received the Silver Slugger Award as the National League's top-hitting right fielder. Bruce hit 34 home runs and drove in 99 runs for the Reds in 2012.
Three players at each position were announced as Rawlings Gold Glove Finalists and the list included four former Dragons. First baseman Joey Votto ('03-'04 Dragons), shortstop Zack Cozart ('07-'08 Dragons), center fielder Drew Stubbs ('07 Dragons) and Bruce (right field) were all finalists for the Gold Glove award, though none received the honor.
Former Dragon Johnny Cueto ('06 Dragons) was a contender for the National League Cy Young award for most of the season, but he was not among the three finalists for the award to be announced tonight. Cueto went 19-9 for the Reds in 2012 and finished third in the N.L. in earned run average at 2.78.
Reds manager Dusty Baker finished second in the National League Manager of the Year voting after leading his team to the N.L. Central Division title.
Several former Dragons are scheduled to appear at RedsFest in Cincinnati on December 7-8. From the current Reds big league roster, former Dragons scheduled to appear include Zack Cozart, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Heisey, Devin Mesoraco, Drew Stubbs, Pedro Villarreal, and Joey Votto (Votto on December 7 only). From the Minor Leagues, former Dragons include Tucker Barnhart, Billy Hamilton, Ryan LaMarre, Kyle Lotzkar, El'Hajj Muhammad, Steve Selsky, and Robert Stephenson. The Reds will announce their Minor League Player of the Year (Chief Bender Award) during the weekend as well as their organizational Batter of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.
For the third straight year, the Dragons will have a booth. Former Dragons manager Todd Benzinger, who now serves as a television commentator for the Dragons, will also be part of the event among an impressive list of Reds alumni. Dragons 2012 pitching coach Tom Browning will be there. Former Reds Tommy Helms and Jim O'Toole, who have both served as Dragons TV commentators, will also attend. This is a tremendous event that drew over 23,000 fans in 2011 and is getting better every year.
The Reds announced several player transactions in recent days. 2012 Dragons Dan Jensen, Spencer Dickinson, and James Ewing have been released by the Reds. All three are extremely high-quality individuals and the Dragons wish them the best of luck. Jensen, who became the first Montgomery County native ever to play for the Dragons, was with the club for the entire 2012 season and was always helpful with media requests and community service efforts. All three players represented the Dragons with class this season during their time with the team.
Midwest League notes
The much-discussed blockbuster trade announced Tuesday night between the Marlins and Blue Jays included several players who frequented Fifth Third Field. Among the players going from Toronto to Miami in the deal were former Lansing Lugnuts stars Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, and Anthony DeSclafani. Marisnick was arguably the best outfielder in the Midwest League in 2011 with Lansing. Nicolino and DeSclafani combined to make six starts against the Dragons in 2012, throwing 29 innings vs. the Dayton nine. Nicolino was the starting pitcher for the Lugnuts in the game that evokes the most painful memories to Dragons fans of any in recent memory. He started for Lansing in game two of the 2011 playoffs. That was the game that would have sent the Dragons onto the league semi-finals if they could have pulled out a victory. The Dragons held a 2-1 lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Lansing's Matt Nuzzo belted a shocking game-winning two-run home run to send the series to game three. Lansing edged the Dragons again in the series' deciding game to end the Dragons championship hopes. Nicolino and the other young prospects in the trade might give the Marlins more production than today's strong critics of the deal are anticipating.
As announced several weeks ago, numerous Midwest League teams will have new parent clubs in 2013. All affiliation changes took place in the Western Division as all eight East Division teams re-signed with their existing big league affiliates. In the West, Beloit switched from the Twins to the Athletics; Cedar Rapids switched from the Angels to the Twins; Burlington switched from the Athletics to the Angels; Kane County switched from the Royals to the Cubs; Peoria switched from the Cubs to the Cardinals; and Quad Cities switched from the Cardinals to the Astros.
The Dragons open the 2013 Midwest League season at the West Michigan Whitecaps on April 4. The home opener is set for Thursday, April 11 vs. the Great Lakes Loons at Fifth Third Field. The Dragons will host the Midwest League All-Star Game on June 18. The regular season concludes on September 2.
The Dragons 2013 coaching staff has not yet been announced by the Cincinnati Reds.
All six Reds farm clubs from 2012 are back with the organization in 2013. They include the Dragons as well as the Triple-A Louisville Bats; Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos; Single-A Bakersfield Blaze; and Rookie-level Billings Mustangs and AZL Reds.