Dragons 2018 Preview: Part 3--Second Basemen

(Billings Mustangs)

By Tom Nichols / Dayton Dragons | March 9, 2018 12:15 PM

Minor League spring training camp in Goodyear, Arizona is at full throttle. The Reds minor league player roster includes 160 names. There are another 62 players in Reds big league camp. That is 222 players battling for a total of 123 Opening Day roster positions in Cincinnati and their four full-season affiliates, Dayton, Daytona, Pensacola, and Louisville. 

Spring training games for the Reds minor league clubs will start on March 15. The final spring game in Arizona is scheduled for March 30. The Dragons open the Midwest League season on Thursday, April 5th in Bowling Green, Kentucky against the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Dragons home opener is Saturday, April 7 when they host Bowling Green at Fifth Third Field at 7:00 p.m. Single-game ticket sales for 2018 Dragons games will begin on Wednesday, March 14.

The Second Basemen

This is part three of an eight-part series previewing the 2018 Dragons. Players listed here are candidates for positions on the 25-man Dragons season-opening roster.

This preview is an unofficial projection of possible roster candidates. Minor League rosters are not established until April 2. Spring training variables including performance, injuries, trades, and additional player acquisitions will impact the roster accordingly.

Click links on each name for career stats and player information.

Candidates: Jose Garcia, Alejo Lopez.

Jose Garcia is a premium prospect in the Reds organization, but he is somewhat of a mystery man because relatively few people have ever seen him play. Garcia was signed by the Reds as a high-profile international free agent last summer after he left the Cuban national team. He has never appeared in a professional game in the United States and his exposure to scouts in amateur games outside of Cuba is limited.

You could say that the Reds experience in signing Cuban players might be low on quantity but very high on quality. In the last 10 years, they have signed five high-profile Cuban players. The first one was the biggest hit of the bunch, Aroldis Chapman, who might be the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball history. Chapman, who started two games for the Dragons in 2014 on an injury rehab assignment, was an all-star for four consecutive years with the Reds. The second high-profile Cuban signing has also been a huge success for the Reds in reliever Raisel Iglesias, who has emerged as one of the top closers in the National League. The third and fourth players in this group are still in the Minor Leagues. Starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez and shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez both played at Single-A Daytona in 2017. Jose Garcia is the fifth of the group and is expected to play for the Dragons in 2018 (there have been at least two other Cuban players signed by the Reds in outfielders Felix Perez and Reydel Medina, but their signing bonus numbers would not compare with these five).

Garcia is listed by the Reds as a second baseman, but he could get a chance to play shortstop. The 2018 Dragons roster is also expected to feature shortstop Jeter Downs, a supplemental first round draft pick in 2017, so either Downs or Garcia will play second base if both end up in Dayton on opening day. 

The 2018 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranks Downs as the #11 prospect in the Reds organization with Garcia right behind him at #12. They are listed as the third and fourth best infield prospects in the Reds system, behind Nick Senzel and Shed Long. MLB.com ranks Downs as the #8 prospect in the Reds system with Garcia listed at #13. To underline the earlier comment in this report about Garcia being a mystery man, when you look at the photos of the Reds top 30 prospects at MLB.com, you see 29 players with action shot photos while the photo of Garcia shows him wearing a dress shirt and a Reds cap (see the group here). No game photo of Garcia is available.

According to Baseball America, Garcia was scouted by the Reds for multiple years while he played for the Cuban national team. They credit his "athleticism…energy, and enthusiasm as well as his smooth movements in the field, with the arm, range, and feet to play shortstop." Garcia will be 20 years old this season. He is taller than a typical middle infielder at 6'2".

Alejo Lopez is quality second option at second base. He has a .296 career batting average over three years in the Reds organization and hit .300 as the starting second baseman at Billings last season. Lopez grew up in Mexico, moved to Canada to start high school, and spent has last two years as a prep star in Phoenix, Arizona. Lopez was a student for two years at the baseball school owned by former Dragons pitching coach Derrin Ebert, AZ PROspects, before Lopez was drafted by the Reds in 2015. He had committed to the Arizona State University before signing to play professionally.

Lopez was a star at Greenway High School in Phoenix, earning First Team All-State recognition as a senior in 2015. After being drafted, he was assigned to the Goodyear Reds in the Arizona League and batted .419 in just 12 games. In 2016, he played at Billings and hit .273 with more walks than strikeouts and 11 stolen bases in 57 games. He returned to Billings in 2017 and showed improvement, batting .300 with a .455 slugging percentage in 67 games. He increased his extra base hits total from eight in 2016 to 20 in 2017 with the same club. He again stole 11 bases and again had more walks than strikeouts (he was the third hardest player to strikeout in the Pioneer League). He appeared in 47 games at second base, 17 at third base, and two at shortstop. Lopez certainly looks like a player with the ability to move up to the Midwest League as a starter in Dayton, but if both Downs and Garcia are in the picture here, Lopez may fill a utility role.

Next up: Shortstops

For Dragons 2018 season ticket information, call (937) 228-2287. 

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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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