This preview is an unofficial projection of possible roster candidates. Minor League rosters are not established until April 3. Spring training variables including performance, injuries, trades, and additional player acquisitions will impact the roster accordingly.
The first appearance in Dayton for the new 2019 Dragons team will come on Saturday, March 30 with the Dragons 20th Season Celebration Game (see more below). The Dragons will open the Midwest League season on Thursday, April 4th against the Bowling Green Hot Rods at 7:00 p.m.
Click on these links to view previews of Dragons catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops and third basemen.
Candidates: Mariel Bautista, Miles Gordon, Drew Mount, Reshard Munroe, Mike Siani, Bren Spillane.
Click links on each name for career stats and player information.
In recent years, the group of Dragons outfielders has been the strength of the team, with athletic, productive players like Jose Siri, Taylor Trammell, TJ Friedl, and Stuart Fairchild. The 2019 outfield again looks like the strength of the team with an interesting mix of players possessing exceptional playing histories at the college, high school, or minor league level.
In terms of pure past production, Bren Spillane brings perhaps the most impressive resumé of any Dragons player in recent memory. In 2018, he produced one of the best seasons in the history of the Big Ten Conference, was named national "Player of the Year" by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, and was officially honored as the Big Ten Player of the Year. He was the first Big Ten player to be selected as national player of the year in the 35-year history of Collegiate Baseball Magazine.
Spillane played at the University of Illinois, where he led the nation in 2018 in slugging percentage (.903), OPS (1.401), and home runs per game (0.46). He won the Big Ten Triple Crown, leading the conference in batting average (.389), home runs (23), and runs batted in (60). His .903 slugging percentage was second best in conference history and the best mark since 1987. During the 2018 season, he became the first player in Big Ten history to win three straight conference Player of the Week awards. He was also named to the Big Ten All-Academic team in both 2017 and 2018.
The Reds drafted Spillane in the third round in June, making him the highest-drafted player ever at the University of Illinois. He was assigned to Billings, where he played mostly right field for the Mustangs, but also saw extended action at first base. Spillane had a good first half with Billings but may have worn down some in the second half, a common occurrence for players who combine their first professional season with a full college season, giving them a double-year that begins in February and ends in September. In the first half, Spillane posted a strong slugging percentage of .525 with an outstanding .942 OPS. He batted .263 with five home runs in 27 games and also drew 20 walks. His second half batting average dropped to .206 without a home run. His final numbers included a batting average of .236 with a .439 slugging percentage.
Spillane is ranked as the #18 prospect in the Reds organization by Fangraphs. MLB.com ranks him #26, while he comes in at #30 with Baseball America. It will be interesting to see what Spillane can do with a more standard baseball calendar in 2019 with the Dragons. With a big year, he will climb much higher on those lists.
Center fielder Mike Siani is the highest-rated prospect of any player who potentially could come to Dayton in 2019. Most publications slot him into the prospect list right after the six-man group that makes up the highest tier for the Reds (Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, Taylor Trammell, Jonathan India, Tony Santillan, and Tyler Stephenson). MLB.com has Siani at #7. Baseball America has him ranked #8 and Fangraphs puts Siani at #9.
Siani is the least experienced player in our 2019 eight-part preview, but he might be the most talented. One year ago, he was beginning his senior season on the high school fields around Philadelphia with William Penn Charter School. In the fall of 2017, he led the USA Baseball 18 & Under national team to a perfect 9-0 record in World Cup play, and was selected to the all-tournament team. He was also clocked at over 90 mph off the mound as a pitcher.
Entering the 2018 draft, he was projected as a late-first to mid-second round pick. When the second round ended without Siani being selected, it appeared that he would head to the University of Virginia, where he had already committed. But the Reds selected Siani in the fourth round and began negotiating a deal. While we do not like to get into the topic of signing bonuses in our previews or on our broadcasts, it has been widely reported that the Reds gave Siani the second largest signing bonus of any of their 2018 draft picks, a bonus that normally would go to a player drafted right where Siani was expected to go, in the late part of the first round or early second. The Reds were able to get him signed and into their organization.
Siani was just 18 years old when he began his first professional season with the Reds new affiliate in Greeneville, Tennessee. Considered an exceptional defensive center fielder who is still developing as a hitter, Siani faced older competition in the Appalachian League, where the average pitcher in 2018 was 20.7 years old. Perhaps surprisingly, Siani spent almost the entire season above the .300 mark. He was still at .304 going into the last three games when he went 1 for 13 to close out the year and finish at .288. He hit two home runs in 46 games.
MLB.com had this to say about Siani: An athletic kid who draws some comparisons to Grady Sizemore, Siani has drawn raves for having great instincts in the outfield, especially for a first-year professional who hails from a northern state…His speed should also make him a threat on the base paths…He could hit for average and have enough power to be interesting as a center fielder…Siani gets very high marks for his makeup and work ethic, which should help him maximize his tools.
Because he is still only 19, Siani is not a guarantee to make the Dragons opening day roster, but he has a realistic chance with a good spring training to begin the 2019 season in center field at Fifth Third Field.
Drew Mount played college baseball at Kansas State University and had a big first season in professional baseball in 2018. He was drafted by the Reds in the 16th round in 2018 after a good spring at KSU, where he batted .292 with nine home runs in 54 games with a slugging percentage of 538. He led the Big 12 Conference in triples. Mount played one season of college football at San Jose State before deciding to focus on baseball.
After signing with the Reds, Mount was assigned to Billings and hit just .218 in the first half in his first pro season. But he really picked up the pace in the second half as he became one of the Pioneer League's most dangerous hitters. In 34 games in the second half, Mount hit .386 with a .576 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.021. He hit .413 in August to win the Reds Minor League Hitter of the Month award. He finished the season at .310 with eight home runs and a team-leading 58 RBI in 65 games. He played all three outfield spots.
The other big bat on the Billings team was left fielder Mariel Bautista, who finished the year hitting .330 with eight home runs in 56 games, posting a slugging percentage of .541. Next to Siani, Bautista is the highest-rated prospect among the outfielders, partly because he was able to enjoy big success in 2018 at the young age of 20 in a league with many older pitchers. Baseball America ranks Bautista as the Reds #16 prospect. Among outfielders, he trails only Trammell, Siani, Siri, Fairchild, and Friedl. MLB.com ranks Bautista as the Reds #19 prospect, and Fangraphs lists him #22. Bautista was the only Billings position player selected to the league's full-season all-star team.
The other two outfield candidates would be returnees from the 2018 Dragons. Speedy Miles Gordon suffered a foot injury that ended his 2018 season on June 9, a week before the end of the first half. Gordon was coming off a big 2017 season with Billings but had struggled in his Midwest League debut with the Dragons. He batted .211 with a pair of home runs. He did collect six triples with 17 stolen bases. Gordon showed promise with Billings in '17, batting .319 with eight homers in 61 games.
Reshard Munroe was often cited by Dragons coaches in 2018 as a player with the potential to become a star. The native of the Bahamas began the season with Billings and hit well for the Mustangs in one month of action, batting .313 with three home runs. The promotion to Dayton did not go as Munroe hoped as he hit just .192 in 32 games, matching his home run total from Billings. Dragons manager Luis Bolivar and 2018 hitting coach Daryle Ward loved Munroe's smooth swing (Bolivar compared it to Ken Griffey Jr.) and Munroe's patient, disciplined approach at the plate, but a 4 for 33 slump wrecked his final numbers. He would be a strong candidate for a big jump in production in 2019.
Several other players could also be in competition for a spot as a back-up outfielder with the Dragons. They include Brian Rey, a 13th round draft pick in 2018 out of Miami Dade College; Brandt Stallings, a 2018 28th round draft pick out of Georgia College; Michael Spooner, who spent the final weekend of the 2018 season with the Dragons after signing as a non-drafted free agent out of Stetson University, and Reniel Ozuna, who played at Greeneville in 2018 and batted .252 with a pair of home runs.
The Dragons will host their "20th Season Celebration Game" on March 30 at 2:00 p.m. at Fifth Third Field. The game will match the 2019 Dragons ("Team 20") against a team of Dragons alumni who are still playing in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system. Individual game tickets for the Dragons 20th Season Celebration Game, and all Dragons 2019 home games, are available now. Go to daytondragons.com/celebrationgame for tickets to the Celebration Game. For tickets to the Dragons regular season games, you can go to the Ticketing Tab at www.daytondragons.com, or Ticketmaster.com. You can also order by phone at (937) 228-2287. Additional information on the Dragons 20th Season celebration including videos on the 20 Greatest Dragons, special 20th Season merchandise, and Dragons alumni listings is available here: https://www.milb.com/dayton/team/20.
Again this season, all 140 home and road games can be heard on radio on WONE 980 AM and on the internet at wone.com and the Dragons Mobile App. Games can also be heard on HD Radio on 104.7 WTUI HD 2. The Dragons will again televise all Saturday and Sunday home games, plus a few Friday night games, on the Dayton CW.
There is a complete listing of all Minor League players in camp with the Reds here at RedsMinorLeagues.com: https://redsminorleagues.com/2019/02/14/cincinnati-reds-minor-league-spring-training-roster-for-2019/
The complete Minor League game schedule in Arizona is here: https://redsminorleagues.com/2019/02/15/cincinnati-reds-minor-league-spring-training-schedule-2/
Next up: Starting pitchers
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.