This is the second of a nine-part series previewing the 2020 Dayton Dragons.
We will look at the candidates at each position who are competing for spots on the Dragons 25-man roster. The Dragons will open the Midwest League season on Thursday, April 9th against the Great Lakes Loons at 7:00 p.m. at Day Air Ballpark.
This preview includes players who are expected to be candidates for positions on the 25-man roster of the Dayton Dragons and is an unofficial projection. Minor League rosters are not established until April 5. Spring training variables including performance, injuries, trades, and additional player acquisitions will impact the roster accordingly.
The First Basemen
Candidates: Bren Spillane, Leonardo Seminati, Garrett Wolforth
Player, Age, B/T, Ht., Wt.
Bren Spillane, 23, R/R, 6’4”, 223
Leonardo Seminati, 21, R/R, 6’2”, 210
Garrett Wolforth, 22, S/R, 6’4”, 220
Bren Spillane spent part of the 2019 season with the Dragons and showed flashes of the skills that made him the 2018 Big Ten Player of the Year (and Triple Crown winner) at the University of Illinois. Unfortunately, Spillane also dealt with a rough start and a later injury that ended his season just when he was starting to play his best baseball of the year. It is possible that Spillane will return to the Dragons in 2020, at least to start the year.
In 2018 at Illinois, Spillane produced one of the best seasons in the history of the Big Ten Conference and was named national “Player of the Year” by _Collegiate Baseball Newspaper_, becoming the first Big Ten player to be selected to that honor in the 35-year history of the publication. Spillane led the nation in 2018 in slugging percentage (.903), OPS (1.401), and home runs per game (0.46). His slugging percentage was second best in Big Ten history and the best mark since 1987. The Reds drafted Spillane in the third round in 2018 and he spent that summer at Billings, batting .236 with five home runs in 48 games and a .439 slugging percentage.
Spillane opened the 2019 season with the Dragons but struggled to make contact. After 36 games, Spillane was batting just .150 and was transferred back to the Reds extended spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona on May 16 for some individual work. He returned to the Dragons three weeks later. On June 26, Spillane’s season turned completely around. Over the next 15 games, he batted .385, going 20 for 52. He also cut way back on his strikeout troubles that had hounded him up to that point. Spillane had struck out 88 times in 161 at-bats through his first 47 games, but over the 15-game stretch starting June 26, he cut the strikeouts to 16 in 52 at-bats. Most unfortunately, on July 17, he suffered a sprained left wrist that brought his season to an end. He finished the year with a batting average of .207 with five home runs in 62 games. If Spillane returns to the Dragons in 2020, there is obviously potential for dramatic improvement from 2019.
Leonardo Seminati is a native of Italy who has shown steady improvement since signing with the Reds as an international free agent in July of 2017. To date, the only Italian player who has ever played for the Dragons was Luca Panerati in 2011. Panerati was a relief pitcher who appeared in 17 games for the Dayton playoff team that season that also featured Billy Hamilton and Tucker Barnhart. Panerati gained attention in 2013 when he started a game for the Italian national team against Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and tossed three scoreless innings. Seminati would like to become the second Italian to play for the Dragons.
Seminati opened his professional career in 2018, splitting the season between Billings and the Arizona League Reds and batting a combined .252 with four home runs in 42 games. He spent the entire 2019 season with Billings, serving as their starting first baseman for most of the season. He batted .270 with a team-leading nine home runs in 58 games. He had a streaky year, batting .391 in June, .152 in July, .342 in August, and .105 in September. Seminati also had a home run in the third and deciding game of Billings’ first round playoff series, a game the Mustangs lost to end their season. Seminati started 43 games at first base for Billings, another eight games at third base, and six games in left field.
Garrett Wolforth was drafted by the Reds in 2019 out of NCAA Division II Nova Southeastern University, a Florida school that was a top-20 D2 program last spring. He played just one season there after spending the previous three years at Dallas Baptist University, a very strong D1 program that has been the top team in the Missouri Valley Conference in recent years. Wolforth was a catcher in college, but he did not see an inning behind the plate in the Reds system last summer. He primarily played first base with limited time in all three outfield spots and third base.
Wolforth enjoyed his best year at Dallas Baptist in 2017, his sophomore season, when he earned 1st Team All-Conference honors. He batted .289 with seven home runs in 57 games as his team won the MVC tournament and went to the NCAA Regional. His production dropped in 2018 when he batted .242 with five home runs in his third and final year at DBU. He transferred to Nova Southeastern for the 2019 season and hit .307, ranking second in the conference in home runs with 12. He posted a .585 slugging percentage in 51 games. He was named the top defensive catcher in all of D2 college baseball.
After signing with the Reds, Wolforth was assigned to Greeneville, where he played in 53 games and batted .242 with five home runs. At the end of August, the Reds moved Wolforth to the playoff-bound Billings club, where he appeared in another six games and hit .238 with one home run.
Wolforth is from the Houston, Texas suburb of Spring and played for a powerhouse high school program at Concordia Lutheran, earning 1st Team All-State honors in one of the top baseball states in the country. His pre-college background is filled with appearances in major showcase events and personal honors, including 2nd Team All-American honors from Perfect Game in 2015. Both of Wolforth’s parents were college athletes (his mother was an All-American softball player at Nebraska), and he has been strongly credited by his coaches for his advanced understanding of the game and overall baseball intelligence. His high school coach, Rick Lynch, with over 500 career victories to his credit, called Wolforth “the most prepared player” he had ever coached in an article at PerfectGame.org.
Again this season, all 140 Dragons 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. The Dragons will again televise 25 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/2020/02/17/cincinnati-reds-minor-league-spring-training-roster-2020/ This list does not include players in Major League camp with the Reds, many of whom will eventually be assigned to Minor League affiliate rosters.
Next Up: Second Basemen