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Dragons 2024 Team Preview, Part 6: Outfielders

Hector Rodriguez Leads Strong Group
Hector Rodriguez at Day Air Ballpark in 2023
March 21, 2024

The Dayton Dragons will open their 24th season in the Midwest League at Day Air Ballpark on Friday, April 5th against the Lansing Lugnuts at 7:05 p.m. The opening night contest against Lansing is the first of 66 home games for the Dragons in 2024, and the start to a

The Dayton Dragons will open their 24th season in the Midwest League at Day Air Ballpark on Friday, April 5th against the Lansing Lugnuts at 7:05 p.m. The opening night contest against Lansing is the first of 66 home games for the Dragons in 2024, and the start to a 132-game season. Over the month of March, we will provide an eight-part positional preview of the candidates for the Dragons 2024 roster. For information on Dragons season tickets, group tickets, or single-game tickets, go to or call (937) 228-2287.

Spring training is currently underway in Goodyear, Arizona. There are approximately 165 minor league players in competition for roster spots within the Cincinnati Reds organization. Each Reds minor league team will play a spring schedule through March 31. The Dragons will arrive in Dayton on April 2.

There were a few notes in camp this week involving recent Dragons players. Most unfortunately, it was announced that 2023 Dragons shortstop Edwin Arroyo will miss the entire 2024 season due to a shoulder injury. Arroyo would have played at Double-A Chattanooga this season. Meanwhile, the Reds traded minor league starting pitcher Chris McElvain to the Blue Jays. McElvain spent most of 2023 with the Dragons and would have likely returned to Dayton to start 2024. The trade might have been prompted by injuries at the big league level. The Reds received major league utility infielder Santiago Espinal in exchange for McElvain in the trade.

This is part six of an eight-part series previewing the 2024 Dragons. Players listed here are candidates for positions on the 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.

The Outfielders

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

Candidates: Hector Rodriguez, Jay Allen II, Austin Hendrick, Ethan O’Donnell.

Hector Rodriguez is a highly-regarded prospect in the Reds organization who spent the final three weeks of the 2023 season with the Dragons. Rodriguez is currently ranked as the #13 prospect in the Reds system by (MLB Pipeline). Baseball America ranks Rodriguez as the Reds #20 prospect. Rodriguez and former Dragon Blake Dunn are generally considered by most rating services as the top two outfield prospects in the Reds organization.

Rodriguez was originally signed by the New York Mets as an international free agent. In his first season in the minor leagues (2021), he was an infielder, playing second base and third base for the Mets Dominican Summer League club. In 2022, he moved to center field for the Mets affiliate in the Florida Complex League, and at the trade deadline that season, he was acquired by the Reds. The deal sent Reds major league outfielder Tyler Naquin to the Mets in exchange for Rodriguez and minor league pitching prospect Jose Acuna, who would eventually spend the entire 2023 season with the Dragons. The trade looks like a steal for the Reds as Naquin lasted just a short time with the Mets before becoming a free agent, and both Rodriguez and Acuna look like future big leaguers for the Reds.

Over his first two professional seasons in 2021-22, Rodriguez combined to hit for a high average at .320, but he connected on only six home runs. In 2023, he showed a big increase in home run power while the batting average stayed high. Rodriguez began the year at Single-A Daytona and played in 101 games, batting .293 with 16 homers and 18 stolen bases. He played in another 14 games with the Dragons and batted .294. Rodriguez finished the year with 51 extra base hits in 115 games, an excellent number. Then after the season, Rodriguez played for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League and really impressed, earning the league’s Rookie of the Year award while batting .309 as the youngest everyday player in the circuit.

MLB Pipeline describes Rodriguez like this: “Wherever he’s been, Rodriguez’s feel for hitting and contact skills from the left side of the plate have stood out. Even after his strikeouts ticked up a bit in 2023, he’s still only whiffed in 15.7 percent of his plate appearances heading into 2024. He can line balls to all fields, doing so even more consistently in winter ball. His overall impact improved last year as his ability to find the barrel started to translate into more power, lifting the ball more and decreasing his ground-ball rate. The next step for his offensive development will be to limit his aggressiveness with better strike zone awareness and swing decisions.”

Rodriguez should hit near the top of the Dayton batting order and has a chance to be one of the Midwest League’s top hitters. He projects as the Dragons opening night left fielder.

Jay Allen II hopes to bounce back from an injury-shortened 2023 season that he would likely just as soon forget. He entered the 2023 season as a rising prospect in the Reds system, ranked #14 by Baseball America in an extremely deep class. But when the Dragons opened the 2023 season on the road at Lake County in April, Allen suffered a thumb injury in the third game of the year and was out of action before he had even played a single home game at Day Air Ballpark. He did not return for two and one-half months, and when he did get back on the field, he struggled due to the long period of inactivity. He played in just 25 games with the Dragons and hit only .154 before suffering another injury on August 4 that ended his season.

Allen II was a three-sport star at John Carroll Catholic High School in Fort Pierce, Florida. He was a football quarterback who threw for 29 touchdowns as a senior in 2020. As a guard in basketball, he became the school’s first 1,000 point scorer. He was rated as the #20 high school prospect nationally in the 2021 class by Perfect Game (and #5 outfielder). The Reds drafted Allen in 2021 with a compensatory pick received after losing free agent Trevor Bauer, the 30th overall selection in the draft. Allen II opened the 2022 season at Daytona and immediately became known as an unstoppable base stealer. He wound up finishing fifth in the Florida State League in stolen bases with 31 despite the fact that he played in only 73 games in the league, a little more than half a season of action. He hit .224 with three home runs. He spent the last few weeks of the 2022 season with the Dragons and continued to steal bases at a high rate. Allen broke the Dragons club record for most stolen bases in a game with five on August 27 at Quad Cities. While he batted just .230 in 18 games with the Dragons, the team went 16-6 after he joined the club, in large part due to the high-energy style of play that Allen brought to the team as a sparkplug. He played exceptional defense in center field.

The 2024 season is an important year for Allen as he hopes to get back on track to realize the potential that made him one of the top prospects in the 2021 draft.

Austin Hendrick is another player hoping to rebound with a big season in 2024. Hendrick has played in 198 games for the Dragons and ranks tied for second on the all-time Dragons career home run list with 28, just two short of the all-time team leader, Chris Williamson, who hit 30 home runs over three seasons from 2000-02. Hendrick could start the 2024 season in Double-A with Chattanooga or might return to the Dragons with hopes of improving on his 2023 season in Dayton.

Hendrick was the Reds #1 draft pick (12th overall) in 2020 out of West Allegheny High School in Imperial, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh. He was selected to play in numerous national all-star events during high school, and after Rece Hinds (2022 Dragons) won the 2018 Under Armour All-America Home Run Derby, Hendrick won it in 2019. Hendrick finished fourth in the Junior Home Run Derby at the 2019 MLB All-Star Game hosted by the Cleveland Guardians, and he played in 2019 for the Team USA Under-18 national team at the World Cup in South Korea. Hendrick was rated by Perfect Game as the #3 high school prospect in America in 2020 and planned to attend Mississippi State before signing with the Reds.

As Hendrick entered professional baseball, he was victimized by some tough luck. His 2020 season was completely wiped out due to the pandemic, and his 2021 season with Single-A Daytona was shortened due to injury. He returned to Daytona to start the 2022 season and played in 36 games there before a promotion to the Dragons on May 24. He played in 73 games for the Dragons, batting .222 with 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Overall for the year, his home run total of 21 between Dayton and Daytona ranked tied for fourth in the Reds organization. He spent the entire 2023 season with the Dragons and played in 125 games, batting .204 with 14 home runs and 19 stolen bases.

Hendrick is no longer ranked among the Reds top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline or Baseball America, but he still has vocal supporters within the Reds player development staff who feel he can return to prominence as a prospect. Few players in professional baseball can match Hendrick’s bat speed, and he is a good athlete in the outfield and on the bases. Hendrick projects as the Dragons opening night starting right fielder if he returns to Dayton.

Ethan O’Donnell is one of the most interesting prospects in the Reds organization and could start the 2024 season with the Dragons or in Daytona, depending on the availability of playing time here in Ohio. Assuming everyone is healthy, Hector Rodriguez and Jay Allen II look like sure bets to be with the Dragons, while Carlos Jorge (primarily a second baseman) with play the outfield at least a couple of days per week, and Austin Hendrick could begin the year in Dayton or Chattanooga. Hendrick’s roster assignment could dictate whether O’Donnell begins the year in Dayton or Daytona.

O’Donnell opened his college career in 2021 at Northwestern in the Big Ten and played two years with the Wildcats, batting .320 with 10 home runs in 2022 as a sophomore. He transferred to the University of Virginia for his junior season in 2023 and played well against an increased level of competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 65 games, O’Donnell hit a solid .354 with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases. He showed a good approach at the plate by producing a .448 on-base percentage to go along with a slugging percentage of .587 for an OPS of 1.034. He earned First Team All-ACC honors and was named to the Rawlings Gold Glove team. He started 64 games in center field and one as a designated hitter.

The Reds drafted O’Donnell in the sixth round and he played exceptionally well at the minor league level in his first partial season. He joined the Daytona team on August 6 and after a 3 for 22 start, he absolutely caught fire. Over his remaining 16 games with Daytona, O’Donnell batted .431 (25 for 58) with four home runs in 58 at-bats. He finished his season with Daytona with a batting average of .350 in 23 games and an OPS of 1.047. O’Donnell was named Reds Minor League Player of the Month for September.

It is not easy for a sixth round draft pick with less than 30 games of professional experience to earn a spot on his organization’s top-30 prospect list, but O’Donnell looked so good in 2023 that MLB Pipeline slotted him in at #23. They had the following to say about O’Donnell:

“He’s looking like an early draft bargain after posting a 1.047 OPS across 23 games in the Florida State League. A left-handed hitter, O’Donnell has carried his habit of making consistent hard contact with him to the pro game. While he uses a bit of a toe-tap at the plate for timing, he repeats his quick swing well, and while some weren’t sure how it would translate to this level, he went out and, at least in Single-A ball, showed it works just fine. He has a solid approach and limits strikeouts while driving the ball to all fields. He gets to his sneaky power without selling out for it, with his over-the-fence pop typically coming to his pull side. O’Donnell’s above-average speed is an asset on both sides of the ball, where he can steal a base offensively and has a real chance to stick in center field for a long time.”

If O’Donnell does not begin the year with the Dragons, he would be an almost certain addition at some point during the season.

Next up: Starting Pitchers