This is part three of an eight-part series previewing the 2015 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 5. Spring training variables including performance, injuries, trades, and additional player acquisitions will impact the roster accordingly.
Candidates: Jose Ortiz, Garrett Boulware, Chad Tromp, Shed Long.
The Dragons Opening Day roster will feature two or three catchers. Competition within the Reds farm system at the catcher position should be stronger in 2015 due to the addition of several players over the off-season. The Reds acquired catcher Chad Wallach from the Miami Marlins in the Mat Latos trade and he will likely play at either Double-A Pensacola or Advanced-A Daytona. The Reds also acquired catcher Camden Maron from the Mets in the Minor League Rule V Draft and he is likely headed to Pensacola. They also added veteran Minor League catchers Kyle Skipworth and Ramon Cabrera as free agents. Both are Double-A or Triple-A types. The net impact of adding those four catchers is an overall strengthening of the position throughout the organization.
Super-popular former Reds catcher Corky Miller has joined the Reds as a Minor League catching instructor. He will spend the majority of his time with the Dragons but will also visit other Reds farm clubs.
The Dragons catching situation over the last two seasons has mainly fallen into the capable hands of former Notre Dame star Joe Hudson, a superior defensive catcher and strong leader who excelled at working with the outstanding group of young arms that have come through Dayton. Hudson will move up in 2015, likely to Daytona. He figures to be replaced in Dayton by Jose Ortiz and Garrett Boulware.
Click links on each name for career stats and player information.
Jose Ortiz spent the second half of the 2014 season with the Dragons, serving as Joe Hudson's backup until Hudson was promoted in early August when Ortiz took over as the starter. Ortiz, 20, will be in his fourth season of professional baseball in 2015 after being selected by the Reds in the 17th round of the 2012 draft out of high school in Puerto Rico. Ortiz is still a young player with only 334 professional at-bats. His strength is his ability to connect on the home run ball. In 2013 at Billings, he belted eight homers in just 48 games. Last season with the Dragons, he struggled at the plate in his first crack at a full-season league, but he did show some improvement as the season progressed. In 39 games, he batted .198 with three home runs and 14 runs batted in. His best moments came immediately after replacing Hudson as the starter, when he put together a seven-game hitting streak that included home runs in back-to-back games, three multi-hit games, and a .417 average during the streak. That stretch of games, and Ortiz's success at Billings in 2013, provides optimism that a return to Dayton will include big improvement at the plate in 2015. Defensively, Ortiz threw out 25 percent of opposing base stealers last season.
Garrett Boulware joined the Reds organization in 2014 off the campus of Clemson University. Boulware played at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina, the same school that produced Hall-of-Fame outfielder Jim Rice, the former Red Sox slugger. Boulware played three seasons at Clemson, putting together back-to-back .300+ years in 2013-2014. Clemson went to the NCAA Regionals both of those seasons as Boulware was selected as the team's Most Valuable Player as a sophomore in 2013. He played catcher and left field at Clemson and was a co-captain for the Tigers, earning All-Atlantic Coast Conference 2nd Team honors in 2014 when he batted .302 with four home runs and 35 RBI. He posted more walks (29) than strikeouts.
Boulware was drafted by the Reds in the 16th round last June and assigned to the Billings club in the Pioneer League. Boulware was hitting .294 with two weeks remaining in the Mustangs season, but a late-season 7 for 39 slump dropped his final average to .266 with two home runs and 22 RBI in 44 games. He hit .313 with runners on base. He enjoyed an excellent post-season, batting .429 for Billings as they won the league title. He threw out 21 percent of opposing base stealers on the year. Boulware's defensive skills are developing. He should be a strong Midwest League hitter for the Dragons in 2015.
Chad Tromp served as Jose Ortiz's backup with the Dragons over the final three weeks of the 2014 season after Joe Hudson was promoted. Tromp, a native of Aruba, spent most of the 2014 season with the Goodyear Reds (two levels below the Dragons in the Reds system) and enjoyed a solid offensive season. He batted .323 with a .505 slugging percentage in 25 games, blasting three home runs and driving in 13 runs. Tromp played in just five games with the Dragons, batting .231. Tromp will turn 20 years old later this month. He is slotted behind Ortiz and Boulware in the pecking order heading into spring training, but he could easily see action with the Dragons at some point during the 2015 season.
Shed Long was the backup to Boulware at Billings in 2014. Long, 19, is a native of Oxford, Alabama. He was drafted by the Reds in the 12th round of the 2013 draft and has only 165 at-bats at the professional level. At Billings last summer, Long batted .172 in 29 games after hitting .256 at Goodyear in 2013. Long was a 4A All-State Honorable Mention as a high school senior in 2013 in a very good baseball state. Long will likely return to Billings in 2015 but could see some action in Dayton at some point.
Next up: The first basemen