This is part five 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: Ty Washington, Ronald Bueno, Avain Rachal, Josciel Veras, Cory Thompson.
Click links on each name for career stats and player information.
Ty Washington has spent the last two seasons as the starting second baseman at Billings after a year with the Goodyear Reds, so he has three full seasons at the Rookie-level in the Reds organization. Washington, 21, was drafted by the Reds in the 43rd round in 2011 out of Plano East High School in Plano, Texas. The draft no longer extends beyond 40 rounds, so to say that Washington was a late round pick would be an understatement. However, Washington was rated much higher than his draft status would indicate, projected by Perfect Game USA to go anywhere from the fourth to the 10th round. His college commitment to the University of Oklahoma caused teams to assume he would not turn professional, but the Reds were able to come to terms with Washington and bring him into the organization. Washington had been rated as the 12th best prospect in the state of Texas as a high school senior, a very lofty honor in a great baseball state. He was selected as a Third Team All-American by Rawlings in 2011. Interestingly, three other players of note were also on that 2011 Third Team All-American list including Nick Howard, the Reds 2014 #1 draft pick, along with catcher Garrett Boulware and third baseman Taylor Sparks, both expected to play for the Dragons in 2015.
Washington hit .288 for Billings last season, helping the Mustangs to the Pioneer League championship. His batting average improved 24 points from the previous year with the same club, and his power numbers improved as well as his slugging percentage jumped from .347 to .424. He also cut down on his strikeouts and increased his stolen base total from 10 to 20. Washington is not a big guy at 5'9", 174 lbs., but he is a productive contact hitter who can run. He primarily served as the Billings lead-off hitter last season.
Ronald Bueno joined the Dragons at the midpoint of the 2014 season and filled a utility role, playing mostly second base, but also seeing time at shortstop and third base. He hit .253 without a home run in 54 games after batting .274 at Billings in 2013. Bueno's best moment with the Dragons came in the last game of the season, when the switch-hitter collected two hits in the same inning, one batting left-handed and the other from the right side. Bueno's versatility in the infield could make him a likely choice for the utility job in 2015 in Dayton. Bueno was originally signed as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2009. He has spent five years in the Reds organization.
Avain Rachal spent most of the 2014 season with the Dragons, batting .193 with a pair of home runs in 74 games. He also stole 13 bases. Rachal was a 22nd round draft pick in 2012 as a high school prospect from Cypress, Texas. Observers commented when Rachal arrived in Dayton partway through the 2014 season that he had been the best hitter on the Reds extended spring training team early last season. The organization still has confidence that he will hit.
Josciel Veras is a 23-year-old infielder who was born in the Dominican Republic but now lives in Tampa, Florida. Veras came out of King High School in Tampa, played at Hillsborough Community College in Florida, and then made his way to Cumberland University in Tennessee. Standing just 5'8", Veras was the only player from his conference drafted in 2014, taken by the Reds in the 30th round. He hit well at Billings after a short stint with the Goodyear Reds, batting .292 with three homers in just 18 games. He plays second, short, third, and center field.
Cory Thompson will likely be an everyday player for the Dragons at either second base or shortstop in 2015. He has played both positions, but shortstop is his natural spot. He will be profiled in detail in the shortstop preview.
Notable: Dragons 2007 all-star second baseman Justin Turner is about to enter his seventh big league season, coming off a sensational year with the Dodgers in 2014. Turner hit .340 for Los Angeles in 109 games, playing mostly third base. He has also played for the Orioles and Mets. Turner was dealt to Baltimore in the trade that brought catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Reds…The smallest player in Dragons history, 2011 star second baseman Ronald Torreyes, was added to the Houston Astros 40-man roster over the winter and has appeared in six spring games for the Astros this year. At just 140 lbs., Torreyes hit .356 for the 2011 Dragons playoff team, batting behind Billy Hamilton in the order. His arrival keyed the club's second half record of 48-22, the best in franchise history. Torreyes was traded to the Cubs in the deal that brought Sean Marshall to Cincinnati and then later dealt by Chicago to Houston.
Next up: The Shortstops