Dayton, Ohio-Dayton Dragons 2016 second baseman Shed Long has been selected as Cincinnati Reds Minor League Hitter of the Year. He was among three former Dragons honored as Reds Minor League award winners, as announced Friday at RedsFest.
The Reds named outfielder Aristides Aquino as the winner of the Sheldon "Chief" Bender Minor League Player of the Year award. Aquino, who spent the 2015 season with the Dragons, played at Advanced-A Daytona in 2016 and won the Florida State League Most Valuable Player Award.
Former Dragons pitcher Amir Garrett was named Reds 2016 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Garrett, who made 35 starts on the mound for the Dragons in 2013-'14, split the 2016 season between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville.
Shed Long played in 42 games for the Dragons in 2015, then returned to Dayton as the team's top hitter over the first three months of the 2016 season. He played in 94 games for the Dragons in 2016, batting .281 with 11 home runs and 45 runs batted in. He was promoted to Daytona on July 26 and hit even better there, batting .322 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 38 games. Overall in 2016 between Dayton and Daytona, Long played in 132 games, batting .293 with 15 home runs and 75 RBI.
Aquino led the Reds farm system in both home runs (23) and RBI (79) while batting .273 at Daytona. His .846 OPS also led all full-season players in the Reds system, edging Long's mark of .842. Past winners of the Chief Bender Award over the 17-year history of the honor have included Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn, Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco, Chris Heisey, and Billy Hamilton among others. Hamilton is the only player to win the award multiple times (2011-'12).
Garrett, a left-handed pitcher, is a back-to-back winner of the Reds Minor League Pitcher of the Year honor after earning the same award in 2015. Garrett's 2.55 earned run average led all Reds full-season starting pitchers by 71 points. He went 5-3 with a 1.75 ERA at Pensacola before up to Louisville for the second half of the season. Overall, opposing batters hit just .192 against Garrett in 2016.
Numerous other former Dragons enjoyed outstanding seasons in 2016 at various locations in the Reds farm system. Big years were turned in by outfielders Jesse Winker (Louisville) and Sebastian Elizalde (Pensacola) along with pitchers Alejandro Chacin (Pensacola), Tyler Mahle (Daytona/Pensacola), Tejay Antone (Daytona) and Sal Romano (Pensacola). Additionally, 2016 Dragons James Vasquez, a first baseman; Jose Lopez, a starting pitcher; and Sarkis Ohanian, a relief pitcher; ranked among the Reds organizational leaders in major categories. Third baseman Nick Senzel enjoyed a huge half-season, joining the Reds organization after the June draft.
The Reds Minor League Player of the Year award is named after Sheldon "Chief" Bender, who worked in professional baseball for 64 years, 39 of those with the Reds. Bender oversaw the Reds farm system from 1967-'88, producing stars such as Ken Griffey Sr., Dave Concepcion, Ron Oester, Mario Soto, Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, Paul O'Neill, and countless others. Bender passed away in 2008 at the age of 88.
Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award winners:
2000 Austin Kearns
2001 Adam Dunn
2002 Brandon Larson
2003 Stephen Smitherman
2004 Richie Gardner
2005 Chris Denorfia
2006 Homer Bailey
2007 Jay Bruce
2008 Chris Valaika
2009 Chris Heisey
2010 Devin Mesoraco
2011 Billy Hamilton
2012 Billy Hamilton
2013 Seth Mejias-Brean
2014 Ben Lively
2015 Tyler Mahle
2016 Aristides Aquino