Today is the start of Minor League camp for the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear, Arizona. Reds Minor League pitchers and catchers reported to Goodyear on February 28 and all remaining position players were due in today. Players will be assigned to workout groups and the first Dayton Dragons spring training game is set for March 14. Rosters will be selected for each of the Reds four full-season affiliates (Louisville, Pensacola, Bakersfield, and Dayton) on March 31 and the Dragons team will arrive at Dayton International Airport on that date. The Dragons first Midwest League game of 2013 is April 4 at West Michigan, with the home opener set for April 11 vs. Great Lakes at Fifth Third Field.
Today we begin an eight-part series previewing the 2013 Dragons roster heading into spring training. Players listed here are candidates for jobs within the Reds organization and specifically, the 25-man Dragons opening night roster.
Dragons Catcher Outlook for 2013
Joe Hudson was the Reds sixth round draft pick in 2012 out of Notre Dame, becoming the highest-drafted Irish catcher since 1965. Hudson signed with the Reds after the draft but suffered a broken wrist in an inter-squad game and did not play in a professional game in 2012. He is expected to make his pro debut with the Dragons in 2013.
Hudson, 21, spent three years at Notre Dame, serving as a back-up as a freshman in 2010 and taking over as the starter in 2011 and '12. His best season was his final year as a junior in 2012 when he led the team in batting average at .332 with six home runs and 39 RBI in 57 games and earned 2nd Team All-Big East Conference honors. He was also a semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the nation's top Division I college catcher. Hudson posted a slugging percentage of .500, an on-base percentage of .432, and became the first catcher to lead Notre Dame in batting average in 15 years.
Hudson was known as an excellent defensive catcher throughout his career at Notre Dame, but he improved his offensive game significantly in 2012. He led Big East catchers in throwing out opposing base stealers in 2012, gunning down 38 percent. As a result, Notre Dame led the conference in fewest opposing stolen bases and fewest opposing stolen base attempts.
Going into the 2013 season, Hudson's credentials make the catcher position look like a position of strength for the Dragons.
Wagner Gomez was the starting catcher at Billings in 2012 and could move up to the Dragons as Hudson's back-up. Gomez, 21, hit .201-3-21 in 48 games at Billings, throwing out 23 percent of opposing base stealers. In 2011, Gomez came to Dayton to help out in the bullpen for the final days of the regular season and the playoffs following the completion of his season with the Arizona League Reds.
Brandon Dailey spent the first half of the 2012 season with the Dragons as an infielder, but the Reds have considered the possibility of converting Dailey to catcher. Dailey, 21, is a native of Brantford, Ontario, Canada. He was a 34th round draft pick in 2010 and opened his professional career in 2011 when he hit well for current Dragons manager Jose Nieves with the Arizona League Reds, batting .298 in 43 games as a second baseman. Dailey served as a back-up at second, short, and third for the Dragons for the first half of 2012, batting .191 in 26 games. He went to Billings when the Pioneer League season began in June and hit .308 for the Mustangs with five home runs and 24 RBI in 46 games, splitting his time between second base and shortstop.
Julio Morillo is another candidate for a back-up role with the Dragons. The 20-year-old native of Venezuela split the 2012 season between Billings and the AZL Reds, batting a combined .152, 6 RBI in 31 games. His reputation indicates he is an advanced defensive player.
Notable: Ryan Hanigan, the Dragons catcher in 2003, led Reds catchers in games started in 2012 and has played in 399 Major League games…Miguel Perez (Dragons 2004) , Craig Tatum (Dragons 2005-'06), Eddy Rodriguez (Dragons 2007) and Devin Mesoraco (Dragons 2008) are other Dayton catchers that have played in the big leagues…Tucker Barnhart won the Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award as the top defensive catcher in the minors in 2011 when he spent the entire year with the Dragons.
Where are Recent Dragons Catchers? Dragons 2010 starting catcher Mark Fleury played at Pensacola in 2012, batting .160 with one home run and 17 runs batted in…Dragons 2011 starting catcher Tucker Barnhart split the 2012 season between Advanced-A Bakersfield (.278-4-22) and Double-A Pensacola (.200-2-12). Barnhart is in big league camp with the Reds as a non-roster player and should be back at Pensacola as the starter in 2013….Dragons 2012 starting catcher Yovan Gonzalez is expected to move up to Bakersfield for 2013.