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Dragons 2013 Preview: First Basemen

March 8, 2013

First Basemen

Dragons First Base Outlook for 2013

Carlos Sanchez was the starting first baseman with the Reds Rookie-level affiliate in the Pioneer League last season, the Billings Mustangs.  He is expected to stake claim to the same job with the Dragons in 2013. 

Sanchez will celebrate his 22nd birthday on April 4 when the Dragons open the Midwest League season at West Michigan.  A left-handed hitter, Sanchez has always been known as an outstanding defensive first baseman since he joined the Reds organization in 2009.  He had a big year in 2010 with the Reds Dominican Summer League affiliate, batting .348 to rank third in the league.  In 2011, he came to the U.S. for the first time and played for current Dragons manager Jose Nieves with the Arizona League Reds, batting .263 with three home runs and 28 runs batted in. 

Then in 2012 at Billings, Sanchez showed greatly-improved power numbers.  In 61 games, roughly equating to a half-season of Midwest League action, he hit .308 with 15 doubles, 12 triples, eight home runs, and 55 RBI.  He led the league in triples, finished third in slugging percentage, and eighth in RBI.  The fact that Sanchez paced the circuit in three-base hits has drawn considerable attention since he is not a fast runner (he stole two bases in 2012).  His 35 extra base hits in 61 games, coupled with excellent defensive skills, make Sanchez look like an all-star candidate for the Dragons.

Robert Maddox is a player who has looked like a potential Dragons prospect for several seasons but has always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to cracking the Dragons roster.  He was drafted by the Reds in the 18th round out of Ohio University in 2010.  Since then, Maddox has had 738 career at-bats and belted 36 home runs, all in Rookie-ball.  He has always ranked at or near the top of his league in homers.  Last summer, Maddox briefly joined the Dragons for three games when first baseman Sean Buckley went on the disabled list, but Maddox returned to Billings and spent his second straight year there.  Late in the 2012 season, Maddox set the Billings career home run record when he hit his 29th over two seasons with the Mustangs.  He finished the 2012 season batting .251 with 13 homers and 37 RBI in 53 games, serving as a designated hitter and back-up first baseman.  Maddox enters his fourth season of professional baseball and is now 24 years old.  He could finally break camp with the Dragons but is also a candidate to go to Bakersfield if he is a better fit for their roster. 

Notable:  Joey Votto, the Dragons starting first baseman in 2003 and 2004, may have been the most accomplished player ever to play in a Midwest League game last August when he returned to the team on a rehabilitation assignment.  How many Midwest League players have stepped on the field in the same season in which they started in a Major League All-Star Game, already having won a Major League Most Valuable Player Award?

Where are Recent Dragons First Basemen?  Dragons 2010 first basemen Chris Richburg and Tommy Nurre were both out of baseball in 2012… Dragons 2011 starting first baseman Dominic D'Anna represented the Dragons that season in the Midwest League All-Star Game but suffered a wrist injury that carried over to 2012 and delayed the start of his season.  Once active, he played at Advanced-A Bakersfield (.277-7-45 in 84 games).  He could return to Bakersfield or make the jump to Double-A Pensacola in 2013…Donald Lutz also saw considerable time at first base with the Dragons in 2011 and by season's end, was the team's best hitter.  Lutz opened 2012 at Bakersfield and went on a home run streak, blasting 17 in just 63 games while batting .265 with 51 RBI.  He was promoted to Double-A Pensacola and hit .242-5-15 in 40 games.  With Joey Votto stationed at first base in Cincinnati, the Reds have moved Lutz to left field on a full-time basis and he will likely start with Pensacola in 2013.  He is on the Reds 40-man roster and has gotten plenty of playing time this spring with Cincinnati, currently batting .353 with a homer in nine games….Dragons 2012 starting first baseman Sean Buckley is expected to move up to Bakersfield for 2013 and may see some time in the outfield.