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Dragons Player in the Majors # 24: Paul Janish

January 7, 2013
Shortstop Paul Janish was a popular member of the Dragons in 2005 and '06 and on May 14, 2008, he became the 24th Dragons player to play in the Major Leagues.

Janish was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the fifth round in 2004 out of Rice University, where he helped the Owls to the College World Series title in 2003. Janish was the Dragons opening day shortstop in 2005 but suffered an elbow injury that season that ended his year after 55 games on June 5. He batted .245 with five home runs and 29 runs batted in.

"He got hurt on a freak play," remembers Marc Katz, who covered the Dragons for the Dayton Daily News. "He was running out a ground ball and the throw was bad...the first baseman had to tag him off the bag and pushed him...he (fell) down and came off the field holding his elbow."

Janish underwent "Tommy John" reconstructive elbow surgery and returned to the Dragons to start the 2006 season, enjoying a sizzling start to the year for a Dayton team that also included Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Logan Ondrusek, Carlos Fisher, and three other future Major Leaguers. On May 10th, 23 games into his season, Janish was batting .404. Less than a week later, he was promoted to Sarasota. His final average with the Dragons in 2006 was .398. He added five home runs and 18 RBI.

Janish's defense at shortstop was spectacular. Prior to both the 2005 and '06 seasons, he was selected by Baseball America as the top defensive infielder in the Reds organization. Who is the best defensive player ever to play for the Dragons? Janish is clearly in the conversation that would also include names like Ray Olmedo, Zack Cozart, Miguel Rojas, Miguel Perez, and Tucker Barnhart among others.

"I don't think there was a play he could not make," says Katz. "He had a gun for an arm, he could go in the hole. He would always do it the textbook way. He always threw to the right base. He was smart in the field. There was no flash to him, he just made every play."

Janish split the 2007 season between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville and then returned to Louisville to start the '08 campaign. On May 13, 2008, Reds shortstop Jeff Keppinger fouled a pitch off his left kneecap, suffering a fracture that landed Keppinger on the disabled list. Janish was called up to take his place.

The big league debut for any player has to be a special moment, but Janish's first Major League action was especially memorable. On May 14 against the Marlins, Janish entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. In the bottom of the 10th, Janish came to the plate with the score tied, two outs, and runners at first and second. He delivered a hit to right field that drove in the winning run (pinch runner Johnny Cueto) and gave the Reds a victory. Janish became the first Reds player to produce a walk-off RBI in his Major League debut in 13 years.

Janish filled a part-time role for the Reds over the next three seasons, garnering regular playing time for most of 2011. His best year as a hitter came in 2010 when he batted .260 with five home runs in 200 at-bats. His defense at shortstop was his trademark.

"Janish would be a contender for the Gold Glove award if he became an everyday player," said Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman on a telecast late in the 2010 season. His .991 fielding percentage in 2009 would have set a club record for shortstops and led the National League had he not fallen short of the minimum number of games played to qualify.

Janish spent the first three months of the 2012 season with Triple-A Louisville. On July 14, the Reds traded Janish to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for pitcher Todd Redmond. He appeared in 55 games for the Braves over the remainder of the season.

Janish has now appeared in 379 Major League games over all or parts of five big league seasons. His career average stands at .216 with seven home runs.

Janish's career fielding percentage at shortstop is an outstanding .983. To put that number in perspective, consider that it ranks higher than many of the players considered to be among baseball's best ever at the position, such as Ozzie Smith (.978), Mark Belanger (.977), Derek Jeter (.976), Luis Aparicio (.972), and Dave Concepcion (.971). In fact, Janish's .983 mark would rank fourth best in baseball history among all players who have played at least 500 games at shortstop. He is still 121 games short of joining that group, and at age 30, time is on his side.

Click Here for Paul Janish's career statistics, photos, and video clips.

Click Here for Paul Janish's Minor League statistics.