Year in Review

Cincinnati entered 2013 with some high hopes for Dayton. Even though they did not materialize, there were still some bright spots as some players earned advancement for next season.

At first glance 2013 looked like a long season for Dayton fans as they finished 65-74, but they actually won five more games than they did in the previous year when they finished with the worst record in the Midwest League. Their offense did okay, finishing around the middle of the pack in their league. It was the pitching that brought the record down as the Dragons finished with the highest ERA of all their competition.

Seth Mejias-Brean led the offense with a .305 AVG/.381 OB. His power stroke came around and he cracked double digits in home runs before getting a cup of coffee at Bakersfield at the end of the season. He's hit well since the Reds drafted him in the tenth round one year ago and is a candidate to really have power numbers jump next year in the high-altitude California League venues. His average is even more impressive when considering he was below .200 at the end of April. Competition at the hot corner moved him across the infield to first for most of his action, but while at his original position he fielded better in his first full season and he had a reputation of a good glove while in college, so he's ready to switch back if/when the opportunity arises.

Another infielder, Zach Vincej provided good offense at shortstop, hitting .263 AVG/.333 OB and hit .400 over the month of June. He waited until the 37th round before the Reds selected him in 2011 and will be ready to index up the pipeline again in his third season after earning a spot on the Midwest League all-star team. His DP partner, Sammy Diaz also knew the way to first base, finishing at .279 AVG/.362 OB after spending the first week of the season at Bakersfield. He'll be ready to return for a longer stay in the Cali League next season as this pair of 22 year-olds man the middle for the Blaze.

2011 second-rounder Tanner Rahier was the one that moved Mejias-Brean to first and he hit .222. Starting him off in single A in his second professional season might have been too fast of a track for the 19 year-old and he's a candidate to return at the start of next season. Robert Ramirez got most of the infield backup action and his career might be in limbo after hitting .222 and facing a 50 game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. A crowded outfield pushed Daniel Piggott to first base for most of his action and he continued to hit (.280 AVG/.335 OB/.442 SLG) in limited duty. Notre Dame alum Joe Hudson debuted professionally for the Dragons this year and got most of the action behind the plate while hitting .247/.328 and throwing out 37% of opposing base-stealers.

The Dragons came into the season with big expectations from their outfield and 19 year-old Jesse Winker started out strong after terrorizing Pioneer League pitching in his first professional season. Even though his average cooled down to .281 he still got on base at a .379 clip while leading the team with sixteen homers. Though he's young compared to his competition, he's earned the opportunity to move up another level and continue to try and prove that he can man left field and not be limited to first base defensively.

A couple of UCLA teammates got most of the action in the other two outfield spots. Jeff Gelalich's production wasn't eye-popping (.245 AVG/.331 OB/1 HR), but the Reds still have high hopes for him. Beau Amaral led off most of the season which caused him to lead the team in plate appearances where he reached base safely .313 percent of the time while batting .258. Junior Arias returned to the Dragons and moved to center field where he stayed until a slash line of .284 AVG/ .323 OB/.469 SLG/10 HR punched his ticket to Bakersfield midseason. It didn't take this year's first-round selection Phillip Ervin to make it to Dayton and though he only played in a dozen games, he did hit .349/.451 in them and likely won't hang around much longer before moving to high-A.

Robert Stephenson returned to Dayton to start the season, but he showed that he'd mastered the level and he was promoted after fourteen starts. The 2011 first-rounder didn't debut professional until the following year and now he's a candidate to reach AAA before the end of his third professional season at the age of 22. Of all the starting pitchers who spent their entire season at Dayton Drew Cisco finished with the lowest ERA at 3.86 while leading the team in innings pitched.

Big things were expected from Ismael Guillon after a solid season at Billings in 2012 but he was plagued with command issues all season and was the top contributor to the team's high ERA. A couple of nineteen year-olds, Sal Romano and 2012 first-rounder Nick Travieso might have been overmatched playing in the Midwest League as teenagers, but they both have stuff that project high upsides and Cincinnati still has them figured prominently in future plans even though both of them finished with ERA's closer to five than four. Amir Garret made it up for eight starts over which he was lit up by opposing hitters after keeping a sub-three ernie in the Pioneer League.

Perhaps their proximity to this year's Midwest League All-Star game held at Fifth Third Field helped them, but the Dragons did have multiple representatives in the bullpen. Alejandro Chacin led the way by keeping his ERA under three while tossing 65 innings. He took over closing after southpaw Sean Lucas, who led the team with eleven saves, was promoted to Bakersfield. Wandy Peralta was a frequent recipient of calls to the pen and kept a sub-four ernie over 85 innings. Ben Klimesh kept a low ERA (2.60) before he was promoted midseason. Tony Amezcua threw lot of innings (78) and allowed a lot of runs (5.95 ERA) while Joel Bender stayed under four over 36 appearances.

Though their results on the mound were nothing to write home about, Travieso's and Romano's abilities to light up a radar are and they may continue to face older competition in high-A at the start of next season. Gelalich is a candidate to have offensive numbers jump against higher-level competition in 2014.

It's hard to tell what Dragon fans will see on the field next year. Low-A is a level of high turnover but after trading some top prospects Cincinnati has been effective at re-stocking from the bottom up. Their main feeder, Billings had the worst record in the Pioneer League this year, but they did have the second-lowest team ERA and the franchise is very active at developing foreign talent. Mustang hitters had one of the lowest average ages in their league this season and talent at higher levels may cause more prospects than normal to return to Dayton to start the season which should be a recipe for more wins at Fifth Third Field.

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