Dayton Reaches .500

Tyler Mahle is an interesting prospect in the Cincinnati system. He’s in his third season after signing out of high school and one doesn’t have to look hard to identify areas where he needs improvement. What makes him interesting is his success against older competition while he’s working on his game.

Dayton improved their record to 9-9 on the young season by completing a series sweep over visiting West Michigan Sunday with a 3-2 win. The Dragons fell behind early when the White Caps had three runners reach in the top of the first inning with one crossing the plate. The visitors added a run in the fourth when they stroked three more hits, but the inning ended with a 2-0 score when right fielder Narciso Crook gunned down a runner at the plate.

The Dragon offense got on the board in the bottom of that frame when Jimmy Pickens led off with a double and scored later a groundout. They took the lead in the seventh when Wendell Soto doubled in a run and scored on a hit by Avain Rachal. Rachal and Luis Gonzalez each had two of the home team’s eight hits while Soto reached twice with a hit and a walk.

Tyler Mahle took the bump and held West Michigan to two runs on seven hits over the first seven innings while striking out eight without a walk for his second win of the season. Scott Brattvelt and Brian Hunter ended the game by tossing a scoreless frame each with Hunter getting the save.

Mahle’s ERA is now down to 2.78 after four starts this season. He’s had nice command, striking out sixteen against only three walks in 22 innings. This is a follow-up from a strong season at Billings last year where he kept his ernie under four, the second lowest among qualifiers in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League. He turned in an impressive K/BB ratio there too of 4.7 while fanning over eight hitters per nine innings pitched. Before that he had a 2.34 ERA in the Arizona League in 2013 while making a dozen appearances, mostly in relief.

Mahle came into the organization out of Westminster (CA) High School from the Reds’ seventh round pick in the 2013 draft. Now the right-hander is pitching in his first full season and making a name for himself in the Midwest League. When he signed $89k above the slot value with a $250k bonus his services were denied to UC Santa Barbara.

He has a slender 6’2”/175# frame and though his fastball tops out in the high-80’s there is reason to believe that velocity will improve has he gets stronger. He throws with a loose, three-quarters arm action that also mixes in a breaking pitch in the mid-70’s and is working on a changeup. He gets good sink on his pitches, helping to keep the number of home runs allowed down to six in over 133 innings since turning professional.

He’s young and has plenty of time to improve on his offerings, but what makes this prospect interesting is that he’s already getting the job done at the age of 20 against older competition. He appears to be a good student of the game which enables him to maximize his stuff while on the mound. With such early success it’s no surprise that Mahle is starting to scratch into some top Cincinnati prospect lists.

Since Cincinnati no longer has an affiliate in Bakersfield there’s no chance of Mahle pitching in the California League when he gets promoted. That might avoid a dilemma with his parents because if he had faced Inland Empire they would have a tough choice for selecting a team to cheer because his older brother Greg pitches for the Angels high-A club. Instead Tyler is now headed for the Florida State League. He’s on track to prove ready by the end of the season, but at his age there’s no need to rush him any faster than his current track.

Mahle and other Billings alums have already tasted a bit of success at the professional level when they won the Pioneer League championship last season. Now at .500, Dayton is only three games out of the Midwest League Eastern Division lead at this early point in the season. After an off-day Monday the Dragons will try to keep their momentum going when they open a series at last place Ft. Wayne.

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