Strong Arm at Dayton

High schooler Mark Armstrong fell off the map a bit after Cincinnati drafted him in the third round four years ago. He’s coming back in a big way in 2015 with a solid start to the season against older competition in the Midwest League.

Dayton got off on the right foot in the new month by winning 6-2 at Great Lakes and the Dragons are on a streak with six wins in their last seven games to move them to within two games of division leader Lansing. A three-run rally in the fourth inning would be all the offense they needed Friday. It was sparked by a leadoff single by Brian O’Grady who then stole second and scored on a hit from Gavin LaValley. Jose Ortiz moved him to second with a hit before Jonathan Reynoso plated the second run of the game with a single. Ortiz scored on an error that came off the bat of Ty Washington before the end of the inning.

Nacisio Crook added on a run in the sixth when he singled and later scored on an RBI hit from Wendell Soto and Avain Rachel helped stretch the lead to 5-0 when he led off the eight with a single and gave way to pinch runner Jimmy Pickens who crossed the plate on a passed ball. The Loons got on the board in the bottom of that frame, but the Dragons got it back in the ninth when Luis Gonzalez led off with a single, advanced to third on a hit from O’Grady and scored on a fly out double play.

O’Grady led the offense with four hits. Three Dragons, Washington, Crook, and Reynoso, added two hits apiece while Soto reached safely four times with a hit and three walks. On the mound Mark Armstrong got the win for a splendid start with six shutout innings that yielded only four hits/two walks and five strikeouts. He turned over a four-run lead to the pen which was good enough for Scott Brattvelt and Connor Krauss who closed the game down while allowing one run each.

Armstrong has been flying under the radar in the Cincinnati system since they drafted him out of Clarence (NY) High School with their third round pick in 2013. He made only two starts in the Arizona League his first season and returned there last year to go 4-3/4.23 ERA. That didn’t exactly make him a candidates to skip Billings, but he’s in his first full season this year and has fared very well against older competition in the Midwest League with a 2.31 ernie over 23 innings.

Armstrong is a 6’2”/210# right-hander who is still only 20 years old. Thus far he’s shown exceptional command for his age with only four walks while striking out twenty. He has given up some hits, but that rate was inflated by his last start when he allowed ten and still managed to limit Lansing to only three runs in five innings.

Actually, though his opportunity to make an impact has been slow to come, he’s now pitching as advertised when the Reds drafted him four years ago. There is often more uncertainty with young prospects in the north that do not play in games as much as those in other parts of the country blessed with a more accommodating climate. He did pitch enough to show exceptional control while throwing his fastball around 90 mph. What makes him interesting is that he can already throw a hard curve and changeup over the plate and has the potential to add a few ticks to his heater.

Perhaps work done in Goodyear, AZ is starting to pay dividends for Armstrong. Cincinnati has probably been a bit protective with his innings but he’s coming off his first quality start of the season and can be expected to stretch out for longer outings as he develops. He’s an example of why not to count out a young prospect who doesn’t get much game experience immediately after signing and now he’s showing that he belongs in low-A, at least until it’s time to move up. Given his age there should be no reason for that to happen soon, but it appears that a trip to Daytona is not too distant in his future.

Cincy Hardball Top Stories