From the DDN

There is a lot wrong with the Dayton Dragons, but it’s not because they don’t have good players.

There are plenty of good players on the Class A team, although probably not enough to make a difference for the Cincinnati Reds the next few seasons. What you see here eventually should end up in Cincinnati, but the Reds’ farm system hasn’t produced many difference-makers lately.

For the Reds, next week’s first-year player draft is imperative. What the franchise did from 2001-03 was abysmal. There was a little bump in talent last season — General Manager Dan O’Brien’s first — but farm director Tim Naehring couldn’t even find a full roster for the Dragons from players the Reds drafted.

Four players who didn’t go through the draft or sign out of the Caribbean already have logged significant time this season. Meanwhile, drafted players attend daily workouts at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla.

Jeremiah Piepkorn has played a commendable third base, even though he is an outfielder and a first baseman and prone to throwing errors. He was a fifth-year college player who is now 24 (old for the Midwest League) and was eligible to sign prior to last summer’s draft.
Catcher John Purdom, also 24, was signed the same way. He has become the team’s leading player at an important position.
Another catcher, Chris Kroski, was signed as a released player from another organization. After a good start, Kroski slumped and the 23-year-old was put on the rookie-league Billings (Mont.) roster.
That brings us to 21-year-old pitcher James Morrison, who was signed out of independent ball and has been on and off the Dayton roster.
Nothing against those players — they all have performed well at times — but the Reds are drafting 50 players every June and they don’t have enough with the proper skills to play at low Class A?
Who have they been drafting?
Well, there’s shortstop Willy Jo Ronda, taken in the third round of the 2003 draft, who has yet to make the Dragons roster in two tries and remains at extended spring training.
Meanwhile, in Dayton, poor manager Alonzo Powell has to piece together each day’s lineup.

Since third baseman Habelito Hernandez — a 24-year-old who came into the organization as Juan Diaz and three years younger until his correct visa turned up — can’t play in the field because of a bad shoulder, he has to be the designated hitter.

Since third baseman Habelito Hernandez — a 24-year-old who came into the organization as Juan Diaz and three years younger until his correct visa turned up — can’t play in the field because of a bad shoulder, he has to be the designated hitter.

That means Bobby Mosby can’t fit into the DH slot and has to play first, his only position. That moves the team’s best first baseman, Tonys Gutierrez, to the outfield where he has played some, but not at the level the Dragons needed Thursday, when he botched two plays.

That was the day Piepkorn, who would probably be better at first or in the outfield, made two costly fielding errors at third.
The day before, catcher Evan Conley made an emergency start at first when Mosby was hit in the eye with a baseball.
That doesn’t even address the limited pitch counts the Dragons are still using while teams such as South Bend are allowing starters to throw 90 or more pitches.

Decisions will have to be made soon. After the draft, the Reds will have to find room for those players at extended spring, and others will be released. They still have to find room on the Dayton pitching staff for Rafael Gonzalez, Damian Ursin and Morrison.

They have to decide whether Hernandez is worth keeping here if he can’t play in the field.
It’s not just a Dragons problem. Whatever is decided in Dayton eventually will affect the Reds. The draft already has.