They’re currently on their second 9 game winning streak of the season. They’ve won 22 of their first 26 games. They lead their division by 6 games. This is essentially the same group of players that won both halves of their division last year at Billings and they’ve continued winning this year.
So, how are they doing it?
With pitching… their 2.53 team ERA is first in the league. They’re averaging .81H/IP (1st in league) and 1.06 K/IP (1st). Their five starters have a combined ERA of 2.12 and WHIP of .92.
With hitting… their team BA is .281, OBP .345, and SLG is .411. All first in the league.
Who are these guys?
21 year old Daryl Thompson, who came to the Reds in the Kearns/Lopez deal, is 5-0 with a .96 ERA. Hitters are hitting .165 against him. (LH .132 RH .186). His WHIP is .65.
21 year old Sean Watson, last year’s 2nd round pick, is 3-0. He has a 1.69 ERA and has struck out 42 batters in 32 innings.
21 year old Rafeal Gonzalez, 2004 4th round pick, seems to have finally matured. He’s 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA and his WHIP is 1.07.
21 year old SS Chris Valaika, 2006 3rd round pick, MVP of the Pioneer League last year, 32 (I believe) hitting streak last year. And thus far, he’s improved on those numbers, posting .388/.441/.571 up to this point. He’s leading the league or in second place in all three categories.
19 year old 3B Juan Francisco is hitting .286/.330/.552 and leading the MWL in homers (7). He’s also second in total bases (58).
The only drawback to these two is that they have 5 and 6 errors respectively.
21 year old OF Drew Stubbs, 2006 1st round pick, has recovered from a slump and is 7 for his last 19, with 3 doubles and 2 homers (one a walk off). He’s raised his numbers to .282/.348/.447 and despite his 3 errors, seems to play CF very well, getting to balls very easily.
Additionally, the Dragons have 5 other players receiving significant playing time with OPS above .700. Their bullpen are all older players (23 and up) that you would expect to dominate at this level and they are.
This adds up to a team that is very difficult to beat. Their starting pitching keeps them in most games, the lineup is capable of scoring runs (top to bottom) and the bullpen has been dominating.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Reds decide to keep this group of players together, as they did last year to this year, or if they start promoting them individually on their own merits.