Tom Nichols of the Dragons finishes his 2011 Dragons preview, covering the bullpen. Tom says that 7 of the following will likely be in the Dragons bullpen on Opening Night.

Blaine Howell is a left-hander….With a fastball over 90 m.p.h., Howell appeared in nine games with Billings and posted a 1.53 ERA. He was promoted to Dayton and went five-for-five in save situations, posting a 2.08 ERA in 13 games. Overall in 2010, Howell appeared in 22 games totaling 35 innings. He allowed just 26 hits and 10 walks with 28 strikeouts, finishing with an ERA of 1.80. He impressed Dragons pitching coach Tony Fossas, who believes that Howell can eventually pitch in the big leagues.

Blaine Howell is a very interesting story. Go to the link and read the non-baseball related part of his story.

Drew Hayes was drafted by the Reds in the 11th round in 2010…After signing with the Reds, he appeared in 14 games out of the Billings bullpen and pitched very well. His ERA going into his final game was 1.35. He had one bad inning, allowing as many runs in that single frame as he had all season to that point, and finished with a 2.42 ERA. Still, Hayes allowed just 13 hits in 22.1 innings while striking out 25. Some observers felt that Hayes was a bit worn down late last summer, as is often the case with college draftees in their first year, and that he will throw even better in 2011. If that is the case, the sky is the limit.

This kid’s numbers are impressive. Closer maybe?

Pat Doyle was the Reds 24th round draft pick in 2010….Doyle also pitched out of the Billings bullpen last summer and his numbers were solid. He went 4-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 18 games. He struck out 39 batters and walked only nine in 31.2 innings.

Again I’ll say it. Impressive numbers.

Tim Crabbe was the Reds 14th round draft pick in 2009….Crabbe spent much of last season in the Dragons starting rotation and at times, was very good. Other times, he struggled to throw strikes, finishing the year with 55 walks in 82.1 innings. His final record was 3-7 with a 4.26 ERA. The Reds hope Crabbe can build on the things he did well in 2010. His fastball at times clocked in at 93-95 miles per hour. A move to the bullpen in 2011 could lead to big things for Crabbe.

Assuming he can find the plate. 55 walks in 82 innings is NOT good. A WHIP of 1.6 isn’t going to get it done.

Daniel Wolford was a 14th round draft pick by the Reds in 2010….the Reds really liked his arm and potential. When Wolford got to Billings….he allowed just four earned runs, posting a 2.04 ERA. He had a couple of rough outings late in the season and finished with a 2-2 record and a 4.85 ERA. Some pitching coaches say that the best measure of a pitcher’s overall stuff in rookie ball is his strikeout total, and Wolford notched 42 strikeouts in just 29.2 innings. He will get an opportunity to continue to progress in 2011.

Love the K total, but he’s got to give up less hits if he wants to be successful.

Jamie Walczak was an all-conference outfielder at Mercyhurst College who impressed the Reds as a pitcher at a try-out…..He struggled with consistency with the Dragons in 2010, appearing in 18 games and posting a 1-3 record with a 6.14 ERA. Some feel that Walczak is a sleeping giant as a prospect who could put things together in a hurry with more experience. He is battling for a spot in the Dayton bullpen for 2011.

Jason Braun was selected by the Reds in the 29th round in 2009 out of Corban College in Oregon. Braun, who could earn the “nice guy” award on any team he plays for, joined the Dragons part-way through the 2010 season and appeared in 35 games out of the bullpen, going 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA. Braun showed signs of brilliance with the Dragons last season but would follow two excellent outings with a poor one. He hopes the extra year of experience will lead to more consistency in 2011.

Porfirio Martinez was signed by the Reds as an international free agent as a 17 year old in 2007. Martinez turned the corner in 2010 at Billings, posting a 1.67 ERA in 20 games out of the bullpen to go along with a 3-2 record. He struck out 29 batters in 27 innings. He throws hard and is in contention for a roster spot for the Dragons.

I cut out a lot of information that Tom included in his great previews, I highly encourage all to go to the links and read Tom’s full preview.