From friend of the Nation, Tom Nichols of the Dayton Dragons:
If most baseball observers were asked to identify the position on the field that typically generates the most offense, you would probably expect the answer to be first base or a corner outfield position. For the Dragons over the last three seasons, the second base spot has provided a big bat.
In 2009, second sacker Cody Puckett led the Dragons in home runs (19), runs scored (76), and doubles (35), and tied for the team lead in runs batted in (67). In 2010, switch-hitting second baseman Henry Rodriguez was the Dragons representative in the Midwest League All-Star Game, enjoyed a game when he belted home runs from both sides of the plate, and put up solid offensive numbers. He led the team in batting average (.307), RBI (78), stolen bases (33), and doubles (37), and tied for the lead in home runs (14).
In 2011, Devin Lohman spent the first half of the season as the Dragons second baseman in what turned out to be a strange year for Lohman. A highly-regarded third round draft pick from 2010 when he hit .400 at Long Beach State University, Lohman got off to a dreadful start and was batting just .208 with one home run for the Dragons in mid-June when he was sent back to Billings. He caught fire with the Mustangs, batting .322 in 29 games, and then, when a need arose at Advanced-A Bakersfield, he moved up two levelsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and hit even better. He batted .331 in 39 games with the Blaze. His combined numbers with three teams showed a .272 batting average with 10 home runs and 69 RBI. And while Lohman, a starter with the Dragons for half the season, did almost all of his damage with other clubs, his replacement with the Dragons more than made up for any shortfall.
Ronald Torreyes joined the Dragons on June 18 and his arrival coincided with the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tremendous run to an Eastern Division second half title. Torreyes was hitting .406 when he took the field on July 30, a month and a half into his tenure with the Dragons. He went almost two full months without going hitless in two consecutive games. He might have worn down a bit late in the year and finished at .356, which would have been good enough to win the league batting title if he had generated enough plate appearances to qualify in a year when only two players in the 16-team circuit hit higher than .320. Torreyes also displayed gold glove defense for the Dragons.
Puckett, Rodriguez, and Lohman all remain in the Reds organization while Torreyes was sent to the Cubs in the off-season in the trade that brought left-handed reliever Sean Marshall to the Reds.
Second base could again provide a strong lineup presence for the Dragons in 2012.
Ryan Wright was signed by the Reds as a fifth round draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Louisville. Compared by some observers to former Dragon Chris Valaika, he is rated by Baseball America as the 23rd best prospect in the entire Reds organization.
Wright spent three years at Louisville and became one of the most productive hitters in school history. In the spring of 2011, he led the team in batting average at .346, home runs with 12, and runs batted in with 52. He was selected First Team All-Big East Conference in both 2010 and Ã¢â‚¬â„¢11 and in just three seasons, rose to fourth in school history in career hits and RBI. Wright was the top hitter on the 2010 U.S. College National Team at .361.
Wright did not sign with the Reds until late July and the Billings season was more than a month old when Wright made his Pioneer League debut on July 25. Often times, players who have been inactive for weeks or months while finalizing their first contract show some rust when they step into a league against opposing pitchers who have been gaining experience throughout the summer. But Wright performed very well with Billings, batting .298 with seven home runs and 32 RBI in 40 games. He posted a very impressive .522 slugging percentage and committed just one error in the field. Wright, a native of Fort Wayne, should be one of the Dragons top hitters in 2012.
Brandon Dailey is a 20-year-old prospect from Canada who was drafted by the Reds in 2010 out of high school. He opened his professional career last season impressively with the Goodyear Reds in the Arizona League, two levels below the Dragons on the Reds organizational ladder. Dailey served as the lead-off batter in Goodyear and got off to a flying start. Fifteen games into the season, he was hitting .446. Dailey was still at .348 entering the final month of the campaign, but slumped in August and finished at .298. He added 18 stolen bases in 43 games. He hit .409 with men in scoring position and was rewarded with a late-season promotion to the Dragons, where he got into three games in September.
DaileyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s primary position is second base and he is behind Wright, but he could get some starts at shortstop and designated hitter as well as some time at second if he comes to Dayton as a fifth infielder. It is possible that Dailey could even challenge for the starting shortstop job in spring training, though Juan Perez will get the first crack there.
Sammy Diaz hit .299 as a back-up infielder with Billings last summer. He will be profiled in the shortstop preview.
The Dragons open their 13th season in the Midwest League on April 5 against the West Michigan Whitecaps at Fifth Third Field.
Next up: Shortstop preview.
This article was used in its entirety with permission of Tom Nichols.