[We’re really pleased that Tom Nichols, the Director of Media Relations and Broadcasting for the Dayton Dragons, has agreed to write a three-part series reviewing the Dragons’ 2014 season. — Thanks, Tom! — spm]

The Dayton Dragons finished the 2014 season with an overall record of 68-70, falling one win short of qualifying for the Midwest League playoffs. This is part one of a three-part series looking at some of the prospects on this year’s Dragons team.

The Dragons starting rotation was one of the best in franchise history. The quality depth of the rotation resembled the 2006 Dragons that featured Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Carlos Fisher, Zach Ward, and Jeff Stevens. It is possible that one or more of the top four starters (Nick Travieso, Sal Romano, Amir Garrett, Nick Howard) could jump a level and open the 2015 season at Double-A Pensacola.

Rising on the Prospect Charts

Travieso, Romano, and Garrett all opened the season as solid prospects in the Reds organization, and all three made significant improvements over the course of the 140 game season. When asked to select the three Dragons pitchers who improved the most from opening day until the season finale, Dragons pitching coach Tony Fossas named Travieso, Garrett, and Romano.

Nick Travieso

Travieso, selected out of Archbishop McCarthy High School in the Ft. Lauderdale area in the first round in 2012, spent the final three months of the 2013 season with the Dragons as a 19-year-old and enjoyed mixed success, going 7-4 with a 4.63 earned run average in 17 starts. He returned in 2014 and emerged as one of the Midwest League’s top starting pitchers. Travieso led the league in wins, was seventh in ERA, and second in innings pitched, going 14-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 26 starts.

Travieso had an excellent start to the season, endured a rough eight-start stretch in the middle, and then completely dominated over the final six weeks. He went 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA in his first nine starts and was selected to pitch in the Midwest League All-Star Game. He went just 2-4, 7.82 from May 26-July 13, and then recovered over his final nine starts, going 7-0 with 1.22 ERA as he allowed two runs or less in eight of the nine outings.

Travieso’s velocity picked up significantly as the season moved along. He averaged 91-92 on his fastball over the first half of the season but was throwing much harder over the final six weeks.  In his final start on August 30, the opponent that night, Lake County, recorded Travieso’s fastball at 98 mph. The Dragons radar gun clocked him at 96 in the same game, still a marked improvement.

Fossas singled out Travieso prior to the team’s final game of the season for his improvement during the year.

“He has had a phenomenal year,” said Fossas.  “He’s a workaholic, great intangibles, has a goal and a plan, very focused on baseball and preparing for each start.  He was pitching at 94-95 consistently at the end of the season, topping out even higher.  His slider is going to be a plus pitch and his change-up is coming around.  I would say there is no reason he can’t compete in Double-A next season.”

Nick Travesio, Photo Credit: Dayton Dragons

Nick Travesio, Photo Credit: Dayton Dragons

Amir Garrett

The former college basketball player had a breakthrough season in 2014 and made an announcement during the year that he would commit to baseball fulltime in the future. After 10 starts through May 24, Garrett was 0-4 with a 5.74 ERA. Suddenly, the light came on. He began throwing his breaking ball for strikes, keeping hitters off his 92-94 mph fastball. The results were immediate.  Starting May 30 and continuing through the rest of the season, Garrett was 7-4 with a 2.67 ERA.  Most impressively, he limited opposing batters to just 60 hits in 91 innings during that stretch (.188 average), walking 30 and striking out 95.

When he was at his best, he was virtually unhittable. He fired two three-hit shutouts in doubleheader games (seven-inning games). His finest performance came on August 13 against eventual league runner-up Lake County, when he struck out 12 batters over seven scoreless innings, walking only one and allowing just three hits in a complete game win.  He enjoyed a stretch in the second half when he allowed two runs or less in 11 of 12 starts.  His final record was 7-8 with a 3.65 ERA.  He may have tired a little over his final four starts when his ERA rose from 3.22.

Fossas, like everyone else, was amazed at times by the improvement.

“He had a great second half,” said Fossas.  “He’s a great competitor.  He’s a tremendous athlete on the mound and he has shown more improvement than I really thought he could make this year for being in his first full year in game competition.”

Sal Romano

Since he signed as a 17-year-old from Southington, Connecticut in 2011, Romano has added more velocity than arguably any pitcher in the Reds organization.  His fastball was topping out at 91 mph when he signed, but he had many games this season when he could consistently fire fastballs at 96 and top out a bit higher.  At 6’5”, 260 lbs., Romano feels he will throw even harder next season and some scouts foresee Romano eventually flirting with triple-digits.  Romano broke the Dragons club record for most starts in a season and led the Midwest League in innings pitched.  Fossas was pleased.

“I am very proud of the fact that he has gone two-and-a-half years without missing a start,” said Fossas.  “He is still too emotional but his velocity has gotten better.  Everything has gotten better.  He’s got a chance to be something really special.”

Romano’s final numbers included a record of 8-11 with a 4.12 ERA.  As a sinkerballer who gets a lot of ground balls, he will improve as he moves up the chain with an improved defensive infield behind him.  Romano tied for the league lead in inducing double plays with 19 but also suffered when several plays behind him that were not made.

Sal Romano, Photo Credit: Dayton Dragons

Sal Romano, Photo Credit: Dayton Dragons

15 Responses

  1. wvredlegs

    That is 3 stud pitchers.
    That is great to read about Travieso. He is now 21-9 in 43 starts at Dayton. He can probably skip Daytona next year and go straight to AA Pensacola.
    It’ll be interesting to watch Garrett’s progression next year.
    Romano may be a Jumbo, Jr. in the making.

    • SunandSand

      AGrre on Travieso, probably better to got to AA. Not only is the A+ usually a better hitters leaugue (depending where it is), he is a huge groundball pitcher (60%) and you want good defense behind him. I bet he will be able to do what Lorenzen did this past year. I LOVE GROUNDBALL PITCHERS. It is amazing/stupid that the reds have always had flyball pitchers in GABP (Milton, Arroyo, Leake, Latos and even Cueto to a degree). At the risk of making Doug mad, I say trade Stephenson who is a flyball machine.

      • GOREDS

        High A looks to be pitcher friendly Daytona. Travieso could start at Daytona given that Stephenson, Lively and maybe Lorenzen are all back at AA. Then he moves up when one of those goes to AAA.

  2. Shchi Cossack

    This is why the Reds can not afford any more high-dollar, long-term contracts for starting pitchers. Such contracts are simply too risky (see Homer Bailey in 2015). The farm system is not only loaded with excellent starting pitching prospects, it is bursting at the seams. I doubt any of those prospects are major league ready in 2015, but there could realistically be 6 high-end starting pitching prospects ready for the major league starting roatation by 2016, and that’s allowing for some stumbles and attrition along the way.

    • SunandSand

      This team would be set for 5 years if it traded Latos and Leake (SImon?) for a few high end young LF and SS types and maybe a couple bullpen arms. I would even consider Cueto if it was a huge haul, but I might wait until we see at next years trade deadline for him.

  3. Nick Kirby

    Thanks for the terrific review Tom. I’m looking forward to the other two parts.

    • zaglamir

      Just want to echo Nick. Really great read, and much appreciated from a Dayton native who now lives to far from home to catch any Dragons games. Cheers!

  4. Mutaman

    This was a good article and offered a bit of hope. Kudos.

  5. WhereRUKlu

    Just a side note….I live outside of Dayton and have been to a number of Dragon’s games. This team just seems to produce major talent from their ranks. The list of major leaguers who started out at Dayton is long and distinguished. Super stadium and beautiful field. Even though it is under new ownership, I hope the new bosses continue to put on a show like they do for every game. Very fan friendly, family friendly. Never a dull moment between innings. The Dragons hold the honor of having sold out EVERY game since it came into being. The waiting list is long, and I hope one day I can be so lucky to get me a couple of seats. If you are ever in town and you get a chance, catch a game there. You’ll love it.

  6. Dale Pearl

    Reds future is looking bright in the starting pitching category. To bad relief is shot which just may force another chapmanesqe type of a move like forcing to move Romano to relief.

  7. redmountain

    If the Reds keep all the guys they have, they will have to move some to the bullpen. There is plenty of precedent for that. Either they have to move some into the bullpen, or they will need to trade for players to fill holes.

  8. pinson343

    Thanks a lot, Tom, excellent article. Also very well-timed, lifted my spirits about the Reds future just when I needed it.

  9. Grand Salami

    Yes, thank you for the sketches on three rising stars!

  10. Tom N

    Although the starting pitching was good, the Dragons failed to make the playoffs….again