Dragons roster loaded with Reds’ top prospects

Dayton will open the season Friday against Fort Wayne

The Dayton Dragons will open the Midwest League season at home on Friday with a roster loaded with several of the Cincinnati Reds’ top prospects.

Infielder Elly De La Cruz headlines a group of six of the Reds’ top 17 minor-leaguers and eight of the top 30, according to MLB.com. De La Cruz, a 6-foot-4 20-year-old shortstop and third baseman from the Dominican Republic, surged into MLB.com’s top 100 with a strong 2021 at low-A Daytona.

De La Cruz, ranked as baseball’s No. 76 overall prospect, is a switch hitter who carried a .296/.336/.874 slash line in 247 at-bats (50 in rookie league, 197 in Daytona). He hit eight home runs, batted in 42 runs and stole 10 bases. The Reds signed De La Cruz in 2018.

De La Cruz is the Reds’ No. 3 prospect behind pitchers Hunter Greene, who made the Reds’ opening day roster, and Nick Lodolo, who is a candidate to pitch for the Reds in April.

Outfielder Rece Hinds is the Reds’ No. 9 prospect and a second-round pick in 2019 out of high school. He hit 10 homers in 167 at-bats for Daytona last year and Baseball America rated him as the best power hitter in the Reds’ organization entering this season.

Catcher Mat Nelson, the Reds’ No. 12 prospect, is back with the Dragons after only 28 at-bats in his first season of pro ball because of a late-season injury. Nelson led the nation in home runs last spring at Florida State and was the 35th overall pick.

Starting pitcher Andrew Abbott, a second-round pick last year from Virginia, is the Reds’ No. 13 prospect and made five minor-league starts. He struck out 22 in 13 innings.

Starting pitcher Connor Phillips, the Reds’ No. 14 prospect, joined the organization this past week as the player to be named later in the trade that sent Reds’ regulars Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to Seattle. Phillips was a supplemental second-round pick in 2020. He was 7-3 with a 4.75 ERA for the Mariners’ high-A team last year.

Shortstop Jose Torres, the Reds’ No. 17 prospect, was considered the best defensive shortstop in the 2021 draft and was selected in the third round. He batted .337 with four home runs, 17 RBIs and six stolen bases in 95 at-bats in Daytona.

Outfielder Allan Cerda is the Reds’ No. 22 prospect and was added to the 40-man roster during the winter and participated in major-league spring training. Cerda his 14 home runs in Daytona last year before a late-season promotion to Dayton. With the Dragons, he hit three homers and batted .273 with 13 RBIs in 21 games.

Pitcher Joe Boyle, a 2020 fifth-round pick from Notre Dame, has regularly reached 100 mph with his fastball. He is the Reds’ No. 29 prospect and split time between rookie ball and Daytona last year, compiling a 2.29 ERA in eight starts. He struck out 41 in 19 2/3 innings.

The roster includes 14 players who spent all or part of the 2021 season with the Dragons, led by outfielder Quin Cotton, the team leader in home runs last season with 10.

Other players returning to Dayton are pitchers Thomas Farr, Jake Gilbert, Evan Kravetz, James Marinan, James Proctor and Spencer Stockton; catcher Garrett Wolforth; infielders Juan Martinez, Alex McGarry and Jonathan Willems and outfielder Jack Rogers.

The other players new to Dayton are pitchers Frainger Aranguren, Donovan Benoit, Manuel Cachutt, Myles Gayman, Jake Gozzo, Nick Hanson, Carson Rudd and Jake Stevenson; infielder Nick Quintana; outfielder Ashton Creal.

The Dragons, entering their 22nd season, finished 65-55 last summer and shared a division title. Friday’s opener against Fort Wayne begins at 7:05 p.m. at Day Air Ballpark.

About the Author