As the Midwest League enters All-Star game week – this year’s edition will be played in Lansing on Tuesday – it ‘s a good time to look over the list of Dayton Dragons participants.
Five current Dragons have been chosen for this year’s game, but not the players you might think.
It might be logical to assume outfielder Stuart Fairchild would be on the team as he was a second-round draft pick last summer and is highly regarded. He’s also having a good first half of the season.
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If you had chosen the other four Dragons on the team back in April, you might have received some strange looks.
Catcher Hendrik Clementina leads the Dragons in most hitting categories, yet came to the franchise in a trade last season when the parent Reds dumped major league pitcher Tony Cingrani on the Dodgers.
First baseman Montrell Marshall was a 12th-round draft choice in 2015 and played three seasons of rookie ball before making the Dragons this season. He also made the All-Star team with a sub-.200 batting average, although he is displaying some power.
Two Dayton relievers also made the team. One, Cory Thompson, was originally a well-regarded shortstop who switched to pitching when injuries held him back as an every day player.
The other is John Ghyzel, a late-bloomer who was drafted out of Division III Rochester and now leads the Midwest League in saves.
There is no Hunter Greene (Reds’ No. 1 pick last summer and a clear all-star choice had the teams been picked now instead of a couple weeks ago), no Jeter Downs, no Jose Garcia. Greene has become an exceptional pitcher of late, while Downs (second base and shortstop) and Garcia (shortstop and second base) have made themselves easy projections for the major leagues some day.
Ghyzel? A suburban Washington, D.C. native, he chose Rochester during his junior year of high school after receiving little interest from scouts, and he had family in the Rochester area.
He also was developing, for the first time, a fastball that clocked 90 mph.
“Coming out of high school, even though I wasn’t going to a big school, I knew I was pitching well,” Ghyzel said. “My mindset was, if I was going to get better, I shouldn’t pitch like I was at a small school.
“I got lucky. Our freshman class was awesome. It was great motivation.”
After his junior season, he played summer ball in a collegiate league and drew interest. He also attended two pre-draft camps and went from being told he might or might not get drafted to being assured he’d be picked somewhere.
Outfielder Chris Heisey came though Dayton from a small college and made it to the majors as a 17th round pick; Todd Coffey signed out of high school as a 41st round pick and current Reds starter Sal Romano was a 23rd round pick, also out of high school.
All enjoyed major league success. Coffey and Romano also made the Midwest League All-Star team.
Other top Dragons prospects (and a few not-so-top) who made the All-Star team while playing for the Dragons and later played in the majors: Jose Acevedo, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Ray Olmedo, Randy Ruiz, Dustin Moseley, Edwin Encarnacion, Brad Salmon, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Dickerson, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Craig Tatum, Travis Wood, Juan Francisco, Marcos Mateo, Drew Stubbs, Justin Turner, Pedro Viola, Chris Valaika, Denis Phipps, Henry Rodriguez, Daniel Corcino, Josh Smith, Alejandro Chacin, Robert Stephenson, Zach Vincej, Jesse Winker, Tyler Mahle, Ariel Hernandez and Tanner Rainey.
A few of the Dragons who did not make an All-Star team were Joey Votto, Wily Mo Pena, Devin Mesoraco and Homer Bailey.
Who made the All-Star team in 2005 when Bailey didn’t? Brad Morenko and Blake Hendley.
Morenko was done with pro baseball at the end of the year. Hendley lasted through 2006, when he was chosen a second time for the Midwest League All-Star game.