February 5, 2013 - Midwest League (MWL) - Dayton Dragons
In 2005, 2006, and 2007, three consecutive first round draft picks of the Cincinnati Reds spent their entire first full season of professional baseball with the Dayton Dragons. Pitcher Homer Bailey was first, followed by outfielder Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs. .
The three native Texans have gone on to play big roles with the Reds. Bailey threw the Reds first no-hitter in 24 years in 2012 in what was a break-out season for the hard-throwing starter. Bruce became a two-time all-star by the age of 25. And Stubbs, who was traded to the Indians after the 2012 season, also has established a long list of impressive accomplishments as an all-around player. He hopes a change of scenery will open the door to the vast potential that has flashed brightly at times since his debut in 2009, when Stubbs became the 36th Dragon to play in the Major Leagues.
While discussion of Stubbs often seems to focus on his strikeout totals, his positive impact on the Reds' Central Division titles in 2010 and 2012 should never be overlooked. A quick check of some of his milestones over his three and one-half years with the Reds tells part of the story.
Only nine players in Reds history have produced a season with the combination of power and base stealing ability that Stubbs displayed in 2010, when he joined the short list of performers to hit at least 20 home runs and steal at least 30 bases in the same season. Then in 2011, Stubbs fell just eight runs short of joining an even more elite group. Only four players in Reds history (and since 1912, only Joe Morgan, Eric Davis, and Bobby Tolan) have stolen 40 or more bases and scored at least 100 runs in a season. Stubbs reached the 40-steal milestone, but his 92 runs scored left him just short of part two of the equation.
Stubbs' blazing speed on the bases forced adjustments from National League infielders. Several times during his rookie season in 2009, Stubbs turned what appeared to be routine ground balls at infielders into infields singles when the fielder underestimated Stubbs' rocket-like pace from home to first.
But of all his contributions, Stubbs' work in center field might have been the most noteworthy. Hal McCoy's outstanding story at FoxSportsOhio.com last September offered a telling story. Hal wrote:
Five professional scouts, two of whom are former general managers, were in the Great American Ball Park press box earlier this week and they were asked if Stubbs was in their Top Five best defensive outfielders.
All five put him in their top three. When one was told fans criticize Stubbs for not diving for balls, the scout laughed and said, "He never needs to dive. He outruns the ball."
Said another, "... nobody in the league runs on him because of his arm."
Drew Stubbs was a high school All-American, then a three-time All-American at the University of Texas and one of five finalists for the 2006 Golden Spikes Award, college baseball's version of the Heisman Trophy. The Reds selected Stubbs with the eighth overall pick of the 2006 draft.
Stubbs arrived in Dayton in 2007 to play center field on a team that overmatched Midwest League opponents. The 2007 Dragons started the season by winning their first nine games and going 23-4 over the first 27. Stubbs spent the entire season with the Dragons, serving as their lead-off hitter. He got off to a great start, beginning his Dragons career by hitting safely in his first 11 games of the season. He belted three homers during a five-game stretch in May, and he enjoyed one four-hit game on August 14, and then another just two days later. He finished the year at .270 with 29 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs, and 23 stolen bases. He led the league in runs scored and played in the Midwest League All-Star Game.
When the Dragons went to the playoffs, Stubbs was in center field, with future Major Leaguer Denis Phipps in right and Stubbs' former college teammate, Carson Kainer, in left. The Dragons playoff infield featured two current members of the Reds infield at positions that they have long since moved away from. Todd Frazier was the Dragons shortstop and Zack Cozart was stationed at second base. Two other future Major League players were also in the Dragons lineup with Juan Francisco at third base and Eddy Rodriguez behind the plate.
Stubbs enjoyed an excellent 2008 season, beginning in Sarasota, moving through Double-A Chattanooga, and ending in Triple-A with Louisville. He led the Reds farm system in stolen bases that season with 33 and was named the Most Valuable Player of the Florida State League All-Star Game. Overall, he hit .277 with seven home runs and 57 RBI, but his numbers got better as he moved up in competition. He hit .315 in Double-A and .293 in Triple-A. Stubbs spent most of 2009 with Louisville and for the third straight year, played in his league's mid-season all-star game. On August 19, when Reds outfielder Willy Taveras went on the disabled list, Stubbs was called up to Cincinnati.
The Reds went 28-16 after Stubbs joined the team and took over in center field. He hit eight home runs in 42 games to lead the Reds after his promotion. He also led the club in stolen bases after his call-up with 10 and was second on the team in runs scored and total bases. He finished his rookie year with an average of .267.
Stubbs' 2010 season included a grand slam home run on April 9 to erase a 3-1 deficit against the Cubs. He belted three home runs in one game on July 4 and later in the same month, enjoyed a two-homer game. He finished at .255 with 22 homers and 30 stolen bases. In 2011, Stubbs hit .243 with 15 home runs and 40 steals. His stolen base total ranked second in the National League and was the highest total for the Reds since Deion Sanders swiped 56 bases 14 years earlier. On June 17, he drilled the first inside-the-park home run by a Reds player at Great American Ball Park.
On July 23, 2011, Stubbs and Reds teammates Chris Heisey and Logan Ondrusek (all former Dragons) arrived at Fifth Third Field in a helicopter to join the Dragons celebration of their new national sell-out streak record and say thank you to the fans. The next day, Stubbs belted a walk-off home run against Atlanta. He finished the year at .243 with 15 home runs and 40 stolen bases.
Stubbs battled an injury in 2012 and at one point, returned to Dayton to play for the Dragons on an injury rehabilitation assignment. He finished the year at .213 with 14 homers and 30 steals. He started all five Reds playoff games and contributed an RBI triple in a Reds game two victory. The Reds record with Stubbs in the starting lineup was 74-49, a winning percentage of .602.
On December 11, 2012, Stubbs was traded to the Indians in a three-team deal that brought star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. Dragons fans remember Stubbs as an athletically-gifted combination of blazing speed, excellent power, and tremendous defense in center field, and the 36th Dragons player in the Major Leagues.