Dayton Dragons 2019 Preview, Part 4: Shortstops
Spring training in Goodyear, Arizona is about to hit the next phase for Cincinnati Reds minor league players and potential members of the 2019 Dayton Dragons. On Friday, the first minor league games of the spring season will be played by the Reds four full-season affiliates. The Dragons will meet the Lake County Captains, the Cleveland Indians Single-A affiliate, in Goodyear. It will be the first of nine scheduled meetings between the Dragons and Captains in Arizona this spring, and Dragons will then see Lake County early in the regular season when they host the Captains in a three-game series at Fifth Third Field April 12-14, the second week of the season.
The first appearance in Dayton for the new 2019 Dragons team will come on Saturday, March 30 with the Dragons 20th Season Celebration Game (see more below). The Dragons will open the Midwest League season on Thursday, April 4th against the Bowling Green Hot Rods at 7:00 p.m. Click on these links to view previews of Dragons catchers, first basemen, and second basemen.
Today, we look at the potential shortstops for the 2019 Dayton Dragons. This is the fourth installment of an eight-part series previewing the team. Players listed here are candidates for positions on the 25-man Dragons season-opening roster.
This preview is an unofficial projection of possible roster candidates. Minor League rosters are not established until April 3. Spring training variables including performance, injuries, trades, and additional player acquisitions will impact the roster accordingly.
Candidates: Miguel Hernandez, Carlos Rivero, Claudio Finol.
Miguel Hernandez is a 19-year-old native of Venezuela who is coming off back-to-back strong seasons at the Short-Season level in the Reds organization. Hernandez is rated by Fangraphs as the #25 prospect in the Reds farm system among about 200 players. RedsMinorLeagues.com rates Hernandez considerably higher at #13, one spot behind last season's Dragons shortstop, Jose Garcia.
Hernandez signed with the Reds as a young 16-year-old in the summer of 2015. He spent a season with the Reds Dominican Summer League club in 2016 and then came to the U.S. for the first time in 2017 with the Goodyear Reds in the Arizona League. He hit well in 32 games, batting .314 to rank second on the team behind only outstanding outfield prospect Mariel Bautista, who is expected to be the Dragons left fielder this season. His season included a 20-game hitting streak, the longest of the year in that league.
In 2018, Hernandez got an extended chance to further his development as the starting shortstop with the Reds new Greeneville affiliate in Tennessee, and after a slow start when the season began on June 19, he hit very well over the remainder of the year. After batting just .212 in June, he batted .317 the rest of the way including .344 in his final month. He finished the year at .301 in 60 games. He has not yet shown much power, connecting on two last season. He was at his best in clutch situations, batting .362 for the year with men in scoring position. He finished the year with a brief stint with Billings and played for the Mustangs in their playoff series.
Doug Gray at RedsMinorLeagues.com traveled to Greeneville last summer and was impressed by Hernandez's defense. Gray writes on his website that Hernandez is "an above-average to plus defender at shortstop with range in all directions. He's got good hands and smooth actions. He's got plenty of arm for shortstop and should have no problem remaining there (as he moves up the organizational ladder)."
Carlos Rivero was the Dragons starting shortstop for the last two months of the 2017 season and started all six Dragons playoff games that season at shortstop. He struggled as a hitter with the Dragons in 38 games, batting .180 without a home run, but he provided quality defense. In 2018, he opened the year by filling a need at the shortstop position at Advanced-A Daytona and had an even tougher time as a hitter, batting just .120 in 28 games. He was transferred to Billings and initially endured the same kind of struggles. He was batting just .139 after his first 24 games, but then he suddenly saw the light flip on. Starting July 15 and continuing through the end of the season in September, Rivero hit .318 in 40 games. He finished the year at .255 but did not have a home run. Rivero could be a candidate to rejoin the Dragons in 2019. He is 21 years old and a native of Venezuela.
Claudio Finol is the youngest option for the Dragons at the shortstop position or for a utility infield role. Finol, like Hernandez and Rivero, is a native of Venezuela. He will open the season at the age of 18, very young by Midwest League standards, where the average hitter was 21.4 years old in 2018. Finol played alongside Hernandez at Greeneville in 2018 and hit well, batting .294 while splitting his time between second base, shortstop, and third base. If Finol does not open the season with the Dragons in 2019, he will likely make his way to the Gem City at some future point.
The final spring game for the Dragons will be played in Dayton on March 30. The Dragons will host their "20th Season Celebration Game" on that date at 2:00 p.m. at Fifth Third Field. The game will match the 2019 Dragons ("Team 20") against a team of Dragons alumni who are still playing in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system. Individual game tickets for the Dragons 20th Season Celebration Game are available now. Go to daytondragons.com/celebrationgame or Ticketmaster.com. Additional information on the Dragons 20th Season celebration including videos on the 20 Greatest Dragons, special 20th Season merchandise, and Dragons alumni listings is available here: https://www.milb.com/dayton/team/20.
Again this season, all 140 home and road games can be heard on radio on WONE 980 AM and on the internet at wone.com and the Dragons Mobile App. Games can also be heard on HD Radio on 104.7 WTUI HD 2. The Dragons will again televise all Saturday and Sunday home games, plus a few Friday night games, on the Dayton CW.
There is a complete listing of all Minor League players in camp with the Reds here at RedsMinorLeagues.com: https://redsminorleagues.com/2019/02/14/cincinnati-reds-minor-league-spring-training-roster-for-2019/
The complete Minor League game schedule in Arizona is here: https://redsminorleagues.com/2019/02/15/cincinnati-reds-minor-league-spring-training-schedule-2/
Next up: Third Basemen
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