Dayton Dragons 2019 Preview, Part 7: Starting Pitchers
Today we look at the candidates for starting pitcher positions with the 2019 Dayton Dragons. This is the seventh 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.
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.
The Starting Pitchers
Candidates: Jared Solomon, Ryan Campbell, Jacob Heatherly, James Marinan, Lyon Richardson, Ricky Salinas, Alexis Diaz.
Jared Solomon was the best starting pitcher in the Pioneer League in 2018 as a member of the Billings Mustangs before earning a late-season promotion to Dayton. With Billings, Solomon made nine starts and posted a 2.27 earned run average, which easily led the league when he was promoted (the eventual league leader finished at 2.85). All of Solomon's numbers at Billings showed a level of dominance. He struck out 54 batters and walked only 14 in 47.2 innings and limited opposing hitters to a combined batting average of .187.
Solomon made six starts in August of 2018 with the Dragons and had mixed success, posting an ERA of 5.40 with an opponent's batting average of .305. It has not been unusual for pitchers to come up from Billings late in the season and struggle against Midwest League competition, then come back the following year and show big improvement (Tony Santillan was a great example late in 2016 before becoming an all-star in 2017). Solomon, an 11th round draft pick in 2017 out of Lackawanna College, a junior college program in Pennsylvania, has the arm to show similar improvement.
Ryan Campbell played college baseball at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the arch rival of the hugely-successful program at Wright State under coach Jeff Mercer. Campbell was the best pitcher in the conference in 2018. In fact, he produced one of the finest seasons by any starting pitcher in the Summit League in recent history. He was the conference Pitcher of the Year and a Third Team All-American, posting a tremendous ERA of 1.53 to rank fourth in the nation among NCAA Division I pitchers.
Campbell was drafted by the Reds in the fifth round in June of 2018 and assigned to Billings. Due to the high number of innings that Campbell had logged in the spring at UIC, the Reds worked him out of the bullpen at Billings to cut down on his pitch count. He pitched in 23 games at Billings, posting an ERA of 3.65, which was driven up by one bad outing early in the season (his ERA for the year was 2.75 without the one poor performance). He secondary numbers with Billings were very good. He limited opposing batters to a combined average of .203. He walked 10 and struck out 34 in 37 innings. Five of his 10 walks for the year came in one inning in the one rough game.
Jacob Heatherly was one of the most highly-regarded high school pitchers in the entire 2017 draft. As a senior at Cullman High School in Alabama in 2017, Heatherly went 10-1 with a 1.11 ERA and struck out 116 batters in 70 innings. Baseball America selected him as a Third Team High School All-American, meaning he was one of the top 15 high school pitchers in the country. MLB.com ranked his as the 25th best pitching prospect (high school and college) in the 2017 draft. He played in some of the same national showcase events as former Dragons pitcher Hunter Greene in the same high school class.
The Reds drafted Heatherly in the third round of the 2017 draft as their fourth selection. They took Greene in the first round, infielder Jeter Downs in the supplemental first round, and outfielder Stuart Fairchild in the second round. Heatherly was ranked as the "Pitcher with the Best Breaking Ball" among all Reds 2017 draft picks.
Heatherly, a left-hander, opened his professional career after the 2017 draft with the Reds Arizona League affiliate at Goodyear. He pitched well, working 30.2 innings and posting an ERA of 2.93. He got three late-season starts at Billings that same summer. In 2018, he was assigned to the Reds new Rookie-level affiliate in Greeneville, Tennessee. He got off to a terrible start but recovered nicely, though his final numbers still showed the effects of the first two starts. In those first two outings, Heatherly gave up 11 runs in just three and three-thirds innings, walking 11 batters. Over the remainder of the season, he posted a respectable 3.60 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 35 innings. For the year, his final ERA was 5.82. His walks total is an area that will need improvement as he gave up 40 free passes in those 35 innings, but over his final three starts, he walked just six in 13 innings, surrendering only three runs. His best start of the year, and the start that offers optimism for the future, came on August 17, when he fired five shutout innings, allowing just one hit with one walk and eight strikeouts.
Heatherly is ranked as the #12 prospect in the Reds organization by MLB.com. Baseball America ranks him #23, and Fangraphs has Heatherly ranked #29. He is just 20 years old.
James Marinan is another young pitcher from near the top of the 2017 draft. He was taken in the fourth round, one round after Heatherly, by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Marinan was traded by the Dodgers to the Reds last summer in a deal that sent Major League reliever Dylan Floro from Cincinnati to Los Angeles.
Marinan is out of Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Florida, where he went 8-1 with a 0.84 ERA as a senior in 2017. He was ranked by Baseball America as the 59th best prospect in the 2017 draft. He planned to play college baseball at the University of Miami, where he would have been a teammate of Jeter Downs had both players not signed professionally. Ironically, Downs was drafted by the Reds but is now with the Dodgers, while Marinan was drafted by the Dodgers but is now in the Reds organization. The players were involved in separate trades.
Marinan opened his professional career with the Dodgers Arizona League affiliate in 2017 and posted a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings. He made three starts with the same team in 2018, producing an even better ERA of 0.84, before being traded to the Reds. He went to Billings and made 11 starts, going 3-2 with a 3.98 ERA. Marinan is 20 years old and has a professional career ERA of a very good 2.93 in 71 innings. He is ranked as the #19 prospect in the Reds system by Baseball America; #20 by MLB.com, and #26 by Fangraphs.
Lyon Richardson is an even higher draft pick than Heatherly or Marinan, but he is one year younger than they are and will try to make the Dragons roster in spring training. Richardson was the Reds second round draft pick in 2018 out of Jensen Beach High School in Florida. As a senior, he posted a record of 7-0 with a 0.58 ERA. He had committed to play at the University of Florida before signing with the Reds.
Richardson joined Heatherly at Greeneville to start his professional career in 2018 and made 11 starts. In 29 innings, he posted a 7.14 ERA. Still, he remains very highly-regarded in the Reds organization and will be an interesting player to watch in his first full season of pro ball in 2019. He is ranked as the Reds #11 prospect by MLB.com; #13 by Fangraphs, and #17 by Baseball America. He is only 19 years old.
Ricky Salinas played four years of college baseball at Rice University in Houston, the same school that produced former Dragons pitcher Austin Orewiler. Salinas' best season came as a sophomore in 2016 before he battled injury problems over the next two years. In 2016, he went 9-2 with a 3.39 ERA to earn Conference USA Second Team honors.
Salinas was limited by injury to just 11 innings as a senior at Rice in 2018, but after signing with the Reds as a 25th round draft pick, he was healthy enough to join the starting rotation at Billings. He made 14 starts with the Mustangs, going 2-2 with a 4.53 ERA. He finished strong, posting a 2.97 ERA over his last six starts while striking out 38 batters in 30.1 innings. The Reds like Salinas' arm and his potential.
Alexis Diaz was the Reds 12th round draft pick in 2015 out of high school in Puerto Rico. His brother, New York Mets reliever Edwin Diaz, notched 57 saves in 2018 with the Seattle Mariners, the second highest total in Major League Baseball history. Alexis Diaz missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and returned in a limited role in 2017. He had his best season as a professional in 2018 with Greeneville, posting a 3.02 ERA in 53.2 innings while striking out 67 to rank second in the Appalachian League. Diaz is now 22 years old but because of his missed time after surgery, his development has been hindered. His strong season in 2018 showed his potential.
Some of the players listed in this preview of starting pitchers will also be candidates for bullpen roles.
The Dragons will host their "20th Season Celebration Game" on March 30 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, and all Dragons 2019 home games, are available now. Go to daytondragons.com/celebrationgame for tickets to the Celebration Game. For tickets to the Dragons regular season games, you can go to the Ticketing Tab at www.daytondragons.com, or Ticketmaster.com. You can also order by phone at (937) 228-2287. 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: Relief pitchers
Images from this story
Dayton Dragons pitcher Jared Solomon
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- Dayton Dragons 2019 Preview, Part 7: Starting Pitchers - Dayton Dragons
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