Dayton Dragons

Reds Honor 2023 Dragon Blake Dunn as Minor League Player of the Year

January 24, 2024 - Midwest League (MWL)
Dayton Dragons News Release

Dayton, Ohio - Dayton Dragons 2023 outfielder Blake Dunn has been selected as the winner of the Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award, an honor presented annually by the Cincinnati Reds to their Minor League Player of the Year. The selection of Dunn marks the second straight year that a Dayton player has won the Reds top minor league honor. Elly De La Cruz, a member of the 2022 Dragons, was the previous award winner.

Additionally, Julian Aguiar, the ace of the Dragons pitching staff in 2023, was named Reds Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The third major honor, Reds Minor League Position Player of the Year, was awarded to Jacob Hurtubise, a member of the 2021 Dragons who spent the 2023 season at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.

Dunn becomes the sixth Dayton player to be selected Reds Minor League Player of the Year after spending significant time with the Dragons that season. Other Dragons players to earn the honor following a season in Dayton were Austin Kearns (2000), Billy Hamilton (2011), Seth Mejias-Brean (2013), Tyler Mahle (2015) and De La Cruz in 2022.

With the Dragons in 2023, Dunn got off to a tremendous start and was selected as both the Midwest League Player of the Month and Reds Minor League Player of the Month for April, when he batted .386 with five home runs, 18 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and an OPS of 1.240. He also made numerous diving catching in the outfield and established an immediate reputation as a sparkplug-type player who played at the highest level of intensity.

Dunn remained with the Dragons into early June before being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. He played in 47 games with the Dragons, batting .276 with eight home runs, 19 stolen bases, and an .871 OPS. At Chattanooga, he actually became even more effective and won the Southern League batting title, hitting .332 with 15 home runs in 77 games. Between Dayton and Chattanooga combined, Dunn batted .312 with 23 home runs, 107 runs scored, 57 stolen bases, a .425 on-base percentage, a .522 slugging percentage, and an OPS of .947. Dunn became just the second player in the Reds farm system ever to record at least 20 home runs and at least 50 stolen bases in the same season, joining Gary Redus in 1982 (records go back to 1960).

Aguiar, during his time with the Dragons in 2023, emerged as the Midwest League's top pitcher. He was named the Pitcher of the Month for both the Midwest League and the Reds organization for May, when he allowed just one earned run in 22 innings (0.44 ERA). Aguiar made 14 starts on the year with the Dragons and posted a 1.92 earned run average, which was 52 points better than the second ranked starting pitcher in the league (teammate Jose Acuña) at the time of his promotion to Chattanooga on July 14. With Dayton, Aguiar limited opposing batters to a combined batting average of .174. He struck out 77 in 70.1 innings. He made 11 starts with Chattanooga and finished the season with a combined ERA of 2.95 in 125 innings, allowing 101 hits with 138 strikeouts. Aguiar is the eighth Dragons pitcher to be selected as the Reds top Minor League hurler during his season in Dayton.

Hurtubise, a fan favorite with the Dragons in 2021 because of his blazing speed and hustling style of play, split the 2023 season between Chattanooga and Louisville, batting a combined .330 with seven home runs and 45 stolen bases. His .479 on-base percentage led all of Minor League Baseball, and he finished with an OPS of .961.

Dragons Winners of the Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award (Minor League Player of the Year):

2000: Austin Kearns

2011: Billy Hamilton

2013: Seth Mejias-Brean

2015: Tyler Mahle

2022: Elly De La Cruz

2023: Blake Dunn

Dragons Winners of Reds Position Player/Pitcher of the Year Awards (since 2006)

2006: Johnny Cueto (Pitcher of the Year)

2010: Donnie Joseph (Pitcher of the Year)

2011: Josh Smith (Pitcher of the Year)

2012: Steve Selsky (Hitter of the Year)

2013: Jesse Winker (Hitter of the Year)

2013: Robert Stephenson (Pitcher of the Year)

2014: Nick Travieso (Pitcher of the Year)

2016: Shed Long (Hitter of the Year)

2017: Jose Siri (Hitter of the Year)

2022: Alex McGarry (Hitter of the Year)

2022: Andrew Abbott (Pitcher of the Year)

2023: Julian Aguiar (Pitcher of the Year)

The Dragons open the 2024 season, their 24th in the Midwest League, on April 5 at Day Air Ballpark against the Lansing Lugnuts.

Dragons 2024 season ticket information is available now. Call the Dragons at (937) 228-2287 or email for more information, or visit the Dragons website at

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