While Hunter Greene may be the most famous pitcher/shortstop the Reds have signed out of high school and plopped onto the Dayton Dragons’ roster, there have been others, including one of Greene’s teammates this season.
That would be Cory Thompson, who, like Greene, is shutting down the every day duties of a middle infielder to become exclusively a pitcher. As Thompson points out, many of the similarities between the two end there.
“It’s a little easier for him (Greene),” Thompson said. “He can throw 100 miles an hour.”
That may be, but Thompson also has credentials.
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Greene was a first-round draft choice last summer and was the second player taken in the entire draft. He’s still only 18 years old.
At rookie-level Billings, Mont., Greene was first used as a DH before Reds management wondered if he’d be open to just pitching. He’s a high-end player they don’t want to wear out playing two positions. And they don’t want him to pitch too many innings and subject himself to injury, either. He’s still a teen, after all.
They’d only have to look toward Thompson for a cautionary tale.
A fifth-round draft choice out of South Carolina in 2013, Thompson could throw 93 mph fastballs and also hit them, and play shortstop as well.
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Thompson wanted to play shortstop because he could play every day and was advancing through the Reds system when he dislocated his left shoulder diving for a ball in spring training 2015. He missed half of that season and when he was sent to Dayton, failed to hit .200. In 2016, just eight games into the schedule, he was swinging a bat in the on-deck circle and tore a wrist ligament.
At the end of spring training 2017, the Reds wanted to know if Thompson could still pitch.
“They told me they wanted me to pitch because I was kind of behind schedule in at-bats and everything,” Thompson said. “At first, I wasn’t happy about it, then I made up my mind I would pitch. My injuries kind of put me behind.”
Dragons manager Luis Bolivar thinks Thompson made the right decision, even though he liked him as a shortstop.
“He had abilities,” said Bolivar, who was the Dragons’ hitting coach when he first saw Thompson. “He had quick hands and some pop in his bat. He had a good arm and ran well. But as a hitter, you’ve got to see a lot of pitches. There’s a lot more to do. You develop faster as a pitcher.”
But only if you have the pitches. Thompson recorded 93 mph on the radar gun in high school. “I had to get my arm strength back up,” he said. “I didn’t want to get hurt again.”
He bumped his fastball to 94 mph last season while going 3-1 at Billings with a 3.62 ERA. Entering weekend games, Thompson appeared in five games without allowing a run.
Sometimes he wanders over to shortstop during afternoon practice sessions.
“If I get too close, I get yelled at,” Thompson said. “I come from a mindset to play every day. I thought they’d give me another year (at shortstop), but they didn’t. I’m still ready to play every day.”
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For historical significance, Trevor Hoffman was an 11th round Reds draft choice as a shortstop out of college in 1989. After two seasons Hoffman was converted to a pitcher and was recently voted into the Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately, he didn’t make it with the Reds. He was part of the Marlins expansion draft and played most of his long career with the Padres.
Dragons tales: By April 13, the Midwest should be done with winter weather, but that wasn’t the case last weekend when the Dragons bussed to Midland, Mich., to play Great Lakes and all they played was cards and Checkers. All three games were postponed due to winter-like weather, forcing the Dragons to use indoor batting cages for hitting.
That had to be a lot like Dayton’s first season in the Midwest League, when Fifth Third Field was not quite completed and the Dragons played most of the first month on the road, including a season-opening four-game series at Lansing.
Following an opening night victory, the Dragons and Lugnuts were subjected to three days of rain, snow and ice, which postponed the last three games of the series.
Rescheduling this year’s three lost games will be troublesome. With two 70-game halves, the Midwest League requires postponed games be played in the half in which they occurred, but can be played in the opponents’ city.
Since the two teams meet only once more this half from May 18-20, three doubleheaders would have to be scheduled, and Midwest League by-laws prevent that.
Midwest League president Richard Nussbaum said the league has already lost 30 percent of its games to weather this season, which is, “unprecedented.”
• June draft picks often finish their draft summer with a rookie level team and play their first full pro season the next year. That means playing in either the 16-team Midwest League or 14-team South Atlantic League, which play 140-game schedules.
Sometimes players jump over these Low Class A leagues, but this year, few did. The Midwest League boasted 118 players chosen in the first 10 rounds and 34 in the first three rounds of the 2017 draft.
Dayton, of course, has three from the first three rounds (Greene, shortstop Jeter Downs in the supplemental first round and outfielder Stuart Fairchild in the second) and four more in the first 10 rounds (pitcher Mac Sceroler in the 5th, pitcher Tyler Buffett in the 6th, catcher Mark Kolozsvary in the 7th, pitcher Connor Ryan in the 8th and pitcher Packy Naughton in the 9th).
One of the most intriguing players from another team – Bowling Green of the Tampa Bay chain – is allowing first-round pick (and No. 4 overall) Brendan McKay to pitch and play first base.
McKay was hitting better than .300 and had a 3.60 ERA in two brief starting assignments as a pitcher.
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