Reds farm director expects Dragons to ‘compete very well’ in 2nd half

Typically, the Dayton Dragons use more than 50 players a summer from their roster, double the number who can be active at any one time.

Many of those players are moved — either up or down the Reds’ farm system — at the halfway mark of the season, which came just last week as the Midwest League took a three-day All-Star game break, restarting pennant races on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Reds’ farm director Jeff Graupe said he anticipated making some changes, but not because half the season is finished and the Dragons did not qualify for the playoffs off their 31-37 record.

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"The half is an arbitrary deadline," Graupe said, maybe speaking a bit too soon. The next day, seven roster moves were made involving three players (outfielders Stuart Fairchild, Randy Ventura and Malik Collymore ) moving up, two pitchers (Tyler Buffett and Dauri Moreta) moving down (to rookie level Billings), one player (outfielder Andy Sugilio) moving off the disabled list and one player (pitcher Andrew Jordan) activated from the temporary inactive list.

Although Fairchild, who is going (with Ventura) to advanced Class A Daytona Beach, played in the Midwest League’s All-Star game, scoring the winning run, the moves aren’t expected to prevent the Dragons from competing in the second half.

“We’re very, very young (in Dayton),” Graupe said. “Most of them will be back for the second half, and I think we’re going to compete very well.”

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Fairchild was hitting .277 and was third on the team with seven homers. It is not unusual to see college players – as Fairchild is – moved a bit quicker through the system than those drafted out of high school, as they are more experienced. But not all of them are moved quickly.

Fairchild impressed not only with his bat, but with his speed. Some are moved because their performance merits it, while other times a player is moved up to take the place of an injured player or one not doing quite so well.

Sometimes, it’s just time. Other outfielders previously promoted this season from the Dragons are Narciso Crook and Michael Beltre. Each played with the Dragons last season, too.

Ventura, who also played briefly with the Dragons last season, played only seven games this season in Dayton, hitting just .188, but in three previous seasons has generally hit around .300.

Collymore also played briefly with the Dragons last summer and has hit well in the low minors, but already has been with three organizations, including St. Louis, Milwaukee and now, Cincinnati. He had been playing in Greeneville, the Reds’ third, and newest, rookie level team.

The addition of Collymore brings to 42 the number of players the Dragons have used this season. In 2011, the Dragons used only 39 players. They used a team-record 58 in 2016.

Manager Luis Bolivar, who took the Dragons to a first-half qualifying run for the playoffs last season and had his team on the brink of the championship round before losing to Fort Wayne in the third and tiebreaking game of round two, said he has been pleased with the offensive output of the team this season, “especially at home when we were good. We have to be good on the road, too.”

Where the Dragons look a little short is in the starting pitching department, although that may be turning. Hunter Greene, the Reds’ No. 1 draft choice last summer (and No. 2 overall) had a whopping 13-plus ERA after five games and has that ERA under 6 now.

“Hunter’s on a great run; he’s growing up in front of us,” Graupe said. “He’s showing us what he can do. I’m highly, highly pleased.”

Graupe knows the fans want more, but said, “Expectations can be unrealistic at times. None of these guys are going to have a zero ERA for the season. No one’s going to hit .500. But you look for that arrow to keep ticking up.

“Some of these guys will continue getting better. It’s still a relatively small sample.” Graupe said. “Packy Naughton is expected to do better in the second half and notes Adrian Rodriguez is in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2017. Andrew Jordan (who gave up three runs in seven innings to lower his ERA to 4.19 in the first game of the second half) just needs some time.”

Jordan pitched effectively with the Dragons last summer.

Tyler Mondile also pitched well in two of his last three starts, ending the first half. He gave up just one run in 11 innings. In the game he did not do so well, he allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Expect more movement this summer, even some players showing up from the recent draft. And expect the Dragons to compete for the playoffs.

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