Reds last 2 No. 1 picks to start season with Dragons

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Where 2023 No. 1 draft choice Rhett Lowder will begin his minor-league career has been the most anticipated prospect announcement coming out of Cincinnati Reds spring training. The answer is High-A Dayton, not AA Chattanooga or AAA Louisville.

Lowder will be in uniform when the Dragons open the Midwest League season at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Day Air Ballpark.

Lowder joined the Dragons late last August on the developmental list. The Reds chose not to let him pitch in games. Instead he lifted weights and soft tossed because he pitched over 120 innings in a long college season that ended in the College World Series. He was the seventh overall pick out of Wake Forest and signed for $5.7 million after being named first-team All-American and ACC pitcher of the year for the second time.

Lowder is rated the Reds’ No. 2 prospect by behind infielder Noelvi Marte, who is serving an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Also joining the Dragons this season is 2022 first-round pick Cam Collier, a 19-year-old third baseman and the Reds’ No. 9-rated prospect. Collier batted .246 with six homers and 68 RBIs in 111 games last summer in Low-A Daytona. He had an on-base percentage of .349 and slugging percentage of .356 for a .705 OPS.

The Dragons’ roster will feature three other top-10 Reds prospects, according to Baseball America’s ratings. Returning to the Dragons are No. 6 Carlos Jorge and No. 7 Sal Stewart. New to the Dragons will be No. 8 Leonardo Balcazar.

After hitting .295 in Daytona, Jorge, a 20-year-old center fielder and second baseman, joined the Dragons and played in 23 games. He batted .239 with three homers. Stewart, a 20-year-old third baseman, played in 29 games for the Dragons and batted .291 with two homers and five stolen bases. Balcazar, 19, is a shortstop whose 2023 season ended after 18 games at Daytona because of a torn ACL. He batted .324 with an .898 OPS and hit one home run.

Additionally, shortstop Victor Acosta is ranked No. 19 by Baseball America, and outfielder Hector Rodriguez is ranked No. 20, giving the Dragons seven players ranked among the Reds top-20 by Baseball America. Outfielders Ethan O’Donnell and Jay Allen II do not appear on the Baseball America Reds top-30 list, but they are both on the MLB top-30 list, with O’Donnell at No. 23 and Allen at No. 25, giving the Dragons nine players within the Reds top 25 on the MLB list.

The Dayton roster includes 15 players who spent all or part of the 2023 season with the Dragons, including fan-favorite first baseman Ruben Ibarra. He finished tied for the team lead in home runs (18) and RBIs (63) last season. Ibarra is eight home runs short of the Dragons’ franchise record of 30 by Chris Williamson, who played for the Dragons in 2000-02.

The Dragons’ opening night roster:

Pitchers: Kevin Abel, Pedro Alfonseca, Brock Bell, Ryan Cardona, Tanner Cooper, Arij Fransen, Myles Gayman, Johnathan Harmon, Bryce Hubbart, Brody Jessee, Rhett Lowder, Jared Lyons, Joseph Menefee, Luis Mey, Graham Osman, Javi Rivera, T.J. Sikkema.

Catchers: Cade Hunter, Logan Tanner.

Infielders: Victor Acosta, Leonardo Balcazar, Cam Collier, Yan Contreras, Ruben Ibarra, Jose Serrano, Sal Stewart.

Outfielders: Jay Allen II, Carlos Jorge, Ethan O’Donnell, Hector Rodriguez.

About the Author