They’re currently on their second 9 game winning streak of the season. They’ve won 22 of their first 26 games. They lead their division by 6 games. This is essentially the same group of players that won both halves of their division last year at Billings and they’ve continued winning this year.

So, how are they doing it?

With pitching… their 2.53 team ERA is first in the league. They’re averaging .81H/IP (1st in league) and 1.06 K/IP (1st). Their five starters have a combined ERA of 2.12 and WHIP of .92.

With hitting… their team BA is .281, OBP .345, and SLG is .411. All first in the league.

Who are these guys?

21 year old Daryl Thompson, who came to the Reds in the Kearns/Lopez deal, is 5-0 with a .96 ERA. Hitters are hitting .165 against him. (LH .132 RH .186). His WHIP is .65.

21 year old Sean Watson, last year’s 2nd round pick, is 3-0. He has a 1.69 ERA and has struck out 42 batters in 32 innings.

21 year old Rafeal Gonzalez, 2004 4th round pick, seems to have finally matured. He’s 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA and his WHIP is 1.07.

21 year old SS Chris Valaika, 2006 3rd round pick, MVP of the Pioneer League last year, 32 (I believe) hitting streak last year. And thus far, he’s improved on those numbers, posting .388/.441/.571 up to this point. He’s leading the league or in second place in all three categories.

19 year old 3B Juan Francisco is hitting .286/.330/.552 and leading the MWL in homers (7). He’s also second in total bases (58).

The only drawback to these two is that they have 5 and 6 errors respectively.

21 year old OF Drew Stubbs, 2006 1st round pick, has recovered from a slump and is 7 for his last 19, with 3 doubles and 2 homers (one a walk off). He’s raised his numbers to .282/.348/.447 and despite his 3 errors, seems to play CF very well, getting to balls very easily.

Additionally, the Dragons have 5 other players receiving significant playing time with OPS above .700. Their bullpen are all older players (23 and up) that you would expect to dominate at this level and they are.


This adds up to a team that is very difficult to beat. Their starting pitching keeps them in most games, the lineup is capable of scoring runs (top to bottom) and the bullpen has been dominating.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Reds decide to keep this group of players together, as they did last year to this year, or if they start promoting them individually on their own merits.

9 Responses

  1. Chris

    This might sound stupid, but there could be a real developmental benefit to keeping these guys together for the full year. They’re obviously getting a lot of experience winning. While I’m not sure I agree with “learning how to win,” I think there is a real benefit to being confident and comfortable with success.

    Second, holding some of the guys back (slightly) for a half season, to accomplish a common goal of winning a championship (in front of a packed house every night), may also have a real benefit.

    Again, I understand that the mission of the entire organization is to win championships at the major league level, but holding everyone together might also have the long-term benefit of reinforcing the lesson that the team is more important than the individual, and building a “Reds Way,” as the Dodgers and Orioles famously had in the 1960s-80s.

  2. doug

    I think its only a matter of time before some of those guys go to Dayton.

    Watson and Thompson both should be in Sarasota by July from the pitching staff.

    Valaika should also be there and soon. The guy can just flat out rake.

  3. Bill

    When I talked to Chris Welsh last year, he felt there was a real benefit to winning in the minor leagues. And the last few years, the number of Reds minor league teams that have won have been few, I do believe.

  4. GregD

    I think there’s a benefit to winning in the minor leagues, and there’s also a benefit to making sure the success isn’t due to small sample size. I don’t think waiting a half season is too long for most guys, but like all things in life, it’s impossible to handle all player promotions with a hard and fast rule. We fans are so hungry to actually see some minor leaguers turn to major leaguers within our own organization, that we’re ready to have players promoted after a month of strong play. And the system is still fairly barren of prospects at the upper levels that good players in A-ball aren’t being blocked by other prospects.

    In general, I don’t think a 2-3 month window is a bad wait-and-see length before player promotions. However, if you can determine a player may have been placed at too low of a level (like Watson might have been?) then definitely consider an early promotion.

  5. Bill

    I think it’s tough to say that Watson should have started higher, when you look at his numbers in limited appearances in Dayton last year.(8.59 ERA and .349 BA in 10 games)

  6. Matt W

    I am a beer vendor in Dayton and I will tell you that this team is fun to watch and more competitive than any that we have had come through here in a while.

    Although I would love to see them stay in Dayton the entire year, I can see where Thompson and Valaika will be gone at the half way point.

    I see them holding Stubbs unless he stays really hot and Francisco is only 19.

    I do believe that these guys hanging around in the rookie league and low-A is good for the organization. Look at Jeff Samardzija for the Cubs. They need pitching so bad and they feel the need to win right now so badly that the kid has pitched in Boise, Peoria, and Daytona in a month. That’s a bad sign for the player and the organization. My two cents, love the site.

  7. al

    none of the guys you listed are too old to be in A ball, so i don’t see how it hurts them too badly to wait for half the season to see if the success continues before sending them to A+.

    The guys who succeed at both levels start at AA next year, which may be more incentive for them all to do well, so they can stay together.

    Plus, dayton is a sweet place to play, and sarasota is not.

  8. GregD

    Good point al. When I see names/ages in the DOTF daily highlights, they are 19-21 mostly. When I see names/ages at Sarasota & Chattanooga, they seem to be a little old for the level.