Minors

Observations on Senzel, Stephenson, Santillan from Friday’s tilt in Dayton

I had the pleasure of taking in game in Dayton on Friday night. While the Dragons lost by a 10-1 score to the South Bend Cubs (there were some striking parallels to the Reds-Cubs matchups in the big leagues this season), I did get a good look at some exciting young players in the Reds’ organization. Below are some of my thoughts.

Nick Senzel looked as advertised, picking up a pair of solid singles in four plate appearances. He capped off a six-pitch at-bat with a base hit up the middle in the bottom of the first. After striking out swinging in his second trip to the plate, he ripped another single between the third baseman and shortstop in the sixth inning. Senzel went down looking in his final trip to the plate.

The first-rounder’s bat speed and great plate discipline were undeniable. One particular moment that stood out to me was during his second at-bat. After getting down 0-2 quickly, he took a very close pitch for a ball to stay alive. A lot of players, especially in Low-A baseball, would have offered at the pitch, but Senzel showed a great eye by laying off.

Defensively, it was a so-so showing for Senzel at third base. He didn’t have a ball hit to him until the fifth inning, which he handled without a hitch. The seventh was a rough inning for him, as he was charged with an error after a throw pulled the first baseman off the bag. Later in the frame, he bobbled a rocket hit at him off the bat of Cubs No. 2 prospect Eloy Jimenez, but the third baseman made a nice recovery in time to get the out at first. The glove may be the only thing keeping Senzel in Dayton right now.

Recent second-round pick Chris Okey was out of the lineup, which meant 2015 first-rounder Tyler Stephenson was behind the plate. The catcher has been slowed down by injuries this year, but he had a solid night with the bat on Friday. Although he flew out to right field in his first at-bat, he did a nice job battling after getting down 0-2, fouling off some tough pitches. After drawing a walk in his second time up, Stephenson unloaded on the first pitch he saw in the seventh inning for a solo home run — the Dragons’ only tally of the night. The towering shot nearly hit the scoreboard in left field, measuring at 402 feet.

Right-handed pitcher Tony Santillan, the organization’s No. 13 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, made his third start since being promoted from Billings. After a solid performance on the road, he struggled again in his second outing at Fifth Third Field, allowing five runs in 4 2/3 innings. The good news is he struck out six batters and consistently sat around 95–96 mph. But command continued to be a problem for him, especially late in the outing, as he gave up four walks on the night.

The first inning went smoothly for the 19-year-old right-hander, as he retired the side in order with a strikeout. From that point on, however, he had a very up-and-down evening.

Jimenez led the second inning off with a triple that nearly left the yard in dead center field. Santillan gave up an RBI single to the next hitter, but escaped the inning with a double play started on a nice diving stop by shortstop Brantley Bell.

Santillan’s struggles continued in the third. The Cubs’ eight and nine hitters (who were only retired twice on the night in nine combined plate appearances) singled and doubled to start the inning, making it a 2-0 game. The righty struck out the next batter, but then gave up a walk and a three-run bomb to Alberto Mineo that completely left Fifth Third Field and nearly hit a car on East 1st Street beyond the right-field wall. Santillan did bounce back nicely by striking out Jimenez and Rose to get out of the inning.

He worked around a hit and a walk to throw a scoreless inning in the fourth, and was sent back to the mound in the fifth sitting on 75 pitches. The Texan induced another double play after walking the leadoff hitter, but was pulled after a four-pitch walk to Jimenez.

The stuff is clearly there for Santillan, but he’s still a bit raw at 19 years old. It should be interesting to see if he can finish out the year strong in Dayton.

Tanner Rainey, the 71st overall pick in the 2015 draft, also appeared in relief for the second time in 2016 and his inconsistent season continued. He’s got a nice arm — he hit 97 on the radar gun — and struck out the side in the eighth inning, but also gave up three runs on three hits and a walk.

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