Dayton Dragons may start season stacked with prospects

Jose Nieves holds up the jersey he will wear as manager of the Dayton Dragons. (Photo courtesy of the Dayton Daily News)

Jose Nieves holds up the jersey he will wear as manager of the Dayton Dragons. (Photo courtesy of the Dayton Daily News)

New Dayton Dragons manager Jose Nieves may be in charge of a team really worth watching this year — at least during the first half of the season.

Baseball America projects that four of the top 10 Cincinnati Reds prospects on its top 30 list, and six of the top 18, are players who will start the season with the Dragons.

In fact, Reds Director of Player Development Jeff Graupe essentially confirmed the Dragons will be stacked with potential when he addressed the topic during a Friday press conference introducing Nieves to Dayton-area media.

“I’m very excited about the potential roster we’re talking about internally right now,” Graupe said. “Last year was a tough year with the win-loss record (60-78). With the ebb and flow of minor-league talent and how rosters come together, this has a chance to be a special team for Dayton.”

Here are the six top prospects projected to start the season in Dayton, from the Dragons’ website:

Right-handed pitcher Robert Stephenson, who is projected to begin the season in Dayton after finishing the 2012 year here, is the #2 prospect in the Reds organization, trailing only former Dragon Billy Hamilton. The last Reds prospects as highly-regarded as Stephenson entering their seasons with the Dragons were Hamilton in 2011 and Jay Bruce in 2006. Both were also rated as the #2 prospects in the Reds organization when they played for the Dragons.

Additionally, Jesse Winker, a highly-touted 19-year-old outfielder who is expected to join Stephenson on the Dayton roster, is ranked #6 by Baseball America. Other Baseball America top-rated prospects projected to start 2013 in Dayton include left-handed starting pitcher Ismael Guillon (#8), right-handed starting pitcher Dan Langfield (#10), outfielder Jeff Gelalich (#13), and third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean (#18). Right-handed starting pitcher Sal Romano is rated at #29, making it possible that four of the five members of the Dragons starting pitching rotation will be players identified by Baseball America among the Reds top 30 prospects.

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