It will be understandable if fans leave a Dayton Dragons game this year thinking they’ve just seen the second coming of a particular All-Star outfielder who played for the Montreal Expos and the Los Angeles Angels.
The top Cincinnati Reds prospect assigned to Dayton for the start of the 2015 season is outfielder Aristides Aquino, whom Baseball America describes thusly: “A tall, live-bodied rightfielder with a big arm who wears No. 27, Aquino models his game after Vladimir Guerrero, right down to a batting stance that begins with a bat waggle above his head.”
Aquino could do worse than draw comparisons to a former American League MVP and nine-time All-Star likely destined for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball America, which ranks him ninth among Reds prospects, also notes Aquino “had an average arm when he signed [in 2011], but it’s now a plus weapon in right field — he led [Pioneer League] outfielders with 13 assists — and he has grown to be an average defender.”
Last year Aquino batted .292 with 16 HR, 64 RBI and 21 SB in 71 games with the Billings Mustangs, who won the Pioneer League championship.
The Dragons have four other players rated by Baseball America among the top 30 Reds prospects: corner infielder Gavin LaValley (No. 17), starting RHP Wyatt Strahan (No. 23), starting RHP Tyler Mahle (No. 26), and relief RHP Jeremy Kivel (No. 29).
Baseball America says LaValley “is one of the more advanced high school hitters the Reds have drafted in recent years,” with “excellent bat speed and an advanced, all-field hitting approach that gives him a chance to both hit for average and produce at least average productive power.” Knocks against him are lack of fielding range and below-average base-running ability. He batted .276 with 6 HR and 32 RBI in 59 rookie-level games last year before turning 20 in late December.
Strahan and Mahle are expected to anchor the Dragons starting rotation while Kivel brings the heat from the bullpen. Kivel has struggled from control issues with his 94-96 mph fastball that has reached 100 mph during his two years as a pro. All three pitchers played for Billings last year.
Other Dragons relief pitchers include LHP Brennan Bernardino, who allowed only three earned runs in 22 Pioneer League appearances last year; RHP Alejandro Chacin, who had a 2.63 ERA, 29 saves and 156 strikeouts in 130 IP for Dayton the past two seasons; LHP Nolan Becker, who posted a 2.17 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 37.1 IP for the Dragons last year; and RHP Jake Ehret, who pitched for the 2013 national champion UCLA Bruins.