Highly-touted 18-year-old pitcher Hunter Greene is one of six top Cincinnati Reds prospects assigned to the Dayton Dragons’ Opening Day roster.
Greene, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, was a two-way player in high school, but will be used strictly as a pitcher now. He pitched only 4.1 innings professionally last year, and will be on an innings limit this year as the Reds ease his young arm into a bigger workload. Accordingly, he will be Dayton’s fifth starter to begin the season, with his first game Monday vs. the Lake County Captains.
Ranked the No. 2 Reds prospect by Baseball America, Greene famously was clocked pitching a 102 mph fastball when he was only 16 years old, and regularly throws gas in the 98-100 mph range. He also has slider and changeup pitches that look promising but need some work; still, they help cement the idea that Greene potentially could develop into a special top-of-the-line pitcher with few peers.
Other Dragons ranked by Baseball America among Cincinnati’s top 30 prospects are infielders Jeter Downs (No. 11) and Jose Garcia (No. 12), outfielders Stuart Fairchild (No. 16) and Miles Gordon (No. 26), and LHP Packy Naughton (No. 28).
Downs — younger brother of Boston Red Sox farmhand Jerry Downs — was Cincinnati’s second pick (No. 32 overall) in last year’s draft. He batted .267 with 6 HR, 29 RBI and 8 SB in 50 games with the rookie-level Billings Mustangs last season. Yes, the 19-year-old Colombian shortstop was named after New York Yankees great Derek Jeter.
Garcia turns 20 on Midwest League Opening Day. The Cuba native is projected as a shortstop, but played second base in multiple tournaments with the Cuban national team. This is his first pro season.
Fairchild, a second-round pick (No. 38 overall) in last year’s draft, performed well offensively in his pro debut season, batting .304 with 12 extra-base hits, 23 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 56 games with Billings. According to Baseball America, the Reds see the 22-year-old as a true centerfielder who could reach the major leagues within three years.
Gordon, a 20-year-old Canada native and former amateur hockey player, is entering his fourth year as a pro baseball player, but Dayton is his first full-season assignment. Last year he batted .319 with 8 HR, 37 RBI and 7 SB in 61 games with Billings. (He led the team with a .530 slugging percentage.) According to Baseball America, Gordon has average power potential with above-average bat speed, and might be playing center field if Fairchild wasn’t already in that position. He’s been playing right field, instead, and is expected to for the Dragons, too.
Naughton, a ninth-round pick in last year’s draft, will be Dayton’s Opening Day starting pitcher. He did well in the Pioneer League last year, posting a 3.15 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 20 walks in 60 innings (14 games/12 starts) for Billings. In case you’re wondering, Packy’s given name is Patrick Joseph Naughton.
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