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2021 Dragons
Season Preview
It’s been 20 long months since the dirt at Day Air Ballpark hosted a Dragons game back over Labor Day weekend 2019.
But now, Dayton’s hometown team is back in action. Since we last took the field the Dragons have also moved up in the Cincinnati Reds organizational ladder. The Dragons are now a High-A team, one rung above where we spent our first 20 seasons in Low-A. Because of that, you’re going to see a few familiar names on our roster in 2021, even though they’ve moved one step closer to playing in “The Show.”
Here’s a look at some key cogs in this year’s Dragons roster:
Michael Siani
Michael Siani is the top prospect at any position on the 2021 Dragons roster. He spent the 2019 season with the Dragons and will move up in the Reds system in 2021. Unlike most Dragons, he did see action in 2020 as he spent time at the Reds MLB alternate site once the 2020 minor league season was canceled.
Siani is ranked by Baseball America as the “Best Defensive Outfielder” in the entire Reds farm system, and the “Best Athlete” as well. He was ranked as the #10 prospect in the Reds system entering the year and the #2 outfield prospect (behind only Austin Hendrick, the Reds first round draft pick in 2020). With the Dragons in 2019, Siani made one of the finest diving catches ever seen at Day Air Ballpark. It was amazing enough to earn a spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Plays.
With the Dragons in 2019, Siani was one of the youngest everyday players in the league. After a slow first half, he made huge adjustments and finished strong. Two months into the season on June 1, he was hitting just .192, but he batted .326 in July to raise his average to .253. He finished the year with six home runs and a team-leading 45 stolen bases, the third highest SB total in Dragons history.
MLB.com had this to say about Siani after he was drafted:
An athletic kid who draws some comparisons to Grady Sizemore, Siani has drawn raves for having great instincts in the outfield…His speed should also make him a threat on the base paths…He could hit for average and have enough power to be interesting as a center fielder…Siani gets very high marks for his makeup and work ethic, which should help him maximize his tools.
Pitching
Returning pitcher Lyon Richardson and newcomer Noah Davis are both among the top pitching prospects in the Reds organization.

Richardson was the Reds second round draft pick in 2018 out of Jensen Beach High School in Florida. He led all Dragons pitchers in 2019 in starts and innings (26 starts, 112.2 innings). As one of the youngest starting pitchers in the league at age 19, he posted a respectable 4.15 earned run average and had a good walk-to-strikeout ratio of 33-106.
Davis was on the mound for some big games in college and high school. As a freshman at UC Santa Barbara in 2016, he was the team’s #2 starting pitcher behind ace Shane Bieber, the 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner with the Cleveland Indians. Davis helped UCSB to its first-ever trip to the College World Series as the team finished the year as the #7 team in the nation. Davis was the starting pitcher for their second game of the 2016 College World Series as his team beat powerful Miami. Davis allowed just one run on two hits over six innings in that game. At Huntington Beach High School, Davis was a California All-State selection and pitched his team to a state championship.
Flame-throwing starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft was the Reds sixth round draft pick in 2019 out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Ashcraft pitched in a Major League game for the Reds in spring training this season and fired a 100 mph fastball with his first pitch.
Lyon Richardson with the Dragons in 2019
Photo from Army West Point Athletics

A Different Kind of 'All-American'

One of the most interesting stories on the 2021 roster is outfielder Jacob Hurtubise.
He signed a free agent contract with the Reds in 2020 after playing at West Point, where he was selected as an All-American and the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.
Hurtubise broke the conference career records in both stolen bases and walks. He batted .375 with 45 steals in 2019 at Army. Baseball America named him as the “Fastest Baserunner” in the entire Cincinnati Reds organization before he had played a single professional game.
Hurtubise is joined on the Dragons roster by another service academy alum. Pitcher Jake Gilbert is an Air Force Academy grad.
Photo from Pepperdine Athletics

Power from pepperdine

Dragons infielder Quincy McAfee got off the a sizzling start to begin the 2021 season, blasting a grand slam home run in the Dragons first game on May 4.

McAfee was a starting middle infielder at Pepperdine for three seasons, beginning with his freshman year in 2017. The Dragons all-star shortstop in 2013, Zach Vincej, played the same position at Pepperdine five years before McAfee arrived on campus. McAfee batted .310 in 2019 at Pepperdine, connecting on a pair of home runs with a .433 slugging percentage.
The Reds drafted McAfee in the 26th round in 2019 and assigned him to Billings, where he was a key contributor to the Mustangs run to the Pioneer League playoffs. After a slow start, he caught fire in August and finished at .291 in 60 games, adding one home run. He was hitting just .214 after his first 37 games, but starting on August 9, he hit .405 over the rest of the season in 23 games. He started 29 games at shortstop, 20 at second base, and six more at third base.
McAfee had a huge prep career at Southlake High School in Houston, Texas. He hit .537 as a senior and was selected as the Texas 6A (largest schools) All-State shortstop and the Houston-area 6A Player of the Year.
Photo courtesy of GCU Athletics

A 'Grand' Talent

Outfielder Quin Cotton also got off to a fine start for the Dragons in the season-opening series at Great Lakes last week.
Cotton was drafted by the Reds in the eighth round in 2019 after his junior year at Grand Canyon University of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Cotton had back-to-back big seasons at Grand Canyon in 2018-19. In his sophomore year of 2018, he batted a conference-leading .390 and won the WAC Player of the Year award. In 2019, he hit .331 and was 2nd Team All-Conference. His 21 doubles ranked second in the WAC. He combined to hit nine home runs over the 2018-19 seasons in 116 games at GCU.
After being drafted by the Reds in 2019, Cotton was assigned to Billings and became one of the Mustangs best hitters as their starting center fielder. In 61 games, he hit .283 with four home runs and eight stolen bases as the Billings lead-off hitter. He was selected as a 2019 Pioneer League all-star.
Photo courtesy of UCSB Athletics

Trio of solid backstops

The Dragons roster also features a strong group of catchers.
Eric Yang was a teammate of Noah Davis at UC Santa Barbara, helping his team to the Big West Conference championship and a trip to the NCAA Regional. He had a huge season in 2019 when he was selected 2nd Team All-American by Baseball America, Big West Conference Player of the Year, and was a finalist for the Buster Posey Award as college baseball’s best catcher.
After signing with the Reds, Yang went to Billings, made the all-star team, and hit a home run in the all-star game. He played in 51 games for the Mustangs, batting .290 with four home runs and a .420 slugging percentage. He was selected by Baseball America as the #19 prospect in the Pioneer League, the second highest ranking among catchers.
James Free played at the University of the Pacific. He had a huge freshman season in 2017 when he posted an OPS of over 1.000 while leading the conference in both home runs (14) and RBI (54) and batting .343 in 52 games. Those numbers earned him NCAA Freshman All-American honors. As a junior in 2019, he hit .335 with eight home runs in 49 games with a .541 slugging percentage.

A third catcher on the roster, Jose Tello, batted .311 with an OPS of .888 in his most recent season in 2019 at the Rookie level in the Reds organization.