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If you looked at his baseball history prior to this season, you would wonder how Dragons reliever Braxton Roxby ever managed to make the Dayton team. After all, he had never thrown a pitch in professional baseball prior to 2021, and he entered the Reds organization as an undrafted free agent out of NCAA Division II University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, where he did not exactly dominate. Even high draft picks out of big college programs do not usually start their careers at the High-A level, but Roxby has done exactly that. And he has been one of the Central League’s best pitchers.
Cotton at bat earlier this season.
How good has Roxby been for the Dragons? He made his professional debut in a tough situation at Great Lakes on May 4, and he struck out all three batters he faced with the tying runs on base. He threw 15 pitches to get three strikeouts. All 15 were sliders. “That’s been my pitch,” said Roxby. “I came to instructs (Reds Instructional League) in the fall and really dialed that in. I didn’t throw it as much as I should have in college. It’s a pitch I got really comfortable with that pitch in spring training this year. I had multiple spring training outings where I didn’t throw a fastball. So they (my teammates) weren’t surprised as much as I feel like a lot of you guys (media) were when I threw so many.” Through games of June 6, Roxby has not given up a single run in nine relief appearances. He has allowed only three hits in 12.1 innings. That is outstanding for a guy that did not expect to start the year in Dayton. “Starting out in High A, that’s a little higher than I expected,” he says. “I went to spring training in a working group with Low-A Daytona. I expected to break camp with them. Got the news I was coming here and it has been great.” Roxby has been a strikeout machine. He has averaged nearly two strikeouts per inning, a stunning statistic for a guy who posted a career ERA in Division 2 college baseball of 6.90. “I came from a pretty good Division 2 conference, but still Division 2,” said Roxby. “The hitters’ approach here has been different, honestly. I am getting a lot more swings and misses out of the zone with guys being more aggressive here, and I noticed that in spring training as well. It kind of opens up my pitch usage and how I can sequence the hitters.” Roxby is a native of Windber, Pennsylvania, a borough near Johnstown with a population of about 4,000, about 90 miles east of Pittsburgh. He spent three seasons at Pitt-Johnstown and began to draw the attention of scouts in 2019 after pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod League, a college wood bat summer league that was the scene of the baseball drama, Summer Catch. Roxby did have some successful games in college, but the overall numbers gave little indication of the dominance he has enjoyed this season with the Dragons, striking out hitters out of big college programs. He has been consistent, allowing an opponent’s batting average of just .081. On June 1, he found a new role as the Dragons closer in a hard-fought win at Lake County. Roxby entered the game to pitch the ninth inning with the Dragons leading 10-9, and shut down the Captains in order for the save. Roxby’s early season success is certain to draw the attention of key decision-makers with the Cincinnati Reds, and his role in the Dragons bullpen has solidified to the point where he has become one of the team’s most dependable arms. Roxby’s performance has been a key factor in the Dragons early season success.