Dragons 2023 Preview, Part 2: First Basemen
By the end of the day today, every minor league player in the Cincinnati Reds organization is due to report to the Reds spring training camp in Goodyear, Arizona, and the process for selecting the Dayton Dragons 2023 roster will officially begin. Many players have already reported. In mid-February, 49
By the end of the day today, every minor league player in the Cincinnati Reds organization is due to report to the Reds spring training camp in Goodyear, Arizona, and the process for selecting the Dayton Dragons 2023 roster will officially begin. Many players have already reported. In mid-February, 49 players were brought in for early work. On February 24, all minor league pitchers and catchers were due. And the first full-squad workout for 160 Reds minor league players will take place tomorrow. Those players will compete for spots on the rosters of the four Reds full-season affiliates, including the High-A Dayton Dragons. Minor League spring training games will begin on March 13, and this season’s Dragons team will arrive in Dayton on April 4.
The Dragons annual home opening night game at Day Air Ballpark is scheduled for Tuesday, April 11th against the Great Lakes Loons at 7:05 p.m. Even before that night, the Dragons will open their 23rd season in the Midwest League with a road series at the Lake County Captains in Eastlake, Ohio beginning Thursday, April 6th at 6:35 p.m.
This is part two of an eight-part series previewing the 2023 Dragons. Players listed here are candidates for positions on the Dragons season-opening roster.
This preview is an unofficial projection of possible roster candidates. Minor League rosters are not established until April 3. Spring training variables including performance, injuries, trades, and additional player acquisitions will impact the roster accordingly.
The First Basemen
Click links on each name for career stats and player information.
Candidates: Ruben Ibarra, Michel Triana.
One of the interesting elements of Minor League Baseball is that it seems that in every season, at least one player will emerge from obscurity to become an impactful player, maybe even a star. It seems that every year, a player who was seated on the bench when the first pitch was thrown on opening night manages to earn an opportunity to compete for playing time, and takes advantage of that chance to claim a key role on the team.
In 2021, that player was Francisco Urbaez, who started the year as one of the least known players on the Dayton roster, rarely playing at all. By early August, Urbaez looked like he was on his way to the league batting title, and he probably would have led the league in hitting if he had not been promoted to Chattanooga with a batting average of .333 and a slugging percentage of .455.
If you looked at the Dragons opening night starting lineup in 2022, one name that was not on the list was first baseman Alex McGarry. He was a back-up player at the start of the season, expected to play two or three games per week. But when McGarry got his opportunities, he excelled. Eventually, he became the key power threat in the Dayton lineup, the Midwest League leader in numerous major categories, and by High-A standards, a star. By the end of the season, McGarry was selected as the Reds Minor League Hitter of the Year. He was promoted to Double-A in June, finished the season in Triple-A, and has been receiving plenty of playing time this spring in Reds big league spring training games. With McGarry at first base in Dayton in 2022, the Dragons compared favorably to any other team in the league at that position.
Two players who got the chance to play first base with the Dragons in 2022 after McGarry was promoted are in line to return in 2023.
With Joey Votto cemented as the Reds first baseman on a long-term basis, the Reds have not felt the need to use high draft capital at the position since they took University of Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso in the first round in 2008. When the Reds drafted Ruben Ibarra in the fourth round in 2021, it marked the first time they had taken a first baseman earlier than the 24th round in 10 years.
Ruben Ibarra was a college superstar at San Jose State University, where he finished second in the nation in slugging percentage in 2021 (.855), batting .381 with 14 home runs in 35 games. Ibarra is a massive physical specimen at 290 lbs. and can seemingly hit the ball halfway to the moon. The friendly, always-smiling Ibarra brings a level of toughness to the game; his grandfather and uncle were professional steer wrestlers.
After being taken in the fourth round in 2021, Ibarra opened his first full season in pro ball at Daytona last April. He got off to a slow start with the Tortugas before catching fire and winning the Florida State League Batter of the Week award in his final week with the team, hitting .600 with three home runs in five games. In his final 14 games at Daytona, Ibarra hit .467 with four home runs, 13 runs batted in, and an .822 slugging percentage. When McGarry moved up from the Dragons to Chattanooga in June, Ibarra replaced him at first base in Dayton. His final numbers at Daytona, in 42 games, included a batting average of .286 with seven home runs.
With the Dragons, Ibarra played in just 25 games before his season came to an early end due to a broken thumb suffered in a collision at first base where he tried to come off the bag to take an errant throw and make a sweeping tag on the batter/runner. He was in the process of making adjustments to the new level of competition when the injury brought his season to a halt. He batted .188 with the Dragons while connecting on four home runs. Overall for the year, combining his numbers at Daytona and Dayton, he played in 68 games and hit .249 with 11 home runs and a .440 slugging percentage. While you might expect a player of Ibarra’s size and big power to be somewhat of an all-or-nothing hitter with a lot of strikeouts, he actually makes rather consistent contact. He had 63 strikeouts in 225 at-bats in 2022, a better-than-average ratio in today’s baseball environment. Ibarra would be a likely candidate to return to the Dragons in 2023.
When Ibarra suffered the thumb injury last season, Michel Triana came up from Daytona to take his place with the Dragons. Triana was a star on the Cuban 18-under national team in 2017, and he was one of the Reds biggest international signings in 2019, receiving a reported $1.3 million signing bonus. Listed at 6’3”, 230 lbs., Triana is another player with the ability to hit the ball a country mile. Baseball America ranked Triana as the Reds #18 prospect heading into the 2021 season, but he struggled in his professional debut with Daytona, batting .227 with two home runs in 49 games. Triana returned to Daytona to start the 2022 season and showed more power, hitting seven home runs in 82 games, but his average dropped to .201. He was promoted to the Dragons on August 9 and hit better in the Midwest League against better pitching than he had in the Florida State League. He posted a .521 slugging percentage in Dayton compared to .333 with Daytona, and he hit seven homers in both places despite playing in just 25 games with Dayton (57 fewer games than with Daytona). His batting average at Dayton was only .213, but he did have a strong finish over his last 10 games, batting .289 with four homers and 13 RBI. Triana has also played some third base but has looked more comfortable at first, where he is a solid fielder.
Jack Rogers, who will be profiled in our outfielder preview, has also played first base with the Dragons and could return in 2023. Cincinnati Enquirer writer Bobby Nightengale has reported that he has seen 2022 Dragon Tyler Callihan getting some reps at first base this spring in Arizona. Callihan played both second base and third base last season with the Dragons and will be profiled in our second base preview.
Next up: Second Basemen
More Information:The Dayton Dragons are the affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and play 66 home games at beautiful Day Air Ballpark, in the heart of the Water Street District. Contact the Dragons by calling at (937) 228-2287, emailing at [email protected], or go to daytondragons.com. For more information, please visit the following links:
- 2023 Schedule: https://www.milb.com/dayton/team/schedules
- Season Tickets: https://www.milb.com/dayton/tickets/seasontickets
- Group and Hospitality Options: https://www.milb.com/dayton/tickets/groupoutings
- Single Game Tickets: https://www.milb.com/dayton/tickets/single-game-tickets