Dragons 2023 Preview, Part 6: Outfielders
In less than three weeks, the Dayton Dragons will open their 23rd season in the Midwest League, kicking off the year with a road series in Eastlake, Ohio against the Lake County Captains, affiliates of the Cleveland Guardians. The Dragons annual home opening night game at Day Air Ballpark is
In less than three weeks, the Dayton Dragons will open their 23rd season in the Midwest League, kicking off the year with a road series in Eastlake, Ohio against the Lake County Captains, affiliates of the Cleveland Guardians.
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. Dragons single-game tickets and season ticket plans are available now. The season ticket plans feature the Dragons new Business Club and Family Club and are loaded with special benefits. Call the Dragons at (937) 228-2287 or go to daytondragons.com/tickets for more information.
This is part six 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 4. Spring training variables including performance, injuries, trades, and additional player acquisitions will impact the roster accordingly.
Click links on each name for career stats and player information.
Candidates: Rece Hinds, Austin Hendrick, Justice Thompson, Jay Allen II, Blake Dunn, Jack Rogers
Rece Hinds is a big, athletic, power hitter who has struggled with injuries since the Reds drafted him in the second round in 2019 out of high school in Florida. Hinds spent most of the 2022 season with the Dragons and could either return to Dayton in 2023 or move up to Double-A Chattanooga. He is currently ranked as the Reds #18 prospect by MLB.com and #30 by Baseball America. He has the talent to catapult up the list if he can put together a healthy, productive season and make a few adjustments in his game.
Hinds, like his close friend and 2022 Dragons teammate Tyler Callihan, was an absolute mega-star as a high schooler in the state of Florida. It would be a lofty claim to stake by saying that any player was one of the top home run hitters in the entire country, but Hinds has the receipts to back it up. In 2018, he won the prestigious Under Armour All-America Home Run Derby, edging Callihan by one home run in the final round. That same summer, he finished second in the Junior Home Run Derby at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game hosted by the Washington Nationals, losing out to Bobby Witt Jr., the second overall selection of the 2019 draft. Hinds played for the US national team in 2017. He was ranked by Perfect Game as the #11 high school prospect in the draft in 2019. Many prospect rankers listed Hinds as the best power hitter in the entire ’19 draft.
The Reds took Hinds in the second round in 2019, and he passed up an offer to play at LSU to sign with Cincinnati. He logged just eight at-bats that summer after the draft, all with Greeneville of the Appalachian League, due to an injury. After the pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, Hinds played at Daytona in 2021, and he showed plenty of potential, earning the Reds Minor League Batter of the Month in August of that season when he hit .328 with six home runs in just 61 at-bats. But the injury bug bit him again as he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee and missed about half the season. In 43 games with Daytona, he batted .251 with 10 home runs and a .515 slugging percentage. It was enough to lead Baseball America to name him the “Best Power Hitter” among Reds prospects entering 2022. Hinds, who had played third base exclusively from the time he was drafted in 2019 through the end of the 2021 season, was also named as the Reds prospect with the “Best Infield Arm” by Baseball America entering the 2022 season. But during spring training a year ago, the Reds moved Hinds to the outfield, and he made a great transition, playing both right field and left field with the Dragons in 2022.
Unfortunately, Hinds was once again victimized by an injury that cost him significant playing time in 2022. He suffered a broken hand in June and missed nearly half the season. At times when he was healthy in 2022, he was one of the Midwest League’s most feared hitters. Hinds was selected as the Reds Minor League Batter of the Month in May when he hit .388 with four home runs in 20 games, posting a .672 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.146. His offensive game can be improved by making more consistent contact. Hinds struck out 107 times in 247 at-bats with the Dragons. He finished the year with a batting average of .235 with 10 home runs in 67 games, the equivalent of a half season.
Hinds actually finished the year at Double-A Chattanooga, where he played in six games after the Dragons season was completed. He hit well there, batting .310 with a pair of home runs. His starting point in 2023 could be partially dependent on the number of vacancies in the Chattanooga outfield, where the numbers look a little thin (unlike the infield there, where it looks extremely crowded). Former Dragons Brian Rey, Allan Cerda, and Jacob Hurtubise could be in Chattanooga, with room for one or two other outfielders as well. And as always, an injury or two could shuffle the assignments.
Austin Hendrick was the Reds #1 draft pick (12th overall) in 2020 out of West Allegheny High School in Imperial, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh. Like Rece Hinds, Hendrick was selected to play in numerous national all-star events during high school, and after Hinds won the 2018 Under Armour All-America Home Run Derby, Hendrick won it in 2019. That is a special accomplishment and a testament to the amount of power the Dragons had in the lineup in 2022, when they broke the club record for home runs as a team. For one team to have back-to-back winners of a national home run derby is quite unusual, and both players could return to Dayton in 2023.
Hendrick finished fourth in the Junior Home Run Derby at the 2019 MLB All-Star Game hosted by the Cleveland Guardians, and he played in 2019 for the Team USA Under-18 national team at the World Cup in South Korea. Hendrick was rated by Perfect Game as the #3 high school prospect in America in 2020 and planned to attend Mississippi State before signing with the Reds.
Hendrick opened his professional career in 2021 at Daytona, batting .211 with seven home runs in 63 games as one of the league’s youngest hitters. He returned to Daytona to start the 2022 season and played in 36 games there before a promotion to the Dragons on May 24. He played in 73 games for the Dragons, batting .222 with 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Overall for the year, his home run total of 21 between Dayton and Daytona ranked tied for fourth in the Reds organization.
Hendrick is ranked as the Reds #22 prospect by MLB.com and the Reds #35 prospect by Fangraphs. He can improve his status by cutting down on strikeouts. He went down on strikes 165 times in 388 at-bats in 2022. Hendrick has gotten seven at-bats this spring in Reds major league exhibition games and hit a home run against the Padres on March 8. He primarily plays right field but also sees plenty of action in center. Hendrick projects as the Dragons opening night starting right fielder.
Justice Thompson is a 6’4” native of Tampa, Florida who was the Reds sixth round draft pick in 2021. He spent his final year of college at North Carolina after two years of junior college ball and batted .304 with seven home runs in 54 games in the spring of 2021. Thompson opened the 2022 season at Daytona and appeared in nine games before receiving a promotion to the Dragons. He appeared in 90 games with the Dayton club, batting .247 with seven home runs and 20 stolen bases. Thompson hit the Dragons first walk-off home run since 2015 (Aristides Aquino) on May 20 against Quad Cities, hitting a three-run blast to left field with two outs and the Dragons trailing by a run in the final inning.
Thompson had a strong finish to the 2022 season. Beginning August 7 through the end of the campaign, he appeared in 23 games and batted .293 with four home runs in 75 at-bats. He split his time nearly equally with the Dragons between left field and center. Thompson is a good athlete with speed and power potential but like many hitters in this preview, would hope to cut down on his strikeouts.
Jay Allen II is expected to be the Dragons starting center fielder in 2023, when he will be one of the youngest position players in the league at the age of 20. Allen joined the Dragons late in the 2022 season as a 19-year-old and made an immediate impact.
Allen II was a three-sport star at John Carroll Catholic High School in Fort Pierce, Florida. He was a football quarterback who threw for 29 touchdowns as a senior in 2020. As a guard in basketball, he became the school’s first 1,000 point scorer. He received Division I interest in football but committed to play baseball only at the University of Florida before signing with the Reds. He was rated as the #20 high school prospect nationally in the 2021 class by Perfect Game (and #5 outfielder). The Reds drafted Allen in 2021 with a compensatory pick received after losing free agent Trevor Bauer, the 30th overall selection in the draft. He began his professional career later that summer with the Reds Arizona Complex League affiliate managed by Bryan LaHair and hit .328 with 14 steals in just 19 games.
Allen II opened the 2022 season at Daytona and immediately became known as an unstoppable base stealer. He wound up finishing fifth in the Florida State League in stolen bases with 31 despite the fact that he played in only 73 games in the league, a little more than half a season of action. He hit .224 with three home runs. On August 16, Allen II was reunited with LaHair when he was promoted to the Dragons and became the fourth youngest player to play in a Midwest League game in 2022.
Allen’s high-energy style of play immediately rubbed off on his Dragons teammates when he joined the ballclub. Allen broke the Dragons club record for most stolen bases in a game with five on August 27 at Quad Cities and eventually finished third in the Reds organization in stolen bases on the year with 43 (combined between Dayton and Daytona). While he batted just .230 in 18 games with the Dragons, the team went 16-6 after he joined the club. Allen was the sparkplug that lifted the entire roster to a higher level. He stole 12 bases in his 18 games with the Dragons and notably scored 13 runs. He played exceptional defense in center field.
Allen II is a well-rounded player. All five of his tools (hitting for average, hitting for power, defense, arm strength, speed) are rated as major league average or better. He is ranked as the Reds #14 prospect by Baseball America, their #13 prospect by MLB.com, their #17 prospect by Fangraphs, and their #12 prospect by The Athletic. He should be in center field with the Dragons on opening night.
Blake Dunn is a fascinating prospect who has been held back by injuries. His 2022 statistics look fine, but when you consider the production in a limited number of games, it takes on a different tone.
Dunn, who has eight siblings, was a legendary athlete in high school in Saugatuck, Michigan. He somehow managed to earn 16 varsity letters, playing football, basketball, and then two sports simultaneously in the spring with baseball and track. In basketball, he broke the school record with 51 points in a game and scored 1,541 points in his career, also a school record. In track, he won the state championship three times in two different events (100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles). In football, he finished his career ranked second in Michigan high school football history with 824 points scored.
Dunn then played four years of college baseball at Western Michigan University (2018-21). His best season came as a sophomore in 2019, when he batted .374 with five home runs and 30 stolen bases in 49 games to earn First Team All-MAC honors. He was named in 2020 by Baseball America as the second-best athlete in college baseball. He was named the 2021 preseason MAC Player of the Year by D1Baseball, but missed time due to injury, finishing at .305 with four home runs in 27 games before being drafted in the 15th round by the Reds in July. He was the first WMU Bronco to be drafted by the Reds since Adam Rosales in 2005 (12th round). And with all that, he posted a 3.5 cumulative GPA at Western.
Dunn played at Daytona in 2022. While playing right field on June 2, he suffered a hard collision with 290-pound first baseman Ruben Ibarra on a foul pop, and missed nearly three months before returning on August 23. He played in 33 games for Daytona in 2022, batting .290 with four home runs. He finished strong, hitting .350 over his last 15 games after returning from the injury. Impressively, Dunn stole 18 bases in his 33 games at Daytona, a rather amazing pace that compares with only Jay Allen II in the Reds system. He was thrown out only once as a base stealer. If Dunn comes to Dayton, he figures to begin the year in a back-up role, but looking over his entire bio, you would be hard-pressed to find a more interesting player.
Jack Rogers played both first base and outfield for the Dragons in both 2021 and 2022 but had his highest success at Daytona last season.
Rogers played at Sam Houston State University in Texas and had a big career there. As a senior in 2021, Rogers batted .367 with 16 home runs, 55 RBI, and 12 stolen bases to earn Second Team All-Southland Conference honors. He finished second in school history in single-season home runs and also ranked second in career homers with 30. He hit three home runs in one game on April 3 at Central Arkansas. Rogers, who had been a two-way star at Klein Collins High School in Texas (he went 12-1 with a 1.09 ERA as a senior pitcher while batting .375 with five home runs as an outfielder), was drafted by the Reds in the ninth round in 2021.
Rogers opened the 2022 season with the Dragons and struggled to a 0 for 26 start to the year. He was transferred to Daytona on May 23, and after a 2 for 14 start with the Tortugas, he batted .293 with 10 home runs in his remaining time there. He saw the majority of his time in right field with Daytona but also received double-digit starts at first base and left field.
The Dragons have typically had five outfielders on the roster. With six players listed in this preview, it is likely that either Hinds, Dunn, or Rogers starts in Chattanooga.
Next up: Starting Pitchers
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