Dragons 2023 Preview, Part 3: The Second Basemen
One week from today, spring training games will begin for the Reds minor league affiliates in Arizona, including the Dayton Dragons under returning manager Bryan LaHair. On Monday, March 13, Triple-A Louisville, Double-A Chattanooga, and High-A Dayton will each play the Cleveland Guardians corresponding affiliate to open their spring seasons.
One week from today, spring training games will begin for the Reds minor league affiliates in Arizona, including the Dayton Dragons under returning manager Bryan LaHair. On Monday, March 13, Triple-A Louisville, Double-A Chattanooga, and High-A Dayton will each play the Cleveland Guardians corresponding affiliate to open their spring seasons. Single-A Daytona will open their schedule two days later, on March 15.
The first minor leagues games of the spring will not actually be the first game action for many of the minor league players. In fact, in the Reds major league spring training split-squad games this past Saturday and Sunday (total of four games), 15 players from the 2022 Dragons saw action for the Reds. Those players were the two players profiled in this second base preview, Jose Torres and Tyler Callihan, along with Elly De La Cruz, Andrew Abbott, Jay Allen, Allan Cerda, Austin Hendrick, Noelvi Marte, Quincy McAfee, Alex McGarry, Connor Phillips, Nick Quintana, Brian Rey, and Michel Triana, as well as with big league outfielder Jake Fraley, who appeared with the Dragons last season on an injury rehab assignment. Additionally, five players from the 2021 Dragons also saw action in Reds games over the weekend, including Matt McLain, Michael Siani, James Free, Ricky Karcher, and Lyon Richardson (Cerda, McAfee, McGarry, and Rey played for the Dragons both years).
There are currently about 160 players in Reds minor league camp competing for jobs with the Reds four full-season farm clubs including the Dragons. That number will actually grow to nearly 200 once the Reds begin making cuts from big league camp, and players from the major league workout group move over to the minor league side. 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. 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 three 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 Second Basemen
Click links on each name for career stats and player information.
Candidates: Jose Torres, Tyler Callihan.
In 2022, the Dragons arrived in Dayton with two starting shortstops on the roster in emerging star Elly De La Cruz and 2021 third round draft pick Jose Torres. Much like 2018, when the Dragons had shortstops Jose Barrero (then known as Jose Garcia) and Jeter Downs on the team all season, the lineup was constructed to get both players experience at multiple positions so they could be on the field simultaneously. In 2018, Barrero and Downs alternated during the first half between second base and shortstop before Barrero eventually settled in on the left side on an everyday basis and Downs played second base. In 2022, De La Cruz played shortstop on most days with Torres handling second base, but Torres also got plenty time at shortstop when De La Cruz moved to third base or needed a day off.
The all-time most successful player in the major leagues who had been a second baseman in Dayton was Justin Turner, the Dragons all-star during the 2007 season, who has had a long big league career. Turner has played in three World Series with the Dodgers, has appeared in two major league all-star games, and was the MVP of the 2017 National League Championship Series with Los Angeles.
Other players who were second basemen in Dayton before reaching the big leagues (listed here with their season/s with the Dragons) included Alejo Lopez (2018), Shed Long (2015-16), Ronald Torreyes (2010-11), and William Bergolla (2002).
Jose Torres was assigned to the Dragons to start the 2022 season and when the year began, he was ranked as the Reds #12 prospect by Baseball America and #17 by MLB.com. Torres had played shortstop at North Carolina State and was frequently cited as the best defensive player at that position in the entire 2021 draft. Most any other season, Torres would have been an easy choice as the Dragons everyday shortstop, but 2022 was not a typical year, due to the presence of Elly De La Cruz, one of the best prospects in Dragons history, and a shortstop. Torres moved to second base with the Dragons, though he did get some playing time at shortstop when De La Cruz was given the chance to add to his versatility by starting games at third base.
Torres was born in the Dominican Republic but moved to the U.S. and attended high school in Towson, Maryland, where he excelled. He was one of only 18 position players in the country to be selected to the 2018 17 & under Perfect Game Tournament All-America Team (Tyler Callihan, profiled below, was actually one of the other 17). He was ranked as the top high school prospect in the entire state of Maryland. He was drafted by the Brewers in the 24th round out of high school in 2019 but elected to enroll at NC State, where he spent two years. He was named First Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference in 2021, batting .289 with 10 home runs in 52 games and posted a .533 slugging percentage. He belted a dramatic tie-breaking home run in the top of the ninth inning in the deciding game of the Super Regional to lift NC State to a 3-2 win over Arkansas and a trip to the College World Series. The Wolfpack made it to the semi-finals of the 2021 CWS and a final ranking of #4 in the nation. The Reds took Torres in the third round of the 2021 draft, and his professional career got off to an excellent start that summer in 25 games at Daytona, where he batted .337 with four home runs and a .951 OPS.
Torres got off to a big start with the Dragons in 2022 as a key member of a team that went 32-15 over its first 52 games, the best start in franchise history. He had a huge series against West Michigan in April when he went 8 for 15 (.533) with three home runs in four games. By May 20, Torres had seven home runs and looked poised to jump into the top-10 among Reds prospects. But he struggled at the plate over the middle part of the season, perhaps hitting the “rookie wall” in his first full year of pro ball, and finished the season at .234. He led the Dragons on the year in hits and games played while finishing tied for first on the team in runs scored and tied for third in home runs with 13. He also stole 26 bases and was caught only four times. Torres enters the 2023 season ranked as the Reds #26 prospect by MLB.com. He is unranked in a very deep Reds farm system by Baseball America.
Will Torres start the 2023 season with the Dragons, or will he move up to Double-A Chattanooga? The answer to the question could revolve around availability for playing time at Chattanooga. Looking at the infield picture with the Lookouts, it is likely to feature numerous former Dragons, with Francisco Urbaez and Ivan Johnson at second base and Nick Quintana able to play second or third. Quincy McAfee can play any position on the infield. Noelvi Marte will likely be the everyday third baseman, but he might also get some playing time at shortstop. The identity of the everyday shortstop is unclear, though yet another former Dragon, Miguel Hernandez is returning from an injury and could be slotted there. If all of those players are healthy at the end of spring training, well, that is a lot of bodies for a few positions, and that is assuming Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand all move up from there.
With an injury or some other roster move that eases the traffic jam, Torres may move on to Chattanooga. Otherwise, he could return to Dayton in an almost identical role as he filled in 2022. With super-prospect Edwin Arroyo slated for everyday shortstop duty with the Dragons, Torres would likely see the majority of his time at second base in Dayton. He would be a good candidate to improve considerably on his 2022 numbers if he comes back to the Dragons. Torres saw action in the Reds major league spring training game on Saturday against Kansas City, playing the final four innings of the contest at second base in his only MLB spring appearance of the year to date.
Tyler Callihan played second base and third base for the Dragons during the second half of 2022 and is another highly-talented player hoping to regain his once-lofty prospect status.
Callihan enjoyed a tremendous, star-studded amateur career in his native Florida, on the showcase circuit, and in international competition. He played at Providence School in Jacksonville primarily as a shortstop, catcher, and pitcher. Amazingly, he had more home runs (12) than strikeouts (10) in 119 plate appearances as senior in 2019 and was named the Florida Times-Union All-First Coast Player of the Year and to the All-First Coast All-Decade Team for the 2010’s. He actually earned a starting spot on the high school team as an eighth grader. Callihan was a star with USA Baseball’s Under 18 national team that won the gold medal at the 2018 Pan American Championships in Panama. He started all nine games for TEAM USA, earning All-Tournament honors while batting .528 with two home runs. He reached the final round of the prestigious 2018 Under Armour All-America Home Run Derby before losing by one home run to his future Dragons teammate, Rece Hinds. Callihan was one of eight sluggers to earn a spot in the 2018 Junior Home Run Derby at the MLB All-Star Game hosted by Washington Nationals, finishing tied for fourth. He was projected as a first round pick by both ESPN and Bleacher Report in 2019 before being selected in the third round by the Reds. He was rated by Perfect Game as the #3 prospect in the state of Florida and #10 prospect in America.
Callihan opened his professional career in 2019 in the Reds system and after the cancelled 2020 season, he began 2021 with Daytona. But a serious elbow injury limited Callihan to 23 games with the Tortugas and ended his season in late May, with a batting average of .299 with a pair of home runs. Heading into 2022, Callihan was ranked as the Reds #10 prospect by MLB.com and #17 by Baseball America.
Callihan’s 2022 season was knocked out of sync by an injury suffered in a spring training automobile accident. His regular season debut was delayed for six weeks before he began his season at Daytona on May 17. He got off to a slow start as he shook off the rust of inactivity, batting .217 over his first 14 games. But he hit .324 over his remaining 18 games in Daytona before being promoted to Dayton on June 28. He made 28 starts at second base and just one at third base with Daytona.
When Callihan joined the Dragons, Torres was stationed at second base and Quintana, the team’s third baseman, had just been promoted to Chattanooga, so Callihan took over at the hot corner. He got off to a slow start, batting just .203 with one home run in his first 46 games with the Dragons, but in his final 10 games, he hit .359 with three home runs, four doubles, and a triple. He finished the year with the Dragons with a batting average of .232 with four home runs in 56 games. For the year with the Dragons, he made 28 starts at third base and 22 at second base.
Entering 2023, Callihan is no longer ranked among the Reds top-30 prospects by MLB.com or Baseball America. With the tremendous depth of talent in the organization, players like Torres and Callihan, who have shown loads of potential but did not put up great offensive numbers in 2022, have been dropped below other players on the lists. The Athletic still lists Callihan as the Reds #16 prospect, and Fangraphs ranks him #31. If Callihan can have a healthy, full season in 2023, something he has not had since 2019, he has the ability to regain his status. He is an outstanding pure hitter and showed more athleticism on the defensive side in 2022 with the Dragons than many have given him credit for.
If Torres starts in Chattanooga, Callihan figures to be the Dragons everyday second baseman. If Torres returns to Dayton, Callihan figures in at third base, and Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last week that Callihan was getting some reps at first base as well on the backfields in Arizona. Callihan played in the Reds MLB spring game on Sunday, getting the last three innings of the contest at second base. Callihan will be an interesting player to watch in 2023, simply because of his track record of being one of the top high school players in the nation as recently as 2019, starring for the US national team in international competition, and the fact that he has not had the benefit of a healthy season thus far in the minor leagues to develop his skills.
Next up: Shortstops
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