Dragon Tales: A Tale of Four Starters

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a prospect as it relates to baseball is defined as “a likely candidate for a job or position.”  A great deal of attention has been paid to starters pitching the majority of the year for the Dayton Dragons minor league Class A affiliate.  You may or may not have heard their names.  Kyle Lotzkar, Daniel Corcino, Josh Smith and Daniel Renken.  Lotzkar has been listed as a top prospect all year while the other three have gained momentum as the season has progressed.  Renken has been moved to Bakersfield while Corcino and Smith have pitched the last two nights.

Has their performance lived up to the hype?  A little time under the statistical microscope might shed light on these four young men and how they fit into the Cincinnati Reds future.

Daniel Corcino

Alex Apple did a nice job earlier this week highlighting Corcino’s accomplishments.  He turns 21 years of age in just 2 days and has been in the Reds organization since being signed as a Free Agent in January of 2008 while just 17 years of age.  When looking at the accomplishments of young prospects you look to see improvement.  In 2010, Corcino split time between Billings and Dayton pitching 71.1 innings with a 3.80 ERA, 32 walks and 60 strikeouts.  He started 15 games and finished with a 2-6 record during the year.  He stayed in Dayton for his 2011 campaign and the results have been amazing.

So far this season, Corcino has been outstanding.  In 24 games he has a 3.19 ERA, 129.1 IP with 145 strikeouts and just 32 walks.  He is 10-6 but of the 6 games he lost 3 were quality starts.  He is second in the MidWest League in strikeouts to teammate Josh Smith.  He has a fastball that can reach 96 MPH.  In a word he is a dominant pitcher.  He does not have a prototypical body at 5’11” but packs a lot of power into his frame.

Kyle Lotzkar

Rated by Baseball America as the Reds organizations 10th best prospect, Lotzkar came into the season with high hopes and high expectations.  He will be 22 in October and his rangy 6’4″ stature is perfectly suited to pitching.  Lotzkar was also tagged as having the best curveball in the Reds organization by Baseball America.  Unfortunately, he has failed to deliver on his promise so far.  In part this seems to be due to his delivery to the plate.  Over the years he has had multiple injuries to his elbow and most recently his hamstring.  The organization continues to rate him highly but in 3 years he simply has not delivered as you can’t produce when you can’t physically play.

This season he has managed to record a 4.62 ERA in 50.2 IP with 16 walks and 58 strikeouts.  He has the best WHIP among Dragons starters at 1.066 demonstrating the promise he does afford.  He has a record of 2-1 in 11 starts.  He will take the mound tomorrow night and the hope is his health will hold up on a more consistent basis.

Daniel Renken

Renken has the only losing record of this group of prospects but the wins and losses do not paint the complete picture.  He was drafted by the Reds in 2010 out of Cal State-Fullerton and immediately reported to Dayton last year seeing very limited relief action.  He stands 6’3″ and throws a 4 seam fastball, changeup and a slider.  This year he has started 20 games with the Dragons recording a 6-8 record and a 3.18 ERA in 113.1IP with 39 walks and 141 strikeouts.  At the end of July Renken was promoted to the Bakersfield Blaze and continued his excellent pitching.  In Bakersfield, he has a 2-0 record with a 3.60 ERA in 20 IP.  In addition he has 10 walks and 16 Ks.  When he was promoted he was leading the MidWest League in strikeouts giving the Dragons the top three strikeout leaders in the League.  As it is, he is still in third place for now but will probably drop back since he isn’t in the League anymore.  A special highlight for Renken came on June 29 when facing the Lansing Lugnuts he struckout a team record 14 batters including a string of 10 in a row in 6 innings.

Josh Smith

6’2″ 24 year old Smith was also drafted out of college (Lipscomb University) by the Reds in 2010.  He pitched relief for Billings in 2010 and was promoted to the Dragons late in the season.  This year he was converted to a starter and the results have been tangible and compelling.  In 131.1 IP he has a 3.02 ERA with 31 walks and a league leading 153 strikeouts.  This number is significant as it breaks the Dragons previous season strikeout total of 152 and there are still a couple of starts left in the season for Smith.

I do not know what the future holds for these four prospects but the hope is that each will live up to the standards they have set or in the case of Lotzkar the promise that he represents.  If they do, the future for the Reds will be bright indeed.

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