Reds' message to Dragons: Produce or be gone
By Marc Katz

Staff Writer

That quick hook of two pitchers off the Class A Dayton Dragons roster last week should tell fans and the players two things.

One, the parent Reds' organization is still woefully short of quality prospects. Two, perform or get out.

Organizations procure players in four basic ways, the most popular through the 50-round free agent draft in early June. Only American players are draft eligible, though. Foreign (read that Caribbean) players are signed by the highest bidder.

Other players come through trades (usually at the major league level with a minor leaguer thrown in) or by signing a player released by another organization.

That the Reds had two players on the 25-man Dragons roster who started with other organizations indicates they didn't have enough of their own scouted-and-signed players to fill the roster. And pitchers German Melendez and Andy Weimer didn't last long.

First of all, both are 25, old for the Midwest League. Melendez was a catcher in the Houston organization until low batting averages and a strong arm moved him to the other side of the battery.

Weimer began his career in the Tampa Bay organization, was released and last year pitched Independent ball before being signed by the Reds.

Melendez pitched just 12/3 innings for the Dragons and was released. Weimer was allowed three innings, then sent back to extended spring training.

Both moves were the earliest of their kind for the Dragons not involving an injury.

And now the Reds have assigned right-handed pitcher Wayne Lundgren to the Dragons.

Lundgren, who stands 6-6, had previously been signed and released by the Red Sox and Cardinals. He pitched in 10 games last year for Quad Cities of the Midwest League and was 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA and four games with the "high" class A Sarasota Reds this season.

Lundgren takes the roster spot of lefty Philippe Valiquette, who is on the disabled list with an oblique strain.

Another telling shape of an organization is through a glance of where its best prospects are located, and how those prospects play against other teams.

According to Baseball America, which ranks the prospects, the Reds have six with the Dragons, including outfielders Jay Bruce (No. 2) and B.J. Szymanski (No. 4), pitchers Travis Wood (No. 3), Zach Ward (No. 13) and Valiquette (No. 20) and shortstop Paul Janish (No. 14).

Yet that group was beaten three out of four games to open the season by South Bend, an Arizona club that didn't have any of the Diamondbacks' Top 30 prospects on the roster.

Following a noon game today and night games at Quad Cities Wednesday and Thursday, the Dragons will host Kane County for a four-game series beginning Friday, followed by four games with Peoria.

Kane County has four Top 30 prospects in the Athletic's chain, and surprise three of them were drafted out of high school, not college, as the A's are famous for doing.

Right-handers Craig Italiano (No. 8) and Vincent Mazzaro (No. 10) were taken in the second and third rounds last year, while infielder Justin Sellers (No. 17) was taken in the sixth round.