Former Dayton players still taking their cuts in independent leagues

By By Marc Katz

Staff Writer

Thursday, July 17, 2008

So, where'd they go?

No, not the current Dayton Dragons. They're in Iowa on a six-game, two-city excursion through Cedar Rapids and Clinton. They'll be back or most of them will be July 23 for a homestand that begins with the Ryne Sandberg-managed Peoria Chiefs.

Where are some of the former Dragons? And not Adam Dunn, Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey, who are all with the Cincinnati Reds. You know where they are.

How about former Reds' No. 1 draft choice David Espinosa or former major-league pitcher Josh Hall or catcher Tony Esquer, who began this season with the Dragons?

Well, more than a few of them are playing independent ball, a designation for eight pro leagues with more than 60 teams that do not have major-league affiliations.

It's tough to make it to the majors from an independent league, but it does happen.

Espinosa, who played here in 2001, was a product of former Reds General Manager Jim Bowden's creative signing skills. Espinosa, a high school shortstop from Miami, was signed to a major-league contract in lieu of a big bonus. Eventually, Espy ended up in the outfield and in the Detroit Tigers chain, making it as high as Class AAA before being granted free agency after last season.

Espinosa, still a young man at age 26, is currently playing with the Grand Prairie, Texas, Air Hogs, in the independent American Association. He's hitting .304, too, but has 14 errors back at shortstop.

Esquer, who was called upon to help out at high Class A Sarasota, Fla., after only one game with the Dragons this season, lasted just seven games with the Sarasota Reds before being released. He's now with the Gary Southshore Railbirds, and hitting .302 in a backup role.

Some others (years with Dragons):

Pitcher Nate Cotton (2001-02), 1-0, 1.69 ERA with the Fargo Morehead Redhawks.

Pitcher Anthony Boughner (2004), 4-3, 5.22 ERA with the Kansas City T-Bones.

Third baseman Evan Conley (2004-05) .373 with the Pensacola Pelicans.

Pitcher Josh Hall (2001), 5-2, 4.26 ERA with Lancaster, Pa., Barnstormers.

Former major-league pitcher Brian Reith (2000), 4-2, 4.63 ERA with the Somerset, Pa., Patriots.

Pitcher David Gil (2001), 2-3, 5.79 ERA with the York, Pa., Revolution.

Outfielder Manny Paula (2003), .271 with the Gateway (Sauget, Ill.) Grizzlies.

Pitcher Brad Cherry (2005) 0-2, 2.25 ERA with the Texarkana Gunslingers.

A few guys still in the organization who were with the Dragons the last two years: (at Sarasota) infielder Todd Frazier (.295, six homers, 32 RBIs), outfielder Chris Heisey (.278, three homers, 36 RBIs, 21 stolen bases) and third baseman Juan Francisco (.266, 12 homers, 55 RBIs).

Chris Valaika is hitting .292 with eight homers and 28 RBIs at Class AA Chattanooga, and outfielder Drew Stubbs went 4-for-5 there in his first game with a double and stolen base after going .261 with five homers and 38 RBIs and 27 stolen bases at Sarasota.

http://www.daytondailynews.com/s/con...8spinside.html