Individual talent was there at Fifth Third Field
Dragons had bright spots despite missing playoffs for 5th time in 10 years.

By Marc Katz, Staff Writer
1:20 AM Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DAYTON — By the end of the season, the Dragons had some players to watch if not a team to win.

“You really can’t judge the success of a team until two, three years down the road,” Dragons manager Todd Benzinger said as Dayton failed to make the Midwest League playoffs for the fifth time in 10 seasons.

“When the season began, I was informed shortstop Miguel Rojas was going to be our prospect. He not only lived up to expectations, he exceeded them. He hit 50 points higher than anyone thought.”

So, who were the Dragons who did well?

Start with these:

Rojas: Hit .273 for the season, nearly 100 points higher than his rookie year at Billings, Mont. Also was named the Midwest League’s best defensive shortstop by Baseball America.

Catcher Kevin Coddington: A 44th-round draft choice who made the Dragons in spring training and was supposed to be the backup, started opening day and he finished with a .278 batting average, above average catching skills, a powerful arm and renewed interest from the Reds.

Outfielder Byron Wiley: “(He) is a flat out pure hitter,” Benzinger said. “He needs to improve his range to win and his play in the outfield. But he can flat out hit.”

Third baseman Carlos Mendez: “He was kind of an afterthought in spring training,” Benzinger said. “But he reminds me of a guy I played with — Wade Boggs. He could hit but he wasn’t a real good fielder and didn’t have a great arm. But he kept hitting .300.” Mendez led the Dragons with a .308 average and struck out just 50 times in 455 at-bats.

Pitching was a heartbreak story for the Dragons.

“We had a bunch of Jekyl and Hydes,” Benzinger said. “Our pitchers were all over the place.”

Jordan Hotchkiss ended up being the most valuable at the end. A career reliever, he began starting during the last month, then went back to the bullpen where he saved the final game of the season. Hotchkiss finished with a 3-6 record, and a 2.73 ERA.

Matt Fairel, who started opening day, and Mark Serrano, who joined the team out of the June draft, had the most success. Fairel was moved up during the season, and Serrano finished the year with the Dragons.

Serrano was named as the Reds Minor League Pitcher of the Month for August, and Mendez was named the batter of the week for the final week of the league’s regular season.

It was all watched by more than a half-million fans, who kept the team in the top 10 of all Minor League Baseball teams for the 10th consecutive season.