The Cincinnati Reds’ 2013 minor league awards have a distinctly green tinge this year.
The winners of all four awards, announced Friday night at RedsFest, spent all or parts of the 2013 season with the Dayton Dragons.
Infielder Seth Mejias-Brean won the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award as Cincinnati’s Minor League Player of the Year. Outfielder Jesse Winker was named the system’s Hitter of the Year, while right-hander Robert Stephenson earned the Pitcher of the Year Award and infielder Brent Peterson received the Community Service Award.
Mejias-Brean, who led the farm system with a .305 batting average and 82 runs batted in, joins outfielders Austin Kearns in 2000 and Billy Hamilton in 2011 as the only Dragons to win the award.
“It’s a great honor,” said Mejias-Brean, 22, Cincinnati’s eighth-round pick in the 2012 draft. “I don’t expect to win awards. When you go out to play, you don’t expect to win anything but games.”
Mejias-Brean, who also finished with 11 home runs, 36 doubles and three triples and tied a Dragons record for hits in one game with five on July 10, admitted to being a little surprised about winning the award, even though he was named Dayton’s Batter of the Month for July and August.
“I kind of got off to a slow start,” said the corner infielder, who spent most of his time last season at first base and finished the year with three games at Single-A Bakersfield in the California League.
The right-handed batter hit .465 with six home runs over one 18-game stretch in July and .433 over another 18-game stretch in August.
He also played a key role in Dayton setting a franchise record for fewest errors in a season. He would have led the league in fielding percentage at both first and third base, but he didn’t play enough games at either position to qualify.
The way Mejias-Brean handled his slow start made him stand out, said Jeff Graupe, Reds director of player development.
“He really embodies everything we want in our minor league players,” Graupe said. “He persevered through his slow start, and he continued to play great defense and hustle and run the bases even when his offensive numbers were down.”
Winker, who turned 20 on Aug. 17, finished among the top five in the Reds system with a .281 batting average, 16 home runs and 76 RBIs. He was Dayton’s Batter of the Month in April and May. The corner outfielder started in left field for the Eastern Division team in the Midwest League All-Star Game.
Being named the Reds’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year was the biggest award for Stephenson since he was named California’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year as a high school senior.
“It’s exciting,” said the right-hander, 20. “I’m definitely honored to hear that.”
Stephenson, Cincinnati’s No. 1 pick and the 27th overall selection in the 2012 draft, went a combined 7-7 with a 2.99 earned-run average in 22 games, all starts, at three different levels in Cincinnati’s system. He spent most of the 2013 season with the Dragons, going 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA and 96 strikeouts and 20 walks in 77 innings over 14 starts.
Peterson, 21, visited several elementary schools as part of the Dragons’ School MVP Program, as well as participating in the team’s Frisch’s Kids Club events, the Boy Scout Baseball Clinic, the Montgomery County Environmental Services “Clean-Up” project, the “Dragons Experience” Baseball Camp. He logged 30 hours of volunteer community service, which he considers to be payback to a community that has turned in 983 consecutive sellouts of Dragons games.
“They give us as much as they can,” Peterson said. “It’s awesome to have the opportunity to give back to them.”