Katz: Dragons right-hander Richardson one to watch in Reds system

In many ways, Lyon Richardson’s season has followed the same path as his team, the Dayton Dragons, which concludes its 20th season Monday.

Lots of promise noted, but after Monday, no playoffs will follow.

This is different from what you’ll see with the parent Reds.

Once a player makes it to the big leagues, he is considered, or is close to being considered, a finished product.

In the low minors, players have a little more time to develop.

»ASK HAL: How do we put the shame back into strikeouts?

Sure Nick Senzel and Aristides Aquino have a lot more to learn about playing baseball, but they are 24 and 25 years old, respectively, and are expected to start next season with the Reds, not in the minors, as they both did this season.

Richardson is still only 19 and in his second professional season, a heralded 2018 second-round draft choice out of Jensen Beach, Fla., who pitched just 29 innings at rookie-level Greeneville last season. His pro welcome was an 0-5 record and 7.14 ERA.

Entering his final start with the Dragons on Friday, Richardson was 3-9 with a 4.15 ERA.

That record is better than it looks when you take it down the line.

Standing out on his resume, says Dragons pitching coach Seth Etherton, is Richardson’s age, and the fact he became a starting pitcher in high school only as a senior.

“He would come in and close some games (his first three years), but we were loaded with pitchers and we wanted to keep his innings down,” said Corey Cooke, Richardson’s high school coach, who used Richardson most as an outfielder.

That was a good position for Richardson, who was so intent on playing pro ball if he could, he used a wood bat when almost everyone else was using an aluminum bat in high school.

He’s a switch-hitter, although as strictly an outfielder, Cooke thinks Richardson was headed for the University of Florida before the pros.

As a senior, coach and player decided to try Richardson as a starter, especially when at least one scout clocked his fastball at 98 mph.

As an underclassman, “I threw as much as I could for an inning, got out and didn’t think much about it,” Richardson said. “When it was time for summer ball (entering his senior year), I thought, ‘Okay, I can do a little with it.’”

His pitching overshadowed his hitting.

“If it (pitching) didn’t go anywhere, I’d play in the field,” Richardson said. “Yeah, it went somewhere.”

So now, those Dayton numbers. His strikeouts to walks ratio is 106/33 over a team-leading 122 2/3 innings. His WHIP – walks plus hits per inning – is 1.41.

Those numbers compare favorably with other top draft picks the Reds have sent to Dayton, including Hunter Greene last season.

Richardson also says he wants to win, just like manager Luis Bolivar.

“I hold myself to high expectations,” the pitcher said. “I usually don’t think I played well. I’ve got a little more to do.

“I’ve learned to become a pitcher rather than a thrower. In high school, you can throw it right down the middle. If you throw decently and have decent movement, you can do well. In pro ball, it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to learn how to pitch.

He learned. Now Richardson has to learn to win.

“I really like to win,” he said. “At the end of the day, the only thing I can control is what I do.”

The Dragons didn’t put up as many winning numbers as they would have liked, but Richardson did. For the Reds and their fans, he’s a guy to watch.

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