DAYTON, Ohio — Ask Dayton Dragon center fielder Jose Siri what players he admired growing up in the Dominican Republic and the answer comes quickly.
“Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.”
The Reds braintrust hopes that Siri can be for the Reds what Polanco and Marte are the Pittsburgh Pirates: An impact, five-tool outfielder.
Siri, a 22-year-old from Monte Plata, D.R., is climbing the Reds’ prospect list by hitting and hitting and hitting. He extended his hitting streak to 38 games Wednesday in the Dragons’ 8-2 loss to Great Lakes. The streak is the longest in the Midwest League history. Siri eclipsed Tony Toups’ 40-year record of 35 with a single on an 0-2 pitch in his final at-bat on Monday.
The streak is obviously a topic of conversation and the reason Siri has gone from 31st on Baseball America’s list of Reds prospects to No. 10 at midseason. But the Reds are hoping he can be more than a historic footnote. they are hoping that he can be like Marte and Polanco.
Siri isn’t simply a hitter. He leads the Dragons with 19 home runs and is tied for the lead with 29 stolen bases.
“He has more talent than any player I’ve seen here in my 10 years,” Dragon play-by-play man Tom Nichols said. “He does something special every night.”
The Reds, as an organization, have struggled to develop talent out of the Dominican, probably the most fertile ground for talent in the world. Johnny Cueto is the last impact player to come from the Dominican.
The last impact position player? Juan Francisco. That, of course, is using the term impact very loosely.
It would do the organization wonders to open up a Dominican pipeline.
Siri was not on the list of players with a chance to do that until this year.
The Reds signed him as a 17-year-old in September of 2012. He hit .302 in the Dominican Summer League in ’13. He spent the next two seasons with the Arizona Summer League team, hitting .246 and .248.
He started last year at Dayton but was overmatched. He was demoted to Billings after hitting .145 in 27 games for the Dayton. He flourished at Billings hitting .320 with 10 home runs and 36 in 59 games. He led the Pioneer League in triples with 16 and outfield assists.
Here’s what Baseball America said about him going into this year: “Most players with Siri's athleticism but poor plate discipline never put it all together. Denis Phipps and Junior Arias are two recent Reds' examples. But Siri's bat speed, plus arm and plus-plus speed gives him a chance to star if he can shorten his swing and lay off pitches out of the strike zone.”
After a slow start, Siri has done that. He was hitting .218 on May 21. He was hitting .341 with 18 home runs in his last 61 games entering Wednesday.
“I just think that it’s the patience,” Dayton hitting coach and former big leaguer Daryle Ward said. “The cold months, it’s a little difficult to hit. Staying patient with him allowed him to self-improve. We’ve seen him do it before. We know what he's capable of doing, allowing him get to that point has helped.”
Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said Siri’s approach has caught up with his ability.
“He’s got more confidence in himself,” Bolivar said. “He’s not trying to do too much. He enjoys playing. He’s showing his ability out there every night.”
“The difference has been my mind,” Siri said with Bolivan interpreting. “Mentally, I prepare for myself better for the games. When I’m ahead in the count, I look for balls I can handle.”
Siri was listed at 6-foot-2, 168 pounds when he signed. He’s filled out to 190. His power is continuing to develop.
“He’s got really good bat speed, and he’s really short to the ball right now,” Ward said. “He’s not trying to hit for power. He’s just trying to make good contact on the barrel of the bat. Right now, that’s what you see more home runs from hit.”
Siri is a true center field. He runs at about a 70 to 75 on the scouting scale. (Billy Hamilton is one of few 80s in the big leagues).
“He’s improved a lot since last year,” Bolivar said. “He’s contracting a lot more. He’s using the whole field. He’s taking advantage of all his tools. He’s got a good arm. He covers a lot of ground in the outfield. And he’s got power in his bat."
Ward thinks Siri can play in the big leagues.
“He definitely has the ability,” Ward said. “The one thing he done so far this year is lay of pitches he can’t handle — nasty sliders, down and way. He’s done a good job of taking those pithes and waiting for his pitch.”
Siri’s teammate, Taylor Trammell is the higher-rated prospect. He started the year No. 5 on the BA’s list.
“Siri and Trammell have something special," Bolivar said. “Trammell been as good as well. He’s taking good at-bats, playing good defense. Those guys have the ability to pay in the big leagues.”
Maybe they can be Marte and Polanco.