Before he ascended to MLB stardom with the Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Cueto was part of a 2006 Dayton Dragon team that also featured fellow future All-Stars Jay Bruce and Travis Wood. Cueto was announced today as the newest name of the list of “20 Greatest Dragons.”
The player recognition is part of the organization’s 20th Season Celebration. Players selected on the list are being announced in random order leading up to the Dragons 20th Opening Night game on Thursday, April 4 against the Bowling Green Hot Rods.
Cueto spent most of the 2006 season with the Dragons. On May 13, 2006, Cueto threw the only complete game no-hitter in Dragons history, though the game was shortened by rain to five innings. He earned the Reds Minor League Pitcher of the Year award for the year as he also spent time with Sarasota after a promotion.
With the Dragons, Cueto was 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA. In 2013, he earned a win for the Dragons on an MLB injury rehab assignment, giving him a Dragons career record of 9-1, the best winning percentage (.900) of any pitcher in Dragons history with at least 10 decisions.
Cueto reached the Major Leagues with the Reds in 2008 and began a long, highly-successful, and still-active big league career. He enjoyed two prominent seasons with Cincinnati in 2012 and 2014 as he emerged as one of the top starting pitchers of his era.
In 2012, Cueto went 19-9 with a 2.79 ERA with the Reds, finishing fourth in the N.L. Cy Young Award voting. Then in 2014, he became the Reds first 20-game winner in 26 years, going 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA to finish second in the Cy Young voting. He also made his first appearance that summer in the Major League All-Star Game.
Cueto was dealt at the 2015 trade deadline to the Kansas City Royals, where he helped his new team win the 2015 World Series. Cueto is the only pitcher in Dragons history to start a World Series game, and his performance in that game was superb. It occurred in Game Two when Cueto fired a complete game victory, allowing just two hits and one run against the Mets. Cueto has started a total of eight post-season games including three with the Reds.
By any standard, Cueto ranks as one of the top starting pitchers developed by the Reds in the last 50 years, if not the best. Over the last half century, his 125 MLB wins ranks first among all pitchers to come through the Reds farm system, topping Tom Browning (123), Gary Nolan (110), Don Gullett (109), and Mario Soto (100). Going back a little further, Joe Nuxhall, who made his historic debut in 1944 at age 15 before joining the Reds for good in 1952, won 135 games in the big leagues. Jim Maloney, who made his debut with the Reds in 1960, won 134.
Cueto is the 13th player announced among the 20 Greatest Dragons. Austin Kearns, Zack Cozart, Justin Turner, Homer Bailey, Samone Peters, Devin Mesoraco, Didi Gregorius, Tucker Barnhart, Todd Frazier, Wily Mo Peña, Jesse Winker, and Edwin Encarnacion were previously announced.
The 20 Greatest Dragons were selected based on a media vote of Dragons television, newspaper, radio, and internet reporters. Additionally, during the 2019 season, the Dragons will be conducting a fan vote featuring one player per position to announce their all-time greatest lineup.
The Dragons will host their “20th Season Celebration Game” on Saturday, March 30 at 2 p.m. at Fifth Third Field. The game will match the 2019 Dragons (“Team 20”) against a team of Dragons alumni who are still playing in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system.
Additional information on the Dragons 20th Season celebration including videos on the 20 Greatest Dragons, special 20th Season merchandise, and Dragons alumni listings is available here: https://www.milb.com/dayton/team/20.