Ah, late April when the Turtle pops out his head from his shell in anticipation of the MLB First-year Player Draft. Since the word “draft” is being bandied about quite a bit today, let’s kick off our MLB Draft coverage with a look at the selection history of Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty.
Cincinnati selects 14th in the first round of this year’s event, which runs from June 4-6. The Reds also select 49th as compensation for Ramon Hernandez signing with Colorado, and 57th as paybacks for Francisco Cordero inking a deal with Toronto. Cincinnati owns four of the top 78 picks and five of the first 109, giving it a chance to restock a system depleted by recent trades.
Early mock drafts are varied as to whom Jocketty and company might choose at No. 14, but nearly all indicate the Reds will select a high school player. Oak Mountain (Ala.) HS outfielder David Dahl, Acandia (La.) catcher Stryker Trahan and Spanish Fork (Utah) right-handed pitcher Kayden Porter are names attached to Cincinnati.
Does a look at Jocketty’s draft history offer a hint as to which way he might go? Well, he’s never picked a third baseman or a left-handed pitcher with his first selection. Other than that, Jocketty has been all over the board. His most-popular choice is a right-handed pitcher, which he took eight times. Three times Jocketty chose an outfielder.
Three times he nabbed a shortstop and twice a catcher. Jocketty also selected one first baseman.
While the scouting director has great input and near total control through most of the draft, the top choice is on the GM. Jocketty appears to prefer college talent, taking a high schooler just six times in 17 years. Of those, three – Daric Barton, Colby Rasmus and Pete Kozma – have reached the majors. Eight of Jocketty’s 11 college picks have reached the big leagues
Jocketty led off like Billy Hatcher in the 1990 World Series, spraying hits everywhere:
1995: Matt Morris-RHP-Seton Hall. Morris went 121-92 with a 3.98 ERA in 11 big league seasons before hanging it up in 2008.
1996: Braden Looper-RHP-Wichita State. Looper went 72-65 with a 4.15 ERA in 12 big league seasons through 2009.
1997: Adam Kennedy-SS-Cal State-Northridge. In 14 MLB seasons, Kennedy has 78 home runs, 556 RBI and a slash line of .272/.326/.384, with 178 stolen bases while wielding a strong glove.
1998: J.D. Drew-OF-Florida State. Though oft-injured, Drew had a solid 240 homers, 781 RBI and a line of .280/.387/.496 through 14 injury filled MLB seasons.
From there, Jocketty turned into Nick Esasky, following a hot streak with a frustrating slump:
1999: Chance Caple-RHP-Texas A&M. Injuries limited Caple to just 287 minor league innings, none above High-A. He was out of baseball by 2004.
2000: Shaun Boyd-OF-Vista HS. In 2006 reached AAA, where he batted a miserable .188 before going off to indy ball.
2002: Cal Hayes-SS-East Rowan HS. In fairness, the Cardinals didn’t have a pick until the third round. Hayes flamed out in High-A ball in 2006.
Jocketty then made a comeback reminiscent of Gary Nolan:
2006: Adam Ottavino-RHP-Northeastern. Ottavino received a five-game cup of coffee in 2010 and scuffled his way to an 8.46 ERA. He’s currently in AAA with the Rockies.
2007: Pete Kozma-SS-Owasso HS. Kozma, 24, got 17 at bats in the big leagues last season. He’s at AAA this year.
2008: Yonder Alonso-1B-Miami. Part of the balleyhood trade that brought Giant killer Mat Latos from San Diego to Cincinnati, Alonso has 173 big league at bats and has posted a line of 5-21-.266/.333/.425 in parts of three seasons.
2009: Mike Leake-RHP-Arizona State. Leake has a 20-15 record with a 4.17 ERA in 56 games through parts of three seasons. He’s allowed 9.4 hits per nine innings while whiffing 6.0 and walking 2.6.
2010: Yasmani Grandal-C-Miami. Grandal, another piece in the Latos deal, is playing at AAA Tucson where is is batting .500 through 12 at bats.
2011: Robert Stephenson-RHP-Alhambra HS. Stephenson is in extended spring training and likely to debut as a pro in June.
What does this tell us?
Jocketty isn’t afraid of taking a cold-weather pitcher (Morris, Lambert, Ottavino) and drafts from the South, West, Southwest and Northeast fairly evenly.
Jocketty rarely misses when selecting 14th or higher, snagging Morris, Looper, Drew, Hayes, Boyd, Alonso, Leake and Grandal in that range. Six position players – Kennedy, Drew, Barton, Rasmus, Kozma and Alonso – made the big leagues, as did five pitchers – Morris, Looper, Lambert, Leake and Ottavino.