If you've been a fan of the Cincinnati Reds long enough to remember the early aughts, you should probably start sending fan mail to Chris Buckley.
Buckley, you may know, is the Senior director of amateur scouting for the Reds, and he's been on board with the club for every draft since 2006. In that time, the Reds have selected 14 players in either the 1st round or compensation round, and the quality of turnout produced by those picks has been rather remarkable.
Each of the players taken in the 1st round from 2006 to 2010 has spent multiple seasons in the majors already (Drew Stubbs, Devin Mesoraco, Yonder Alonso, Mike Leake, and Yasmani Grandal). Todd Frazier and Brad Boxberger - comp picks in 2007 and 2009, respectively - have also spent multiple seasons in the big leagues with significant success. None of the 1st rounders or comp picks taken since 2011 has cracked the 25-man roster yet, but that's more due to age and experience than it is a reflection on their talent. Robert Stephenson, 2011's 1st rounder, is one of the top right-handed pitching prospects in the minors, and both Phillip Ervin & Jesse Winker have cracked multiple Top 100 prospect lists thanks to the hitting prowess they've displayed so far. Michael Lorenzen, drafted just last year, has made the transition to being a starting pitcher at an absurd development rate and is already mowing through Double-A batters. Nick Travieso, drafted in the 1st round in 2012, has yet to progress at ludicrous speed, but he's building quite a nice season as a 20 year old in Single-A Dayton right now (6-2, 3.17 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) and still projects as a decent starting pitcher.
Realistically, that means that the only two players who have seemingly not panned out among those 14 are 2007 comp pick Kyle Lotzkar and 2012 comp pick Jeff Gelalich. Not coincidentally, those are the only two of the 14 that were drafted later than 50th overall, with Lotzkar coming off the board 53rd overall and Gelalich 57th. And heck, both are still under 25 years old, and if Buckley saw something in them there's still a chance they develop into Shane Victorino and Joe Nathan, or so.
It's hard to truly appreciate how important good drafts have been to the winning on the field in Great American Ball Park, and it hasn't just been the 1st rounders that have made huge impacts. Billy Hamilton (2nd round, 2009), Zack Cozart (2nd, 2007), and Chris Heisey (17th round, 2006) are all considered cogs on the 25-man roster, and both Sam LeCure (4th round, 2005) and Logan Ondrusek (13th round, 2005) have been counted on heavily out of the bullpen. Buckley & Co. found Tony Cingrani (3rd round, 2011) as a college closer before turning him into a starter in the minors. While Homer Bailey (1st round, 2004) and Joey Votto (2nd round, 2002) predate Buckley's time on the job, the importance of them panning out shouldn't be downplayed at all.
So if you head to a bar for a beer & to watch the Reds game, if you don your Reds jersey when you're not even heading to a game, or if you frequently stop by Red Reporter to drop a BOOM BOOM CLAP in the game thread, it's probably because of the job Chris Buckley has done to help build a homegrown team that's massively easy to root for. Frankly, the guy deserves a hug from us all.
Thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement's Free-Agent signing system, the top of the 2014 MLB Draft reads like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. Teams lost their top picks in the draft by signing players who had declined extended qualifying offers, teams that extended qualifying offers but had them declined received compensation picks that bumped up the overall order (unless, of course, the pick was protected because the team was so bad the previous year), and if a team signed multiple players attached to compensation they forfeited later picks in the draft.
What's left - and what's important to we Reds faithful - is that Cincinnati will have the 19th and 29th overall picks tonight, the first one based on their 2013 record and a few forfeited picks and the second one based on getting a compensation pick when Shin-Soo Choo declined his qualifying offer. That provides Buckley, Walt Jocketty, & Eric Davis's awesome earrings with a chance to bring home a pair of top-flight prospects to bolster a system that's thin on developed talent.
There are thousands of players eligible for the MLB Draft, and if you choose to comb through the various mock drafts and projections you'll find a different player taken by the Reds in each of them. One thing we do know for sure is that the Reds will absolutely take the best player available on their draft board regardless of whether it seems systemically redundant. They took Yasmani Grandal in 2010 despite the presence of Devin Mesoraco as the "catcher of the future," and Yonder Alonso was similarly drafted despite the then-recent emergence of Joey Votto as Ubermensch the previous year.
Some names, however, have continually been linked to the Reds, so I'll gloss over them briefly thanks to the miracle of people who know about these things having laptops and the internet.
- Baseball America has the Reds going with RHP Tyler Beede at 19 and RHP Sean Reid-Foley at 29. Beede, you may recall, was a 1st round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, but didn't sign. Instead, he opted to attend the coolest college on the planet for a few years, refine his game, and hope to get drafted by the franchise supported by the Not Quite Best Fans in Baseball. Beede sits in the mid-90's with his fastball, has both a curve & a change that can be strikeout pitches, and would likely be a pretty quick mover in the system if taken. Reid-Foley, who has a hyphened-name, has a solid 91-95 mph fastball and the potential for a plus breaking ball, and he apparently already employs the use of a cutter, which is cool. He was also born in August of 1995, which makes me feel so old I can barely stand it. He's a prep arm from Florida who has Number 2 upside according to me.
- Keith Law, if you're into that sort of snark, has the Reds taking RHP Touki Toussaint with the 19th pick and...wait a minute...he stops his mock draft at 27 in order to deprive us from knowing what the compensation round will hold. He also put it behind ESPN's Insider pay-wall, so you may not get much of anything out of this. Just know this: if the Reds draft Touki, a native of Haiti who can hit 98 mph with his fastball, the Farmer's Only crew will rejoice at a whole, brave new world of nicknaming. Toussaint probably won't be around at 19 though, as Law acknowledges, which means the whole mock draft idea was dumb and stupid and dumb. And stupid. Toussaint is also conveniently committed to the coolest college on the planet (should he not sign after being drafted, of course).
- Jim Callis and the MLB.com crew have the Reds selecting LHP Brandon Finnegan at 19 and RHP Spencer Adams at 29. Finnegan famously owns a bar in Glendale, AZ that sits in a run-down strip mall between a tunnel, a canal, and a broken down amusement park, and is frequented by mustachioed baseball bloggers who use pseudonyms and are addicted to Big Buck Hunter. Somehow, Finnegan found a way to attend TCU on the side while not pouring a mean Guinness, it appears. He's got a pretty potent fastball, a solid slider, but his Corned Beef & Cabbage Taquitos need a lot of work. A LOT. Spencer Adams is a guy named Spencer from Georgia, so he probably has sweet hair and plays a lot of golf. A LOT.
- Jon Heyman has the Reds taking Reid-Foley at 19 and RHP Luke Weaver at 29. His reasoning behind the selection of Weaver: Florida State right-hander Luke Weaver has maybe dropped a bit. #Analysis #hugetits.