The MLB First-Year Player Draft is just a few weeks away (June 8th, on MLB Network), and while there's been a lot of talk about what the Reds should do now to get better in the long term, there's another very important way to do that: through the draft.
The last 10 years of Reds drafting has been quite solid, which is evident in the amount of homegrown players the team has been able to deploy and thusly compete at a high level over the last half of that decade. And while we're probably rapidly approaching bidding a fair amount of those Red Recruits adieu, if the scouting department can continue their success in the draft, the team won't be far away from contending once more.
Who do those that get paid to speculate on these things expect the Reds to take at number 11? Let's take a look at the latest from ESPN.
Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
ESPN's prospect maven Keith Law (gotta drop that bank on Insider, unfortunately), has the Reds taking 6' 1", 170lbs left hander Tyler Jay. Here's the blurb:
Analysis: Jay might have gone in the top 5, even 1-1, had he started all spring, but national scouts and directors haven't had enough looks at him because he's worked in the bullpen and has even had one weekend series in which he didn't appear. The Reds appear to be highest on Jay and Carson Fulmer, both of whom could pitch in a major-league bullpen this fall, although Jay has a slight advantage there as he will throw about half as many innings as Fulmer will before signing.
A reliever-turned-possible-starter?? You don't say!? This seems like a very Reds pick, as they have had a penchant recently of taking college relievers to turn into big league starters. You needn't look any further than last summer, when the Reds selected University of Virginia closer Nick Howard with the 19th pick.
Jay, the University of Illinois junior, has been blowing people away this year. The 21-year-old boasts a 0.65 ERA with 13 saves in 55 IP this year. He also posts a 0.64 WHIP with nary a home run allowed. He started once this season for the Illini, and posted a tidy line of 5 IP, 2 hits, 6 strikeouts and... 0s. So many zeroes everywhere else. That's good, right?
Here's some of what his ESPN PlayerCard has to say about him:
Jay's power curveball is a true plus pitch just based on sheer spin and movement. What makes it especially terrifying is that Jay can locate it in the strike zone or bury it down in the zone at will, allowing him to pitch backward with it or use it as a nasty, late-count surprise when he needs to throw a strike.
SWOON. He's got a fastball that sits mid-90s, but the change-up is a bit behind. He posted a 0.00 ERA in 16 innings for Team USA. The guy has nasty stuff.
It all seems to good for pick 11? Well, scouts say, "Who knows?" Because of his limited usage, his exposure has been limited. And of course, there's many of questions about his usage at the next level. But, since we have a little bit of experience at this, I think the mindset is obvious if the Reds pick him in the first round: they're going to try this guy as a starter.
But, 2016 starter training be damned; that's an interesting note about appearing in an MLB bullpen this fall. Will it happen? I can't say, and I can't convince myself which would be the better option. Part of me thinks if the Reds are out of contention, there's no sense in bringing up the 21 year-old right away to face major league pitching. Then again, what do you have to lose? On the other hand, if they ARE contending in September (hey, 2.5% chance or something, right?) do they wanna insert a 21 year-old, played-in-college-three-months ago kid straight into their bullpe-- OH THAT'S RIGHT I forgot how bad this bullpen was. Forgive me.
Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
WICK TERRELL IS COMMODORE SIREN! The 5'11", 195lbs junior was drafted out of high school in 2012 in the 15th round by the Boston Red Sox, but chose to hone his craft in Nashville, TN. Fulmer has been a full-blown starter for the last season and half, and the results speak for themselves. The right hander is 11-1 for the Dores, posting a 1.51 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, while striking out 12.42 per nine. Law has Fulmer going to the White Sox 8th, but mentions that the Sox are also big on Tyler Jay, so these two are seemingly linked in some scouting directors eyes.
Fulmer's arm is lightning-quick, and he uses his natural arm strength to sit 92-94 mph and touch the high 90s. The curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch, a power curve with very hard spin that he buries down in the zone. He also has better command of it than he does his fastball.
However, there are concerns about the command, and his delivery is described as "max-effort." There's no doubt that the kid has dominating stuff, but scouts worry about the command relegating him to the pen.
There's a very real chance that Fulmer will not be there anywhere near pick 11, but he's firmly on the Reds radar if he is. The biggest question for his career (and his draft status) is if the he can stick in a rotation. Otherwise, I've read that his floor is "elite closer." We'll pretend that means, "elite stopper." Vanderbilt tends to be on television from time to time, so why not just take a peek for yourself? SPOILER: He does wear rec specs. You should know. Don't have too many bad flashbacks, mmk?
With the results still inconclusive on the Reds recent "pick college relievers and turn them into starters" draft strategy, many folks would probably like to see the Reds take an impact bat. But, really, as the old saying goes: you can never have too many pitchers. That's an old saying, right? I've heard people say it.
Whoever they pick, I just hope they're really good. How's that for strategy?