With the MLB Draft order pretty much all set, MLB.com today released its top 50 draft prospects for the June draft. Even though it’s most certainly too early to start analyzing amateur players with an entire season of high school and college baseball to play, well, we here at Red Reporter have decided to do it anyway!
A whole mountain of things will change between now and June 12, 2017. Some of the names on this list will sky rocket up the board and some will suffer injuries or some other malady that leads to their dropping. Some of the high school players may choose to honor their commitment to their college choices, postponing their professional dream to improve their stock. Regardless, a lot of these name will indeed be taken near the top of the draft, which is particularly prudent for us considering the Reds hold the second pick for the second year in a row.
That being said, let’s take a look at some of the young arms that MLB Pipeline has placed toward the top of the draft, heavily in play at the Reds second position.
Hunter Greene - RHP, Notre Dame (California) High School
The 6’3”, right handed prep prospect leads the list as a duel threat athlete that impresses scouts both on the mound and playing the field. It seems that general consensus places most of his upside as a frontline starting pitcher, so we’ll focus there.
Baseball America caught up with Greene and told his story in this fairly fascinating piece by Hudson Belinsky, detailing the trials and tribulations that the young man has overcome on his way to being one of the better prep prospects in years. If you’re into “narrative” and a guy’s “story,” Greene’s certainly a guy you can root for.
On the field, some like the potential of his bat and his defense up the middle, but most see his upside as an elite starting pitcher, able to dial the fastball up to 98mph and, considering he won’t turn 18 years old until two months after the draft, he’s only going to get bigger and stronger.
It’s really no wonder why, just over six months out, Greene is an early favorite to be the first right handed high school pitcher to go number one overall when you see him belting effortless home runs out of PETCO Park during the Perfect Game All-American Classic Home Run Derby, and then turning around and starting the game on the mound, blowing kids away with 97mph heat.
All this just days after his 17th birthday.
Most scouts prefer Greene, a UCLA commit, on the mound, and for good reason. He features a live fastball that sits in the 94-96 mph range and can touch the upper-90s. Greene backs that up with a quality breaking ball that is really sharp. His changeup is his third pitch, but he has a feel for it. While Greene's command was average over the summer -- he can rush his delivery at times -- there's room for improvement, with his athleticism and a permanent move to the mound surely helping.
If the Twins pass on Greene, the Reds would have the opportunity to take their first prep pitcher in the first round in four years (Nick Travieso, 2014). If the youngster continues to turn heads like he has over the last calendar year, though, I’d imagine the Twins won’t let the Reds have the opportunity, as unprecedented as that would be.
Alex Faedo - RHP, University of Florida (Junior)
If the Reds are apprehensive about risking the number two overall pick on a prep star (or don’t want to pony up the huge slot bonus it’ll take to nab him), they could settle for the player that MLB.com lists as the best college pitcher in the draft.
Faedo missed fall baseball because of two minor knee procedures, so that warrants watching this spring. But, he was featured on a Gator pitching staff in 2016 that saw five of his teammates be drafted early and often, including Reds fourth round pick Scott Moss.
By all accounts, Faedo was the best on the staff.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander has the size and stuff to be a future front-line starter. Faedo will throw his fastball in the 92-95 mph range, though he can reach back for more at times. His mid-80s slider gets swings and misses. Both can be 70s at times on the scouting scale, though the slider can get a little slurvy. Faedo will need to throw his changeup more to develop better touch with it, something he did with USA Baseball.
That’s some tantalizing stuff, but the knee injury bears watching. He’s a big kid, so any lingering knee issues would be one mighty red flag.
This seems like a move the Reds would seem to be more comfortable making. Faedo should be closer to the big leagues than the 17 year old Greene, which the team has placed a good deal of importance on while acquiring talent lately. As a college junior, he’ll have much less leverage over bonus money than the prep star who has a spot waiting for him at UCLA, which would allow the Reds to spend elsewhere, ala the Senzel/Trammell combination from a year prior.
Kyle Wright - RHP, Vanderbilt University (Junior)
Vandy has been pitching paradise for MLB teams over the last several years, and 2017 does not disappoint, as Kyle Wright seems destined to join the ever-growing list of Vanderbilt pitchers to go toward the top of the first round.
In 2016, Wright made up part of the weekend starting tandem with Jordan Sheffield, who was taken 36th overall by the Dodgers in last season’s draft. Unlike most of the college prospects on the top of this list, Wright was never drafted out of high school and seemed relatively unheralded as a prep, though he was highly sought after by Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Troy.
Wright has consistently improved his craft since then, and may still even have more to gain.
As Wright has gotten bigger and stronger in college -- he has grown an inch and added 40 pounds -- his velocity has improved from 87-90 mph in high school to 91-94, with a high of 97. His best secondary pitch is a hard curveball that he employs against left-handers, and he mixes in a harder slider/cutter against righties. Wright is also developing a changeup.
The MLB Pipeline report still considers him “projectable,” in that he may prove to have even more stuff as he matures. That also means he’s a little more raw than his peers, which makes me wonder if the Reds, all things equal, wouldn’t end up preferring somebody else.
Still, Wright definitely proved himself last season, when he shut out a Gator squad ranked number one in the country. He finished that contest with 10 Ks.
There are many other options for the Reds at this selection (including a few intriguing hitters, which I plan to get into next week). A personal favorite sleeper of mine is Hans Crouse, and it’s not only for the name. The RHP from Dana Hills (California) high school, apparently, does this:
Crouse has personality to spare and is often inventive on the mound, including adding in a Johnny Cueto-like shimmy at times.
I wonder just how committed to Southern California Mr. Crouse really is?
*All scouting reports can be found at MLB.com’s Top 50 Draft prospect list under each individual's player card.