Back in October, Baseball America surveyed scouts, scouting directors, and player-development personnel and determined the Cincinnati Reds had the best 2016 draft. You may remember our Wick Terrell mentioned this in November when the results were announced. As Wick alludes, the results are perhaps a bit premature, but it’s an encouraging sign for a franchise lacking in good news over the past couple of years.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take a look at each of the Reds picks in the first 10 rounds of the 2016 draft to see what all the fuss is about. Next up is John Sansone, the eighth round pick from Florida State University.
Sansone started nearly every game since his freshman season at Florida State. He struggled at the plate for his first three seasons, before breaking out with a .370 average last year. He was first team All-ACC and a third team All-American and finished his career with a Florida State record of 65 hit by pitches.
After the Reds drafted him they sent him to Rookie League ball in Billings where he batted .285 in 193 at bats. He hit just .136 with 14 strikeouts and zero walks in his first ten games, before going on a 17-34 tear and boosting his average to .286. He peaked at around .300 and then dipped back down into the .280s for the rest of the season. He played 22 games at second base and 20 games at third base for the Mustangs.
Sansone is listed at 5’11’’, but having seen him in action I think the media guides are being generous by an inch or two. He looks and plays like a small, stocky middle-infielder. It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing that he does especially well. He runs the bases well, but isn’t fast. He makes routine plays at second, but isn’t a defensive wizard by any means. His arm isn’t especially strong, he’s unlikely to hit for power, and struck out too often in Billings.
Here’s a look at a double play attempt that was likely doomed rom the beginning, but you can see Sansone’s throw definitely lacked the kind of velocity you’d like to see from an every day second baseman.
Having said all that, Sansone is a baseball player in the truest sense of the phrase. His approach at the plate is well beyond most Rookie League players, which is why I’m a little shocked he struck out so often. He rarely has cheap at bats, rarely swings at the first pitch, and is already able to utilize all fields for hitting.
Here are a couple of examples of him going with the pitch and sending it into center and right field.
When he hits the ball to right field he uses a short, efficient swing that allows him to get his wrists around quickly and slap the ball. Most of his hits are solid line drives, with low trajectories, that don’t have any hope of clearing an outfield fence.
Here’s a video of him pulling the ball and you can see it’s a very different swing with a totally different intent.
One thing that remains constant is that he doesn’t seem to utilize his lower body much in his swing. That short step forward seems indicate he’s putting priority on making contact instead of driving the ball. I’ve slowed down one of the videos here so you can get a better view of his swing.
My guess is that Sansone starts 2016 in Dayton, and his bat helps him advance to Pensacola by the end of the season. At 23 years old, he’ll need to show he can cut down on the strikeouts and play better defense. The Reds may have a logjam in the infield when he’s ready to contribute, so its good he’s getting experience at both second and third base right now. I wouldn’t doubt if he gets some time in left field either this year or next too. He’s the type of prospect that might be 25 or 26 years old before he pay dividends, but could develop into a very nice find in 2018 or 2019.