Come June, the Cincinnati Reds will select second in the MLB Amateur Draft. With that in mind, it's never too early start taking a look at some of kids who the Reds will tap to become the next Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips.
So, it probably is too early, because things such as these are fluid, and there's still full college and prep seasons to be played. Luckily for us, other people have jobs that task them to keep track of things like this throughout all its fluidity. And that's just what Baseball America did yesterday.
This isn't a prediction of how any team will draft, but rather a big board of the top 100 college and prep players as evaluated by the experts at Baseball America. They're pretty good at this, so let's take a look at some of the top names.
Nick Senzel is the top riser in the new ranks, and coincidentally sits at number two on the board, meaning if these rankings bear out in real life, he'll be waiting right there when the Reds pick. He's a junior 2B/3B at Tennessee who's gotten off to a blistering start through the first 12 games of the college schedule. In 48 ABs, Senzel is batting .396 with a .500 OBP and 6 doubles. It's a small sample, but he's not new to offense: as a sophomore, he led the Vols in batting average (.325), hits, doubles, and triples. In October, BaseballDraftReport.com had this to say about Senzel:
Arguably the safest of this year's potential first round college bats, Senzel has electric bat speed, a patient approach, and as good a hit tool as any player listed. His defensive gifts are almost on that same level and his power upside separates him from the rest of what looks like a pretty intriguing overall college group of second basemen.
Jason Groome tops the board and is subsequently the top high school arm, and 6' 4" lefty out of Barnegat High School in New Jersey. Fangraphs caught up with him last June at USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars and he was mightily impressive. At 16, he was working with a 94-96 mph fastball, a potentially plus curve and a promising change, all of which only project to get better as he gets stronger with age. We're sitting here in March and Groome seems to remain the leader in the clubhouse.
Delvin Perez is a 6' 2" shortstop out of Puerto Rico that's fits into a mold that the Reds seem to love: a great up the middle defender with a projectable hitting tool. That is, at 17 years old, he's better than, say, Alfredo Rodriguez. He also won't likely cost $12 million, just the opportunity cost of making Perez the second pick in the draft, while also allowing the Reds to keep all of the other pool money for more draft prospects. Sounds like a decent trade off to me.
Blake Rutherford (3) and Corey Ray (7) also still rate highly on Baseball America's list, but, I've already peered into that future.
In actual Reds news, here's a piece from C. Trent at the Enquirer about Jay Bruce and Joey Votto spending time practicing the bunt at Spring Training this year.
Of course, the stake are higher for Bruce, who's going on two full seasons of aggregate blech numbers, in part because almost each and every team has committed to putting on a severe defensive shift in almost each and every one of his at bats.
There's value in picking your spots and dropping down surprise bunts, especially if you're being shifted against as Bruce is. Then again, if you're a pitcher or a defense picking your poison when it comes to Jay Bruce, what would you do? Sure, if he can lay down the bunt juuust right, he may be standing at first at the end of the AB. The otherside of that coin is challenging Bruce, who at 29 years old still has #LightTowerPower. No one is going to just give a batter first base each time, but allowing Bruce to bunt seems like a better bet than the alternative.
I'm also not entirely convinced that the shift is what doomed Jay Bruce, as evidenced by his .827 OPS through July. It's not as if teams started shifting on Bruce yesterday. Bruce's BABIP wasn't any worse when hitting with a shift on than it was with it off. If the Reds feel that the bunting threat can help Jay's performance, and the numbers in C. Trent's piece bear that out, then sure. Go for it.
Joey Votto? Nah, he should never bunt. Never. Never ever.
I change my mind. Kill the bunt.
Devin Mesoraco has restarted his catching drills after his earlier set back, Zack Cozart will probably make his spring debut sometime this weekend, and, right on time, Michael Lorenzen was scratched from his start yesterday with forearm tenderness.
Lorenzen joins John Lamb and Homer Bailey on the Reds pitching MASH list. It's debatable how much Lorenzen will factor into the Reds success this season; a bet that Lorenzen is working on his starting craft in Louisville in May is just as viable as one that puts up cold hard cash on Lorenzen being in the Reds rotation (or the Reds bullpen, for that matter).
The issue doesn't appear to be serious, but hell, it wasn't long ago that Homer Bailey's and Mat Latos's ailments didn't appear to be serious issues, and neither has regained the pitching form they once enjoyed.
In former Reds news, this headline popped up in my Reds Google Alert. More power to them: Homers creating buzz in in White Sox camp. The teaser reads: "Todd Frazier, who hit 35 home runs for the Cincinnati Reds last season, should prevent the White Sox from being last in the AL in homers in 2016."
That's the Chicago Sun-Times setting the bar pretty high, I think.