It's pretty clear at this point that the Reds are going to have a high pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. It's a possibility that they could end up with the #1 pick. Players at the top of the draft board can go a long way toward turning around the fortunes of an MLB team. With so much riding on who Cincinnati selects next season, it's a good time to get to know some of the players who could be in the mix.
I've mentioned this previously at Red Reporter, but I do not consider myself a scout. For this list I looked at a handful of early mock drafts and prospect rankings for 2017. What follows is a list of the pitchers who appeared to have the most consensus support from analysts. In the comments on each player I'll lean heavily on the knowledge of scouts and analysts who have seen these players up close.
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina
5'11, 200 lbs.
When Bukauskas graduated high school in 2014 he reportedly asked all 30 MLB teams not to draft him. The Diamondbacks rolled the dice and took him in the 20th round, but the right hander stood firm on his commitment to North Carolina. As a freshman he went 5-3 in 14 starts for the Tar Heels. As a sophomore he went 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA. In those 78.1 innings of work he struck out 12.75 and walked 3.83 per nine.
In 2015 Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had Bukauskas ranked as the second best draft prospect in the class of 2017. According to McDaniel he was the most talented high school player not to sign with a team that season. Here is what he had to say about Bukauskas:
He isn't big (5'11 or so) and there's some effort to his delivery, but he's regularly into the mid-90's, has been into the high-90's, flashes a plus breaking ball and the starter traits are coming along.
Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus noted that Bukauskas would have been "the best collegiate starter in the 2016 group" if he was eligible, and that he has "one of the best curveballs from an amateur that I've seen in the past few years." Crawford actually states that the top five college pitchers in the 2017 draft would have been taken ahead of any college pitcher from 2016.
If the Reds decide to go with a starter at the top of the draft, there is a really good chance Bukauskas could be the pick.
Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida
6'4, 220 lbs.
The twenty year old just finished his sophomore season with the Gators. In 2016 he went 13-3 with a 3.18 ERA, and he struck out 133 batters in 104.2 innings. Faedo was previously drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 40th round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Crawford notes that Faedo sits 92-94 with his fastball and has a "plus curveball." In an April article by Fangraphs' Carson Cistuli, Faedo was dubbed the best pitcher in the SEC. Here is how D1 Baseball described Faedo prior to the 2016 season:
Faedo made a jump this fall and could be a first-rounder next year; his fastball sat 92-95 and bumped 96 in the fall, his 83-86 slider flashes plus-plus with legit depth as well as power, and his changeup has continued to improve.
Hagen Danner, RHP, Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, CA)
6'1, 185 lbs.
Danner checks in as the only high school arm on this list. If the name sounds familiar it could be because he "played a starring role on the Huntington Beach team that won the 2011 Little League World Series." In August of 2015 Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports profiled Danner's repertoire:
"The hard-throwing 16-year-old right-hander has commanded the attention of college coaches and major league scouts thanks to a fastball that tops out in the low-to-mid 90s, a curve ball with a natural 12-to-6 break and a rapidly improving changeup"
Late in 2015 Kiley McDaniel noted that Danner was sitting 92-94 and topped out at 96. In a BP Chat from January, Christopher Crawford included Danner in a list of players when asked about potential "no-doubter type talent" in the 2017 draft. Admittedly, Crawford noted it was too early to tag anyone with this designation.
Given the Reds recent run of high floor/low risk players, it seems unlikely they'd take Danner with a top three pick.
Tanner Houck, RHP, Missouri
6'5, 215 lbs.
Houck was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 12th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. However, he chose to head to Missouri. In his sophomore season he went 5-6 with a 2.99 ERA. If you want a reason to be excited about Houck, look no further than Christopher Crawford's assessment:
"As good as these other four guys are (Bukauskas, Faedo, Lange, and Houck), Houck might be the best of all of them. He misses bats with three pitches, throws everything for strikes, and at 6'5" and 217 pounds, he has prototypical starter size."
Earlier this season Houck was profiled by Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star. Palmer described his arsenal:
"Houck's fastball sits in the mid-90s complemented by a wipeout slider and an improving changeup."
Alex Lange, RHP, LSU
6'3, 198 lbs.
The twenty year old Lange went undrafted out of high school. This season at LSU Lange went 8-4 with a 3.79 ERA. This is on the heels of an impressive freshman season in which he registered a 1.97 ERA in 17 starts. I'll let Kiley McDaniel describe Lange's stuff:
"At his best, Lange sits 91-93 and hits 95 mph with an above average to plus curve and average changeup and command, though the stuff can also play around average at times."
You can head over to FanGraphs and read as Carson Cistuli extols the virtues of Lange's curve ball.
Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Louisville
6'2, 205 lbs.
McKay cracks the list as a formidable two way player. In 2015 he was dubbed Baseball America's "Freshman of the Year." At the plate McKay is hitting .333/.414/.513 this season. However, he's too talented of a left handed pitcher, according to Crawford, for teams to pass up on that potential. This season he went 12-4 with a 2.30 ERA in 17 starts. McKay was originally drafted by the Padres in the 34th round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
McDaniel was reserved in his comments regarding McKay. He's "been a standout performer at the plate as well, but his future is on the mound, here he has solid average stuff and command with athleticism and feel to pitch."
Here are a few notes on McKay from this season:
Brendan McKay's through five scoreless innings. Settled into the 88-90 mph range. Looks locked in. Cards up, 2-0.— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) May 7, 2016
#Louisville two-way stud Brendan McKay on the bump for Team USA. He sat 90-91in the first with an 80 mph curve.— Shotgun Spratling (@ShotgunSprD1) July 2, 2016
That's it for the early list of pitchers you should know. We'll have the position players available later in the week. Is there a player we should have mentioned but failed to include? Let us know in the comments section.
Rankings used to compile this list:
Baseball America: 2017 Draft Watch List
Way-too-early look at top players available for the 2017 MLB Draft
2017 MLB Mock Draft: Early Predictions
Peeking ahead to the 2017 draft class
2016/2017 MLB Draft Rankings: Ridiculously Early Edition