Some crops of amateur players feature one or maybe two obvious standouts. In 2010, Bryce Harper was far and away the most talented prospect so there was no doubt about who the Nationals would be selecting. Sometimes there are 25 guys who could reasonably be selected in the top ten and in any particular order, making a draft projection exceptionally difficult. This year, there are maybe four players being discussed for the top pick, making the Reds’ #2 selection relatively simple. Of Brendan McKay, Hunter Greene, Kyle Wright, and Royce Lewis, the Reds will take the one they like the best after the Twins’ selection. So that’s kind of an easy one.
The Reds are in a unique position though as they also hold the #32 overall pick, a competitive balance pick. They also select at #38, the second selection of the second round. The range of players available in that 30s range has produced a number of stars over the years, as Todd Frazier was selected #34 back in 2007. Michael Kopech, one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball right now, was selected #33 in 2014. The Yankees’ Aaron Judge, Texas’ Joey Gallo, Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr, and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard were all chosen in the 30s range. So there is definitely a ton of high-impact talent available at this point in the draft. The trick is in choosing well, obviously.
All that said, I wanted to take a look at a few of the intriguing players projected to be available in this range and try to do the Reds a solid and let them know whom they should be picking. I am baseball smart.
(player rankings provided by Baseball America, player scouting reports provided by Minor League Ball)
Alex Lange / RHP / LSU
Lange is the ace of the LSU Tigers this year. He shows good command of three plus pitches and is the kind of polished elite-level college arm that could move through the minor leagues relatively quickly. He stands 6’4” and weighs about 200 lbs, so he has a good sturdy frame that some baseball folks think helps inoculate pitchers from numerous injuries. He has a 2.87 ERA so far this season in a bit over 100 innings.
Clarke Schmidt / RHP / South Carolina
Schmidt was the ace of the Gamecocks’ rotation, posting a 1.34 ERA in 60 innings, but his season ended prematurely do to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He was seen as one of the top pitchers in this draft class going into the season, but TJS will hurt his draft stock a bit. He woulda been a first-round pick had he stayed healthy, but as it is, he could be available when the Reds come back around.
Stuart Fairchild / OF / Wake Forest
Fairchild is a toolsy guy who projects to handle duties in center field with great aplomb. His arm is good enough, but his speed and his instincts are both very impressive. As a hitter, he shows impressive raw power, slugging over .600 this spring for the Demon Deacons. He has trouble with the zone though and could catch a bit of swingeritis as he moves up through the minor leagues. He kinda reminds me of Phil Ervin. Another plus is that he has the name of a Jane Austen antagonist.
Brian Miller / OF / UNC
Miller went undrafted out of high school and walked on at UNC like he owned the place or something. He has developed into a very polished outfielder, mainly due to his speed (some scouts grade it as a 70). He could be a classic lead-off hitter, stealing tons of bases and not hitting for much power. He’s a high floor / low ceiling kinda guy.
Hans Crouse / RHP / Dana Point, CA
Crouse has a big fastball, ranking just below Hunter Greene among this year’s crop of prep pitchers. He has a funky delivery, but he can keep his fastball in the upper 90s. His secondary offerings are pretty rough, but under the auspices of a major league organization he could certainly clean it up. He is 6’5” and listed at only 185, so no wonder he looks funky in the wind up.
Trevor Rogers / LHP / Carlsbad, NM
Rogers is also tall and wiry, standing 6’6” and weighing only 190 lbs. He has a Courtney Love fastball: skanky in the mid-90s. He could fill out a good bit as he ages, perhaps adding a bit more on it as he moves through the minor leagues. His secondary offerings are pretty raw, but his breaking ball has a lot of potential. Overall, he has an elite ceiling, but a good long way to go before he can get there.
Blayne Enlow / RHP / St. Amant, LA
Enlow is 6’4” and 180 lbs, but most scouts think he is still growing. This kid brushes his teeth with projectability, as he can potentially grow a good bit into his frame and develop a decent low-90s fastball into something more fierce. His curveball is apparently one of the best pitches in this draft class. 18-year-olds who already throw plus-plus breaking balls are years ahead of their peers, hence the projectability.
Matt Sauer / RHP / Santa Maria, CA
Sauer is another big honkin’ son of a gun, standing 6’5” and 210. His fastball routinely sits in the mid 90s and he features a solid and improvable slider. He needs to work on his change-up and his command can get away from him. Some think he could wind up as an ace reliever.
Heliot Ramos / OF / Guaynabo, PR
Ramos is your Taylor Trammell kinda guy in this year’s draft. He shows incredible tools across the board. He has plus-plus speed and power and great range and instincts in the outfield. He could be an above average center fielder, but some think his arm will limit him to left field.
At the plate, he is inconsistent. His swing can get whopperjawed and his control of the strike zone needs a lot of work. But oh lordy, this kid has tools. He’s a classic low-floor / high-ceiling selling a dream kinda prospect.
Tristan Lutz / OF / Arlington, TX
Tristan “shut up!” Lutz is also a big toolsy prospect, showing big raw power and a cannon in right field. He is an advanced hitter for his age, showing good strike zone judgement and consistent swing mechanics. There aren’t many high school sluggers as polished as this fella. His speed and athleticism are often described as “goonerish,” but you can’t blame ‘im for what God gave ‘im.
Bubba Thompson / OF / Mobile, Alabama
The Reds have had some success in recent years scouting high schools in the deep south, plucking the likes of Billy Hamilton, Shed Long, and the aforementioned Trammell from SEC country. Thompson is one of the best prep quarterbacks in the state of Alabama (which, in case you didn’t know, is pretty well ate up with football), but Thompson is neither dumb nor stupid, so he has decided to play baseball full time (I like this guy already).
Oh my gumbos, this kid is a tremendous athlete. He has classic SEC speed and an outfield arm that coincidentally plays well at quarterback. His speed lets him cover a lot of ground in the outfield, but his instincts and arm strength mean he could be an elite center fielder. He also has displayed impressive zone judgement, striking out 18 times this spring compared to 15 walks.
The biggest question mark for this kid is his power. He has shown growth in that area, but he has a ways to go if he is to be successful at the highest levels. Also, if the Reds draft this kid, it will guarantee that Bubba Fan will re-up here at Red Reporter and stick around for at least another five years or so.