The draft has been far-and-away the primary catalyst of this here rebuild the Reds are execucating. They have flushed the system with some real talent over the last few years, stocking the minors with guys like Tyler Stephenson, Antonio Santillan, Jimmy Herget, Nick Senzel, Taylor Trammell, Hunter Greene, and Jeter Downs. That’s an impressive run of amateur talent evaluation, especially considering the lack-luster outlays from the 2012-2014 drafts. Getting Senzel and Greene with the No. 2 overall picks the last two years is really great, but it is the talent plucked from the lower rounds that really earns the Reds’ operation quite a bit of dap. With the No. 5 selection this year, they are yet again in position to add a premiere talent.
Today, I want to take a look at some of the top young arms available this year to help get us acquainted with whom the Reds might select. We’ll look at bats tomorrow.
Mize is pretty close to a consensus Best Player Available in this draft class. The righty is a junior at Auburn this year and went undrafted out of high school three years ago.
He is pretty much everything you want in a college arm: his repertoire is sharp, consistent, and refined. He works in the mid-90s with his fastball to set up his dynamite blood hammer of a split-finger fastball that gets googols of swings and misses. He also mixes in a quality slider for good measure. He has an ace ceiling and a safe, high floor.
The scuttlebutt is that the Tigers are all set to take him with the No. 1 pick, and even if for some reason they don’t, it is unlikely that he will fall to the Reds at No. 5. But who knows, so here you go.
Coming into the season, Singer was widely considered the top pitcher of this class. His teammates on the 2017 National Championship Florida Gators, Alex Faedo and AJ Puk, were both first-round selections in last year’s draft and it was Singer’s turn to serve as the team’s ace.
He kinda got off to a slow start, but he hasn’t really done anything to tarnish that reputation. He outdueled Mize when his Gators beat the Tigers in late April. He doesn’t have an extraterrestrial strikeout offering like Mize’s splitter, but his fastball, slider, and changeup are all strong offerings. He has also proven quite durable over his career at Florida, which is always a plus.
There is a decent chance that he could possibly slide down to No. 5 for the Reds, and if that happens I would be quite pleased.
McClanahan is the ace of the South Florida Bulls (hi, Chris Welsh!) and boasts one of the biggest arms in the country. He regularly hits 100 mph with his fastball and does so from the left side. He has racked up 111 strikeouts in just 66.1 innings thus far this season, making him one of the strikingoutiest ballers ballin’ right now.
He is 6’1” and just 173 lbs and he has been compared to Chris Sale more than once. His changeup plays really well with his fastball and his slider is working towards being legitimate, but he does have some trouble on occasion keeping the ball close to the strike zone. He doesn’t have the same high floor that Mize and Singer have, but the ceiling is just as high. I’d be thrilled if the Reds can get him at No. 5.
Rolison is a draft-eligible sophomore out of Ole Miss, which gives him a bit more leverage than these upperclassmen. He has one of the best curveballs in the country and matches it with a legit fastball, slider, and changeup. His strikeout pitch isn’t as devastating as Mize’s and his fastball isn’t as volcanic as McClanahan’s, but he has the stuff to pitch and pitch well at the Major-League level.
Kowar is the Ginger Rogers to Brady Singer’s Fred Astaire (happy Dated Reference Day!), starting on Saturdays for the Gators (that team is really good). He is really tall and really skinny, not dissimilar to Bronson Arroyo. What’s different is that his fastball is enormous, working regularly in the mid-90s with a clean, easy, and effortless delivery. While Singer gets the headlines, there are some internet baseball nerds who like Kowar just as much, if not more. His changeup gives him a strong secondary offering and his breaking ball is coming along.
Stewart is a big, projectible righty out of Eau Gallie, Florida. His fastball regularly sits in the mid-90s (which, as you can tell, isn’t any big thing anymore), but it plays beautifully with his Death Star curveball. He is still just a baby (he was born in November of 1999, jeez) so he has a ton of development yet, but everything is there for him to turn into a big-time ace.
Liberatore is the consensus top lefty prepster this year. He threw 12 scoreless innings for the World Champion U18 squad, taking the ball for the gold-medal game and earning the win. He doesn’t have the sterling wipeout offerings that some of these other fellas have, but his stuff is consistent and strong and pitchable.
A strong candidate to win the Cy Schourek Coolest Name of the Year award, Rocker also gets some Red Reporter love for committing to Wick Terrell’s alma mater, Vanderbelt.
The son of a defensive lineman, he is an authentic Beef Monster, standing 6’5” and weighing 250 lbs (and he’s probably still growing). His fastball is one of the best prep offerings in this class, and he has a great laser frisbee slider to go with it. He is inconsistent at times and he can get knocked around a bit, but he has shit you can absolutely dream on and he’s probably my favorite high schooler in this class.
Drafting at No. 5, the Reds are obviously at the mercy of the four teams ahead of them on the draft board. But this draft class is deep enough that while they may not get Casey Mize, they are comfortably in position to land a supreme talent. I think I like McClanahan and Rocker more than the others, but any one of these guys would be a big score for the Reds.
Tomorrow, I’m going to look at position players. You will probably be shocked SHOCKED see yet another Florida Gator on that list. Jam on until next time.