Players selected #12 overall throughout the history of the MLB Draft haven’t exactly cemented their legacies in the annals of baseball lore. To date, there have been 55 such chaps, and not a single one of them has yet made it to the Hall of Fame. On top of that, it’s not as if there have been any notable snubs, either, as none has yet put together a career that even sniffs worthiness of enshrinement in Cooperstown.
So, on the surface, that isn’t exactly the greatest endorsement of the Cincinnati Reds upcoming 2020 draft slot, since they, too, will be drafting 12th overall after their 75-87 performance during the 2019 season. It is worth noting that there have never been Hall of Famers selected 11th or 13th overall, either, though that will change five years from the moment Max Scherzer (11th overall in 2006) hangs up his cleats.
(Manny Ramirez, who went 13th overall in 1991, might sneak into the Hall in 2078 when the robots in charge of our day to day lives become wholly impartial to PED use at the turn of the century.)
That isn’t to say that there haven’t been phenomenally successful #12 overall selections, however, despite the inauspicious start to their collective careers. Only five of the first twelve 12th overall picks actually made it to the big leagues, and their collective career bWAR totals just 4.7 - buoyed by the 7.8 career bWAR of Nesconset, NY’s own John Curtis (1966). Things picked up from that point forward, though.
Kirk Gibson, former MVP and twice a World Series champ, went #12 overall in 1978.
Nomar Garciaparra, perhaps the most gifted contact hitter of his generation, went 12th overall in the strike-shortened 1994 season.
Relief-God Billy Wagner was a former #12 overall selection (1993), as was current Reds 1B coach Delino DeShields (1987). Jered Weaver rewarded the Los Angeles Angels decision to take him #12 overall in 2004 with 35.8 bWAR and a trio of Top 3 finishes in the AL Cy Young Award, too.
In other words, there have been and always will be plenty of talented players available for teams to select 12th overall, and that shouldn’t be any different for the Reds in 2020. And if their own history with that pick is any indication, they might well be plenty happy to be picking 12th over most any other spot in the 1st round.
The Reds have picked 12th exactly twice in the history of the modern draft format, and both times they’ve managed to strike gold.
Back in 2005, they took a raw, yet toolsy OF from Beaumont, Texas with the #12 pick, and that’s him in the picture above pleading his case for being safe after sliding into home plate. That’s Jay Bruce, of course, he of 312 career dingers, a pair of Silver Slugger Awards, a trio of All Star appearances, the affable hair-flip, and the single greatest dinger in recent Reds history. A repeat of that selection would certainly be just fine for the Reds, of course.
The second time the club selected 12th overall came back in 2010, and though it has materialized in a much different manner, the player they picked at that time certainly validated their ability to evaluated prep talent at the time, as he has turned himself into quite the impressive big leaguer. He, too, is in that picture atop the page, then plying his trade as catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, though after wrapping another All Star campaign in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers, he’s now entering free agency for the second time in his career. That would be one Yasmani Grandal, and considering he’s already being connected to the Reds as a potential free agent signing this winter, there’s a chance the Reds could technically reel in a pair of #12 draft picks as part of their overall 2020 body of work.
As for which players the Red might target at #12, well, there’s an ungodly amount of time and baseball to play out before we even begin to narrow our focus on specific players. The fact is, though, that while the Reds will no longer be selecting in the top handful of picks in this upcoming draft, they still will have a chance to land a franchise-altering talent with the #12 pick, a feat which they have had a success rate of 100% with so far in their history of drafting in such a spot.
Here’s to hoping they can go 3 for 3.