The 2019 MLB Amateur Draft will kick off its first round on June 3rd, which as you may know if you own a calendar, isn’t really all that far off!
That in mind, it’s probably time to start taking a look at the names that could be available on draft night for the Cincinnati Reds. The team will pick all the way down at number seven this year, the lowest they’ve selected in the draft since all the way back in 2015, when they selected Tyler Stephenson with the number 11 pick.
Picking at number seven may make it a little more difficult for a team to snag a day one difference maker (Nick Senzel, 2016) or transcendent type talent (Hunter Greene, 2017). Though, it is worth noting that probably the best number seven pick of all time may end up going down as the best pitcher of all time, as the Dodgers picked Clayton Kershaw with the number seven pick in the draft back in 2006.
Hmm, a big, lanky, left hander drafted in the seven slot? That brings me to our first player...
Nick Lodolo - LHP - Texas Christian University
Okay, chill out for a minute. I’m not, and as far as I can tell, no one is comparing TCU’s Nick Lodolo to Clayton Kershaw. Still, Lodolo is a California dude that went to play college ball in Texas. Kershaw is a Texas kid that was drafted to play professionally in California. They’re both lefty, and they’re both really tall.
Basically the same guy, is what I’m saying.
Lodolo is listed at 6’6”, 185-190lbs, so there’s definitely a lot to like about the left handed frame here. He’s got a fastball that works in the 90-94mph range, and has topped at 96. He was originally drafted back in 2016 by the Pittsburgh Pirates at 41, but he spurned the Pirates and went to TCU, which is something we should all respect (giving the finger to the Pirates; I have no opinion on TCU).
MLB Pipeline actually mocked Lodolo to the Reds just last Friday and, as of publish, he’s not just the top college pitcher, but the top pitcher overall on their Top 50 Prospects ranking. so if the Reds end up with that at their disposal (and the ranking ends up true), it’s a pretty decent position to find themselves in.
Lodolo has pitched to a 2.34 ERA in 77 IP this year, down from a 4+ ERA in each of his previous two college seasons. He’s put it together a bit this season, walking only 16 batters in those 77 innings. I’ve seen some inconstancy on reports of his second best offering, with a mid-70s curve being reported earlier this year, but now a tight slider being better.
Regardless, there’s some obvious talent here, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to projecting the frame. It wouldn’t be a bad pick for the Reds.
Jackson Rutledge - RHP - San Jacinto Junior College (Texas)
Okay, so since I’ve been hyperbolic earlier in the piece, let’s pull this quote from Pipeline’s write-up of their 13th overall draft prospect:
Rutledge has emerged as the best junior college prospect since Bryce Harper went No. 1 overall out of Southern Nevada in 2010 and the best in Texas since Clay Buchholz was a supplemental first-rounder from Angelina in 2005.
I’ll take that!
He comes from Missouri and was very committed to Arkansas which left him undrafted back in 2017. Still, an underwhelming and underused tenure with the Razorbacks (that turned out to be a hip injury) his freshman year led to the decision to transfer.
He’s a big kid, too. He won’t turn 21 until next April, and is already listed at 6’8”, 240lbs. The kid basically doubles as a tank, and obviously that frame isn’t anywhere near fully matured. As you might expect, the kid has premium velocity, able to reach 99mph on his fastball.
Baseball America has a really solid story on the guy, which you should read, and I won’t ape it too much. But it mentions in there that it’s possible Rutledge has legitimate four-pitch ability, all of them being plus when they’re on. There are some injury concerns, sure, and the fact that it all hasn’t showed up in competition yet. Still, you’re looking at possibly the best overall stuff in the draft.
Zack Thompson - LHP - University of Kentucky
Thompson comes in at 15th on Pipeline’s list, and I’m mainly mentioning him here because he’s mentioned in their mock linked above as someone the Reds are looking into.
Thompson is a 21 year-old left hander that was actually drafted in the 11th round by the Rays back in 2016. His commitment affected that, sure, but also injury concerns. There was a shoulder that scared some people off, then he ended up failing a post-draft physical. He also missed some time at Kentucky with an elbow problem that didn’t require surgery.
I can hear Reds fans scurrying of the internet after that last paragraph. Still, he’s stayed healthy this season and has played well against the always competitive SEC, posting a 2.08 ERA in 78 innings, striking out a whopping 113 batters to only 30 walks.
And that’s basically what it comes down to; Thompson has come a long way this season, flashing three plus pitches throughout the spring. But command, control, and injury issues has plagued him at times in his amateur career. If these 80-ish innings are pointing to what’s to come, that’s great. But the rest of his past have scouts dialing him in around a mid-rotation starter at his peak. That may push him further down the board.