It’s almost time for the draft! And you know what that means: the 30 MLB teams will take turns drafting young baseball players!
The draft has been a Really Big Deal for the Reds in recent years. When a team is in the throes of an extensive multi-year rebuild, top draft picks are the essential cornerstones of the organization. The Reds have selected the likes of Tyler Stevenson, Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, and Jon India with their top selections of the last four years, and though it is still far too soon to tell, it sure seems that they scored solid hits on each one of them.
Chris Buckley was the man with the plan for a number of years, but amateur scouting has been passed to Brad Meador. This will be his first draft in the role. They have generally worked under the MO of taking the best player available, which means something different in baseball than in other sports drafts. If a team is not inclined to take the best player available, it is usually because of concerns over signability. MLB instituted hard caps on amateur draft spending a few years back, so teams are allotted a finite amount of money to spend on the draft based on a formula that isn’t terribly important to discuss here. For example, the Reds got Hunter Greene in 2017 in not small part because of this. The Twins took prep shortstop Royce Lewis for a number of reasons, but certainly one of them was because they were confident they could sign him for less than what it would take to ink Greene. This freed up some cash to splash later in the draft. It’s like quantity over quality, basically.
So anyway, I want to take a look at the top players that our Reds might be interested in come Monday. And I’m using this best player available lens here to mostly make it easier on myself and also because I figure Meador and the Reds are doing the same. So here goes.
The Reds will select seventh this year, which is kind of a sign that the rebuild is working, kind of, after they selected second, second, and fifth in the last three years. And this year’s draft class makes this all the more interesting because there are about six hitters who have distanced themselves from the pack. Most mock drafts to date have these six hitters going 1-6, giving the Reds opportunity to pluck the top pitcher in the draft.
Nick Lodolo - LHP / Texas Christian University
Lodolo is pretty much the consensus pick of the internet baseball bloggerati for the Reds at seven. He’s a big wiry Chris Sale-lookin’ sumbitch at 6’6” and 185 lbs, though he’s likely to fill out a bit as he gets older and less weird-looking.
Why am I picking on this kid’s appearance so much jeez man ease up a bit
He has proven himself among the top hurlers in the draft pool by striking out a ton of haters and not walking many fools (125/21 in 98 innings so far this season). His fastball sits low/mid-90s and his curveball and changeup both have impressive potential. TCU has qualified for the NCAA tournament, but they are in a regional with Arkansas and California, so their chances of advancing far are not strong. Lodolo and his Horned Frog friends play tonight at 7pm against Cal and noted beef animal, Andrew Vaughn.
Andrew Vaughn - 1B / University of California
Vaughn is a Golden Spikes Award finalist and is widely believed to be the best pure hitter in the draft. Over his sophomore and junior years, he has maintained an OPS around 1.300 and has walked twice as often as he has struck out. There are some legitimate conversations debating his place among the very best college hitters of all time. Chances are he will not fall to the Reds at #7, but it’s possible because he is just a 1B and maybe even just a DH. If the six teams ahead of the Reds are prioritizing pitching or up-the-middle defense, it could happen. He is my favorite in this draft.
Alek Manoah - RHP / West Virginia University
Speaking of beef animals, you are gonna need a bigger skillet for this kid. He’s 6’6” and 250 lbs with a fastball to match. He has a good slider, too, but some folks think he might end up as a bullpen arm. Yer dog and Morgantown resident Tony Wolfe would be so all up ons this guy if the Reds pick him.
Zack Thompson - LHP / University of Kentucky
Many Red Reporters, supreme chancellor Wick Terrell among them, are UK fans so this kid’s inclusion here is kind of a homer move. That said, Thompson is plenty good enough to be a top ten pick. He features a pretty fastball and a legit big-league slider. He proved his shit earlier this season by stomping the top-ten Georgia Bulldogs with a complete game two-hit shut out, striking out 13. Wahooee.
Riley Greene - OF / Hagerty High School
Greene is one of those consensus six I talked about above. He has a lot of Jesse Winker vibes, truth be told. He’s a natural lefty thrower/swinger with elite contact and an advanced approached, though his hit tool stands apart from his power. He projects to find a cozy home in the corner outfield, though he likely will never be any great shakes out there.
I’d be thrilled if the Reds can snag him because of the opportunities to team him up with Hunter Greene for some Greene Adventure stuff and whatnot.
It seems to me that the Reds are much more likely to select a college player rather than a prepster, for a few reasons. Firstly, the top prepsters in the draft (guys like Bobby Witt jr and CJ Abrams) will almost assuredly be snacked before the Reds can get them. Secondly, there are about ten college players that will be on the board when the Reds choose. And thirdly, given the state of the organization and their desire to start winning much sooner than later, they have an incentive to get a player here who can advance quickly. Everything is pointing to Lodolo and most folks will be surprised if that doesn’t happen.