The Cincinnati Reds landed the 2nd overall draft pick for the 2016 MLB Draft after their dismal 2015 finish, a season in which they first began to embark upon their deep, dark rebuild. More importantly, however, their dismal finish paired with their payroll and market size earned them a high Competitive Balance pick that year, too - and the result of having that many high-slot draft picks meant the Reds had more bonus pool money than any other franchise to dole out that year.
Some $13.9 million, to be nearly exact. And while it’s still a little early to totally evaluate how they used their money from that draft, here’s the gist of where things stand from that class:
- -1.1 total bWAR from the 41 picks (including those who did not sign that year)
- -0.2 bWAR from Taylor Trammell so far, who never played for the Reds after being taken with that Competitive Balance pick due to being part of the trade that brought in the skeeziest asshole in the sport for a year and a half
- 3 total players who have made it to the big leagues with the Reds: Nick Senzel (-1.0 bWAR), Ryan Hendrix (-0.3 bWAR), and Joel Kuhnel (0.4 bWAR)
That’s right, it’s Joel Kuhnel doing the heavy lifting of the entire group so far. As of today, though, there’s one more chance for that to change.
With Tyler Stephenson heading to the injured list after breaking his thumb yesterday, and with him likely to be sidelined through the All Star break, the Reds have turned to Chris Okey, the team’s 2nd round selection from that 2016 draft. He was called up this morning and will presumably not just be available beginning tonight, but will also get the chance to play regularly enough for the Reds to see if they’ve got something, anything with him.
To his credit, Okey has posted a career-best .766 OPS so far this year for AAA Louisville, albeit in a minuscule 74 PA sample. Considering he’s the owner of just a .617 career OPS throughout his minor league career (1359 PA), odds are there’s going to be some serious regression at some point soon - unless, of course, he’s changed things up enough to have a mid-career renaissance.
Considering he’ll turn 28 in December, it’s hard to truly expect the latter to be the case, but stranger things certainly have happened. While replacing Stephenson in all facets of the game will be borderline impossible, it’s also worth pointing out that if he can call a good game and play some killer defense it might well be enough for him to earn the opportunity to at least have that as a calling-card for some longer-term time in the big leagues, seeing as that’s pretty much what all teams look for in their backup catchers anyway.
It’s an opportunity either way, however, one that seems to be the tie that binds this particular Reds club together. With injuries to the stars that remain and the exodus of talent over the winter, it seems there have already been numerous overlooked, under-the-radar guys who’ve gotten chances in Cincinnati this year when they would not have had them anywhere else, and several have rather excelled. Matt Reynolds, for one. Albert Almora, Jr., too. Even the likes of Kyle Farmer and Tyler Naquin, before his injury, were getting regular run at important positions after other clubs had moved on from them.
Now, it’ll be Okey getting a chance to show what he can do at the big league level, in the process giving the Reds one last-ditch shot at salvaging an entire draft class.