Major League Baseball’s decision to move their draft to coincide with the All Star Game continues to confuse the living hell out of me. Why put a giant spotlight on the game’s best when you can instead divert attention to the future of the game, instead?
Anyway, while the big leagues pause for the break, the Dinger Derby, and the actual All Star Game, the MLB Draft will be taking place, too, with Sunday night featuring the selections through the end of Round 2 (as well as Competitive Balance Round B and the Compensation Picks prior to Round 3). In other words, the first 80 selections of the Draft will be made Sunday evening (with coverage beginning at 7 PM ET), and the Cincinnati Reds are going to be quite busy.
Though they won’t pick until 18th overall, they’re the owners of the 7th largest overall bonus pool, mostly due to their possession of a comp pick for losing Nick Castellanos in free agency and a Competitive Balance Round B pick, too. In other words, they’ll pick 18th, 32nd (Castellanos comp pick), 55th (2nd round pick), and 73rd (Competitive Balance Round B) on Sunday, giving them a chance to refill the coffers of their minor league system in perhaps more broad fashion than their peers. The San Francisco Giants, for instance, will only pick 30th and 66th on Sunday on the heels of a) their excellent 2021 season and b) their market size and payroll.
With just a hair under $10.7 million in their bonus pool, the Reds will have endless ways in which to divvy that up. Will they go heavy on high school players who’ll require big bonuses to eschew their college commitments and turn pro? Will they swing big on one of those, and back it up with a college player who may not have nearly as much leverage? Will they prioritize fast-track players to help get out of this rebuild quickly, players who will theoretically reach the big leagues while the core of Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson, Hunter Greene, and Nick Lodolo are still around? Or, will they continue to load up on the next wave, focusing on prep players who’ll be on a similar path as Elly De La Cruz, Chase Petty, and Co.?
When your first pick isn’t until #18, it’s hard to have one plan and one plan only, as you’re very much at the behest of your peers and their decisions before you. Therefore, it’s hard to read too much into any mock draft given that teams are forced to be more reactive than proactive at that point. Still, perusing them can give you at least a bit of an idea of where the scouts and prospect wonks think certain players are deserving draftees, and that’s why we’ll cruise through a couple here today.
The latest mock from CBS Sports has Pennsylvania prep shortstop Cole Young as the Reds pick, a player we broke down in detail earlier in the week given that the Reds have been lightly linked to him throughout the run-up to the draft. Young, a Duke commit, has plenty of parallels to that of former Reds 1st rounder Austin Hendrick in that they’re both from the Pittsburgh area and are old for their draft class, but there’s certainly a lot to like from the kid on both sides of the ball. Going with Young at #18 might take an over-slot deal, though, meaning the Reds would potentially have to focus on more signability concerns at #32 in this scenario.
The folks over at Just Baseball can’t spell Cincinnati, but they do have Campbell University’s Zach Neto as the Reds pick at #18. Neto has gone off the board in the Top 10 of many mocks I’ve come across in the last month or so, making his fall to the Reds at #18 a bit of a value pick, potentially. He’s coming out of a small school and conference, of course, which is always a bit of a concern, but he consistently excelled when up against ‘bigger’ school opponents as well as when playing in the wood-bat Cape Cod League. MLB.com similarly has Neto going to the Reds at #18, and our friends at both Fish Stripes and Royals Review each have in-depth scouting reports of Neto that are worth a read.
(It’s worth pointing out that both Just Baseball and MLB.com mocked their way through the comp picks, with JB backing up Neto with South Carolina prep bat Tucker Toman and MLB going with another college bat in Oklahoma shortstop Peyton Graham.)
Oddschecker.com has the Reds going with the college/prep combo with #18 and #32, with Arizona catcher Daniel Susac the first choice followed by Nevada prep lefty Robby Snelling.
ESPN hasn’t posted a new mock in two weeks, which is odd, but their most recent one has Susac to the Reds at #18, too. Borrrrr-ing. It’s worth pointing out that both Neto and Young were still on their board, as they went #19 and #21 overall, indicating just how little ‘connection’ buzz there has been between the Reds front office and individual prospects. ESPN has the Reds backing up the Susac pick with a college arm in Oklahoma’s Cade Horton at #32.
Finally, the folks over at Prospects Live have prep shortstop Jett Williams as the Reds pick at #18, though they admit they’re not sure where the hell the Reds are really leaning, either. While Williams hasn’t been linked to the Reds anywhere else, he’s pretty well a consensus 1st round pick - MLB.com has him going 24th to Boston, while ESPN had him 22nd to St. Louis. In their scenario, the Reds will go prep/college with their first pair of picks, with hulking Vanderbilt OF Spencer Jones (who has drawn Aaron Judge comps) as their comeback pick at #32.