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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Cincinnati in 2016
7 – Nick Senzel
55 – Chris Okey
61 – Taylor Trammel
*115 – TJ Friedl
171 – Nick Hanson
212 – Tyler Mondile
285 – Scott Moss
312 – Ryan Hendrix
1.2 – 3B Nick Senzel
Combing my notes on Nick Senzel (7) reveals one glaring negative about his game. Ready for it? “Little worried about his arm.” Even with that gigantic red flag, Cincinnati took Senzel with the second overall pick. What in the world were they thinking? On Senzel (with updated stats) from April 2016…
Nick Senzel is really good. I’ve compared him to Anthony Rendon in the past – the exact phrasing from my notes is “Rendon lite?” – and I think he’ll have a good long career as an above-average big league player. He also reminds me a little bit of this guy…
.352/.456/.595 – 40 BB/21 K – 25/29 SB – 210 AB
.393/.487/.592 – 45 BB/38 K – 13/14 SB – 262 AB
Top is Senzel, bottom is Kyle Seager. I’ve used the Seager comp a few (too many) times over the years, most recently on Max Schrock last season. Speaking of Schrock, how did he fall as far as he did last year? That one still blows my mind. Anyway, in an attempt to move away from the tired Seager comp, another name popped up…
.352/.456/.595 – 40 BB/21 K – 25/29 SB – 210 AB
.351/.479/.530 – 46 BB/26 K – 11/14 SB – 185 AB
Top is still Senzel. Mystery bottom guy was written up like so by Baseball America after his pro debut…
“He has a short, compact swing and hits the ball to all fields, and he handles breaking pitches well because of strong balance. Though he’s a physical 6-foot-1 and has good strength, [REDACTED] has a line-drive swing that doesn’t produce natural loft, leading some to project him to have below-average power. He earns high marks for his defense, with good feet and hands to go with an above-average arm at third base. He’s also versatile enough to have played second base, shortstop and left field for Team USA. He’s a good athlete and a solid-average runner.”
I would have linked his pre-draft report from BA, but they have the absolute worst log-in page on the entire internet. Anyway, the passage above was typed up from the 2009 Prospect Handbook. We’re talking about a guy who once played infield in the SEC. He had a similar draft year statistically. And he’s really broken out in his late-20s. Any guesses? When I’ve done mystery comps like this in the past I wouldn’t reveal the player. Then I’d search my site about a different player years later, come across the mystery comp post, and have no idea myself who I was talking about. So, yeah, it’s Logan Forsythe. My future self thanks my present self. I like Senzel to hit the big leagues running a bit more easily than Forsythe (i.e., I don’t think Senzel will enter his age-28 season with an OPS+ of 85), so maybe that would bump Senzel up over Forsythe as a guy with a higher floor. A couple of peak years like Forsythe’s seems like a reasonable ceiling projection. That’s a damn fine player. Supports the original claim: Nick Senzel is really good.
In addition to the Rendon, Seager, and Forsythe comparisons, I’ve also likened Senzel to a young Michael Cuddyer. Of all the comps I’ve thrown out this past draft season, Senzel to Cuddyer generated the most feedback from those in the know, especially as the summer pro season dragged on. Here’s part of Baseball America’s scouting report on Cuddyer after his first full pro season…
Strengths: Cuddyer had few problems at the plate in his pro debut, leading Fort Wayne in home runs, RBIs, doubles, triples, runs and walks. He showed excellent power potential and should dramatically increase his home run total as he grows into his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. Twins officials save their highest praise for Cuddyer’s approach to the game. He did not let his defensive struggles affect his offense or his leadership role, even early in the season. Where the pressures of pro ball sometimes eat up young prospects, the Twins feel that Cuddyer will thrive on them. Weaknesses: Cuddyer’s defensive struggles at shortstop resulted in 61 errors. The errors weren’t primarily in one area where a correction or extended repetitions could address the problem. The Twins felt that Cuddyer’s above-average arm strength and hands were fine and that his limited range was forcing him to try to make plays he couldn’t. The Twins also realized that they had two premium shortstop prospects in Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman. Cuddyer was switched to third base during instructional league and made an “instantaneous” conversion to the corner.
Talk in pro scouting circles about Senzel potentially putting on more good muscle and bulking up to become an occasional third baseman, corner outfielder, and first baseman at maturation (mid- to late-20s) makes the Cuddyer comparison feel a little more apt than before. Whether that actually happens or not, it doesn’t change the fact that just about everybody agrees that Senzel will hit on a similar level to all those guys he’s been compared to. I’d also add Matt Carpenter’s name in the mix; he was a name that came up with Lucas Erceg was discussed and since I consider Erceg to be a “Senzel-lite” type of prospect, it stands to reason that Carpenter and Senzel would share some similarities.
Senzel is an above-average athlete with explosive bat speed, a veteran’s approach at the plate, and above-average to plus raw power. Despite passing along some of the things I’ve heard, I personally have no worries about him excelling at the hot corner defensively with more than enough in the way of instincts, arm strength, and athleticism to make it work. Heck, I’m the one pushing the idea that he could someday return to second base after all. A plus offensive player with a long track record of hitting capable of playing at least average defense at a key position is a potential big league star. That’s Nick Senzel. Nick Senzel is really good.
(Since I’ve been asked before, a quick fantasy take to close things out: Nick Senzel is the clear best prospect for fantasy purposes in this draft when you account for finding the sweet spot between certainty, proximity to the big leagues, and upside.)
1.35 – OF Taylor Trammel
I have no evidence to back this hunch up, but it feels like there is a prep outfielder in every class that has physical tools on par with the early first round talents but falls well past that point in the draft. If that’s true, then I nominate Taylor Trammel (61) for that position in 2016. If it’s not true, then, well, I still think Taylor Trammel fits the very toolsy potential-laden outfielder player archetype quite nicely. From May 2016…
Trammel can run and defend with the best in his class, but his arm is inconsistent. One thing I really like about him is how real his progression has felt this past calendar year. There’s been no surge in buzz about him throughout the spring; instead, it’s been a slow and steady build, as many scouts have noted that the average grades on his sheet have morphed into above-average to plus marks over the course of his final season.
What’s with the Reds picking really good looking young players with questionable arms? That’s two players in a row where the arm is really the only fair thing to question about their respective tool sets. Guess if you’re going to skimp on one tool doing so with the least important one makes sense. Good players with bad arms is the new Moneyball. To Trammel’s credit, his arm got progressively stronger throughout the spring and summer seasons and is now seen as closer to playable than his below-average status. So his one big weakness is now just a minor weakness. And all his strengths — plus to plus-plus speed, plus range in center, average raw power, absurd athleticism — remain. All of those traits give Trammel a high floor even if his bat doesn’t come around as hoped. If it does, he’s a star.
2.43 – C Chris Okey
On Chris Okey (55) from December 2015…
JR C Chris Okey is in a great position heading into his draft year as an athletic, above-average all-around defensive catcher who can run a little bit. In today’s game, that’s exactly what big league teams want in a catcher, especially if you throw in the (overrated by the internet in terms of importance, but not altogether unimportant) ability to frame pitches. As I’ve written about countless times before (including the quoted Okey blurb from October you can read below), as the run environment has shifted away from the highest highs of the PED-era so too has the general preference for athleticism and defensive reliability behind the plate. This shift has come largely at the expense of big power and raw arm strength at the position. Mobility, flexibility, and fundamentally sound glovework is what moves the needle now. I’m thinking of recent early picks like Taylor Ward, Max Pentecost, Reese McGuire, and Justin O’Conner as the prototypes for this latest wave. Athletes like Russell Martin, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Lucroy, and Buster Posey (the man I remember watching play a decent shortstop once upon a time at Florida State) all represent the best case scenario for this player archetype; not coincidentally, those guys all rank in the top nine in fWAR since 2010 with a lot of their value tied up in excellent defensive numbers.
So what does any of this really have to do with Okey? While it’s great that he ticks off many of the boxes that teams like in a catching prospect, nobody is drafting a theoretical catcher archetype. Okey may be a fine example of the modern catcher, but that doesn’t mean he’s a slam dunk first round catcher. Here’s what I wrote about him a few months back…
Okey doesn’t have quite the same thunder in his bat as [Matt] Thaiss, but his strong hands, agile movements behind the plate, and average or better arm give him enough ammo to be in the mix for first college catching off the board. The days of the big, strong-armed, plus power, and questionable contact catcher seem to be dwindling as more and more teams appear willing to go back to placing athleticism atop their list of desired attributes for young catching prospects. Hard to say that’s wrong based on where today’s speed and defense style of game looks like it’s heading.
That all holds up today (obviously…it’s been two months!), but it should be noted that the nice things said about his game are a step below what many (myself included) were saying about him after his senior season of high school. His defense behind the plate never quite reached the threshold where you’d call any one component of his game consistently plus. He’s shown some plus pop times in the past, sure, but not as often as average to above-average times. I don’t think anybody would have imagined he’d get more athletic past his teenage years — time has a way of catching up to everybody — but there is a little bit more stiffness to him at present than you might think if going off those old scouting reports. He’s still the athletic, above-average all-around defensive catcher who can run a little bit that we mentioned at the top. And if we’re going to call him out some for slipping a bit — or, perhaps more accurately, not developing as hoped — with the glove, then it’s only right to praise him for the maturation of his power. What was once considered promising but far off has turned into displays of average or better present power with the shot at plus raw still out there. I’d err on the side of caution with his future power grade and put him closer to the average to above-average range where it currently plays, but that still means he could be a steady 15-20 home run bat at his peak. One interesting name that I heard as a comparison that makes a little bit of sense: Mike Lieberthal.
I have to be honest, I really like that Lieberthal comp. That’s some of my best work right there. My updated notes on Okey include this line, exclamation point and all: “average glove, average arm, average power, average everything!” That’s Chris Okey. Coincidentally, Mike Lieberthal finished his career with a wRC+ of 100. Can’t get much more average than that. Average is a really good thing, especially if you’re a catcher. Only five qualified catchers posted average or better wRC+ last season. The number only jumps to eleven if you open things way up to include all catchers with at least 250 PA. An average offensive catcher has a really strong shot at finishing in the top five to ten in terms of value at the position. Okey’s average tools all get a little bit of boost for me when you factor in his above-average athleticism and exceptional makeup. There’s plenty to argue about the ultimate utility of even including a note about a prospect’s “makeup” (whatever that means to you) in these draft reviews, so I’ll just say that if you’re going to make it a priority at any one position then let it be catcher. Hard work, leadership, communication skills, ability to take coaching, passion for the game and understanding its place in a larger universe…all particularly important for a catcher. I like Okey so much that projecting about a league average catcher feels fair almost as a floor with a run of above-average years as a ceiling.
(Got a few other interesting comps for Okey that I thought were worth passing along. Some are better than others, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I still like Lieberthal, but names like Wellington Castillo, AJ Ellis, and Wilson Ramos have all been floated to me at one point or another. Also got this one…
.336/.438/.598 – 37 BB/47 K – 244 AB
.339/.465/.611 – 51 BB/54 K – 239 AB
.329/.425/.546 – 89 BB/116 K
.301/.392/.504 – 100 BB/136 K
Top is Chris Iannetta, bottom is Okey. From his pre-draft scouting report at Baseball America…
Iannetta could go as high as the third round after a stellar junior season. He reminds scouts of Joe Girardi, though he’s lost some life in his lower half and doesn’t run like Girardi did. Like Girardi, Iannetta has a short, compact stroke and a mature approach to hitting, leading to consistent, hard contact. His other tools are unspectacular, but he’s an average receiver and has an average arm that might play up a bit because of his quick release. His younger brother Matt is a Rhode Island prep player who has signed with North Carolina.
Sounds vaguely Okey-ish, right?)
3.79 – RHP Nick Hanson
I’ve long had a weird affinity for pitchers out of cold weather states like Minnesota — Sam Carlson is next man up for 2017, by the way — so it’s no shock that I liked the solidly built Nick Hanson (171) out of Prior Lake HS. His size, projection, occasional bouts of wildness, and Kentucky commitment had makes it easy to mentally tie him to former Wildcat starters like Alex Meyer and Kyle Cody, but I think the present version of Hanson is ahead of where those eventual college guys were as teenagers. Hanson’s fastball (87-93, 95-96 peak) and curve (average or better now 75-78, above-average to plus eventually) are exciting enough as is, so tossing on an average-ish split-changeup at such a young age is icing on the cake. So much can go wrong with prep pitching prospects and the relatively low ranking of Hanson pre-draft reflects the unpredictability that scares me off players like Hanson every June, but I still find myself liking this pick a lot for Cincinnati even knowing the potential downside.
4.108 – LHP Scott Moss
On Scott Moss (285) from May 2016…
Moss is a wild card as another good yet wild performer with the size (6-5, 215) and stuff (90-94 FB, solid breaking ball and low-80s CU) to make a big impact at the end of games as a professional. The further he gets from his own Tommy John surgery, the better he’s been.
Every day is another day further for Moss, who finished the year striking out 12.13 batters per nine with 3.52 BB/9 and a 1.57 ERA out of the Florida bullpen. His strikeout numbers were sliced almost in half (6.81 K/9) in his 38.1 inning pro debut. The encouraging news is that his run prevention (2.35 ERA) remained strong even when tasked with starting games consistently for the first time since high school. That vote of confidence from the Cincinnati developmental staff combined with the late-season gem of a start Moss threw for the Gators and a highly effective three-pitch mix make the idea of continuing to use Moss in the rotation a very intriguing possibility. I liked Moss as a potential multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen coming out of Florida (still the most likely outcome if I were a betting man), but this new ceiling as a potential mid-rotation starter (assuming his stuff and health allow it) turns this pick from good to great.
A weird but fun subplot to follow from this draft will be which of the three key Gators relievers good enough to start (Moss, Shaun Anderson, Dane Dunning) have the best pro careers.
5.138 – RHP Ryan Hendrix
Two quick blurbs that tell the story of Ryan Hendrix’s (312) 2016 college season and the impact it had on his draft stock. First, from March 2016…
He’s got the heat (mid-90s peak), breaking ball (low- to mid-80s CB flashes plus), and enough of a changeup (83-86) to potentially make the switch to the rotation at the next level. If not, he’s a potential quick-moving reliever with late-inning upside. Win-win!
And then from May 2016…
His teammate Ryan Hendrix hasn’t been quite as good – more whiffs, more walks, and a lot more runs allowed – but remains a good bet to go high in the draft because of his premium stuff (94-98 FB, 83-86 breaking ball that flashes plus) and correctable flaws.
Hendrix’s premium stuff and correctable flaws remain. His pro debut (9.18 K/9 and 3.31 BB/9) looked a lot more like his dominant 2015 season (10.53 K/9 and 3.97 BB/9) than his erratic 2016 (12.81 K/9 and 7.11 BB/9), but one stat from his first 35.1 professional innings jumps out. Hendrix uncorked 11 wild pitches in his debut. That’s good for a 2.80 WP/9. This took me down a weird rabbit hole about wild pitches. Did you know that Felix Hernandez has thrown the most wild pitches this decade with 86? I never would have guessed that, though I guess it makes sense that a “good” pitcher like Hernandez would be near the top of a list of a “bad” counting stat. More sensible guesses like AJ Burnett, Tim Lincecum, Francisco Liriano, and Edwin Jackson round out the top five. I don’t have the patience to look at everybody, but a quick glance reveals that the highest WP/9 among those who rank near the top of the overall list is Garrett Richards. His 0.80 WP/9 (almost a third lower than Hendrix’s, FWIW) is higher than any other starting pitcher I found. If I go deeper and look at qualified relievers as well, then Pedro Stop takes the prize at a whopping 1.06 WP/9. Bartolo Colon has only thrown three wild pitches this decade. That means that in any given nine-inning stretch, you might expect to see Colon throw .025 wild pitches. Baseball Draft Report: come for the baseball draft reporting, stay for the inane statistical minutiae!
First round stuff + tenth round control = fifth round selection. Math don’t lie. Hendrix could be a relatively quick-moving reliever if/when he figures out what was up with his control in 2016 at Texas A&M. As mentioned, the early pro returns were certainly encouraging. I’m buying Hendrix as a future big league asset with a ceiling that likely falls just short of making him a consistent option to close.
6.168 – RHP Tyler Mondile
On Tyler Mondile (212) from May 2016…
Tyler Mondile looked really good. He actually tied Groome for the hottest heater of the night at 94 MPH — I had them both getting there four different times, but saw Mondile up to 95 on a few of the guns around me — and had the more consistent velocity throughout the evening. In a funny twist, Mondile happened to hit 94 with his fastball three straight times in his first head-to-head battle with Groome at the plate. Groome took a fastball in for a strike, a fastball further in for a ball, and a fastball on the outer half to put him in a 1-2 hole before the at bat ended preemptively when Mondile got a little help from his catcher with a stolen base threat eliminated at third base. If there was any doubt that Mondile was pumped for this one — and two seconds of watching him stomp around the field pre-game would push those thoughts aside right quick — then the 94, 94, 94 to start the at bat against the opposing starting pitcher was a clear indicator of how amped up the Gloucester Catholic righthander must have been feeling.
Beyond the strong showing of arm strength, I was impressed with the admittedly few curves Mondile managed to drop in for strikes (76-79 MPH). He used it more as a pitch in and around the strike zone than as a chase pitch, but it had the shape and consistency to worth in both directions with continued use. In time, the pitch looked like it could be a legitimate second weapon. There’s a good bit of effort in Mondile’s delivery and his high level of demonstrative emotion on the mound (something that would make him a fan favorite in many markets) might mean a future in the bullpen could happen sooner rather than later, but reports of his changeup being an average or better offering and his ability to repeat said delivery make him worth trying as a starter as long as possible. I wouldn’t necessarily say his 6-1, 185 pound frame screamed projection, but his upper-half looked like it could stand to put on at least another ten pounds of weight to help even out his stout lower-body. Despite his relatively short stature, Mondile’s legs looked like they’d pass any relevant strength test. In this specific class it would be hard to call him a first rounder, but I could see him making sense for any team anywhere between rounds three and six. I came away believing that he likely made himself some money based on how he looked in front of a crowd with that many influential executives.
Not a bad summation of Mondile’s present stuff and future projection, if I do say so myself. Mondile has all the ingredients (three pitches, repeatable mechanics, solid command) to remain a starter in the pros. As far as upside goes, that’s all you could want in a sixth round teenage pitching prospect. My hunch is that he winds up in the bullpen over the long haul, and I’m not sure that allowing his high-energy self to go 100% in short bursts would be a bad thing. In whatever role he lands, Mondile is a talented arm well worth a six round pick.
7.198 – LHP Andy Cox
The selection of Andy Cox in round seven begins a run of Cincinnati saving some serious cash ($30,000 spent total) on four selected players from round seven to ten. The Reds also effectively ended their draft earlier than most teams with only one pick signed past round twenty-nine. I’m not necessarily faulting Cincinnati here — they did spend almost all of their nearly $14 million in pool money, so it’s not like they went cheap on the whole — but their approach both at the top and bottom of the draft feels a bit off to me. Over 80% of the money they spent on the 2016 MLB Draft paid for their top three picks. That was similar to the one team picking ahead of them in the draft (Philadelphia), but way more than two of the other three (in addition to the Phillies) top draft spenders (69% for Atlanta, 54% for San Diego). My favorite draft so far belongs to the Cardinals, a team that spent 61% of their draft total on their top three picks and managed to bring in seven prospects past the thirtieth round. Comparisons like this are complicated because of the current draft rules in place and I don’t have any grand conclusions, but it’s all at least a little interesting, right?
Anyway, let’s talk about Andy Cox. Here’s a little something on him from April 2015…
His teammate, LHP Andy Cox, is one of my favorite “sleepers,” thanks in part to his well-rounded arsenal (88-91 FB, average or better low-80s SL, average or better CU) that could make him an interesting relief to rotation project in the pro ranks.
I still think he has the stuff to remain a starter, but projecting his command and control for that role seems like a stretch. His repertoire is still strong enough to make him a potential relief option with continued growth. The seventh round seems a little too early for me for a player like Cox, but the allure of saving some cash and landing a decent prospect must have been too strong for the Reds to ignore. I’ve never had to juggle economic and political considerations in a draft room, so I won’t kill a team for taking a money-saving senior that I’m sure they like on merit even if I don’t feel the same way.
8.228 – 2B John Sansone
A .370/.455/.576 offensive year in the ACC is nothing to sneeze at, senior season or not. John Sansome is a classic Florida State style hitter with exemplary plate discipline and more power than you might believe at first look. He’s also a decent runner who can play multiple spots in the infield. If the way he curtailed the strikeouts — the one downside to scouting the classic Florida State style hitter: how much is genuine plate discipline with an innate knowledge of the strike zone and vision to pick up spin/location early…and how much is just taking pitches because that’s how you’ve been coached — in his senior season is real, then Sansome might have enough positive qualities to play regularly at second or third. If not, then he still has a shot to keep advancing as a potential utility infielder capable of playing anywhere on the dirt.
If you really wanted to mislead people by ignoring many important contextual factors (plus the pesky scouting thing), then you could do this…
…and ask which one was the second overall pick in the draft and which one was the eighth round selection. Using this to disparage Nick Senzel would be silly for a variety of reasons, but it’s not a terrible way of saying “Hey, maybe our eighth round pick ain’t so bad!”
9.258 – RHP Alex Webb
Alex Webb saved the Reds a ton of money, but still could wind up as a big league pitcher. That’s good work by them. My favorite of the four consecutive Cincinnati senior-signs, Webb has a quality low-90s fastball with a decent curve and usable change. It’s not a thrilling package, but it looks a little nicer when you account for his cold weather background, plus control, and outstanding track record as a Thunderbird. ERA is not something quoted often around here, but if you can throw 104.1 innings with a 1.38 ERA then you’re doing something right. Webb has all the ingredients to profile as a back of the rotation starter, but could be best served moving to the pen and letting his fastball fly.
10.288 – RHP Lucas Benenati
I was a little intrigued with Lucas Benenati coming into his senior season at Kansas State after a solid junior year (7.31 K/9 and 2.25 BB/9) and reports of decent middle relief style stuff (low-90s fastball, ability to command serviceable breaking ball) filtering through. His final season as a Wildcat was rough enough (6.68 K/9 and 4.45 BB/9) that I opted to leave him out of the 2016 MLB Draft conversation entirely. He was rather good in pro ball including time spent in low-A Dayton, but as a guy who turns 24-years-old in May of his first full pro season that kind of speedy acclimation to pro ball is expected.
11.318 – RHP Joel Kuhnel
On Joel Kuhnel from March 2016…
I’m less in on Joel Kuhnel. The big righty from Texas-Arlington, who incidentally reminds me of one of the many flame-throwing Dallas Baptist relievers from last year, is a favorite of many I’ve spoken to, but, for reasons both on the scouting side and the numbers side, I’m not really feeling it. It’s very likely a reliever profile (to me), so some of his value is cut off at the legs already. I do think he can be a fine bullpen piece with continued refinement — starting with a fastball that touches 96-97 and a hard 86-87 MPH slider doesn’t hurt – so depending on where he falls on draft day he could be a nice value for a team searching for a potential late-inning arm. I’ve gotten a Toddy Coffey comp for him that works in a few different ways (though I’m unclear if Kuhnel’s mound entrance is as entertaining as Coffey’s), but I think that could wind up being a little light in the long run. Not that there’s anything wrong with an eight-year career that earns you just under seven million bucks, of course. I suppose part of my relative lack of love for Kuhnel is anticipating how highly others will value him come June. It’s not ideal logic, but it’s all I’ve got for now.
Kuhnel going in the eleventh round is still a little rich for me, but I can live with it. There was some top five round hype early in the year that made no sense, so this is certainly more palatable by comparison. No matter what round Kuhnel was selected in, he’s a bit of a mystery to project going forward. Maybe that mid-season Todd Coffey comp should have been a clue that he’s be a tricky guy to figure out. I like his fastball (90-95 MPH, 97 peak) and slider (consistently at least average 86-87, flashes plus) combination, but can’t quite put my finger on why he doesn’t miss bats like he should. He kept that trend going in the pros: 4.82 K/9 as a sophomore, 6.35 K/9 as a junior, and 6.00 K/9 in his 21.0 inning pro debut. He also kept his very low walk rate up in the pros: 1.93 BB/9 in 2015 to 1.99 BB/9 in 2016 to a minuscule 0.43 BB/9 in the pros. He rolled his fair share of ground balls in his debut, too. Not a ton of missed bats, very few free passes, and (small sample size alert) promising ground ball tendencies — what to make of that? The formula for Kuhnel to continue to succeed could be to follow the Jim Johnson (6.54 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 58.0 GB%) model.
12.348 – C Cassidy Brown
The early professional success of Cassidy Brown (.322/.409/.383 with 20 BB/32 K) could be small sample size noise. It could also be the beginning of a nifty little victory for scouting over statistical analysis, as if that battle was ever really a battle worth fighting in the first place. If you humor me and go along with the premise, then Brown, a powerful 6-3, 215 pounder with a big arm, lots of strength in his swing, and well above-average athleticism for a catcher, is merely doing what it looks like a guy like him should have been doing from the start. He may not be exactly what you envision a young catching prospect should look like, but he’s pretty damn close. If that pro debut is a sign of his skills catching up to his tools, then the Reds have landed a legitimate sleeper with real starting upside in the twelfth round.
13.378 – RHP Ryan Olson
What I lack in updated Ryan Olson notes from college, I make up for it in old scouting notes on Ryan Olson from high school…
RHP Ryan Olson (Western Christian HS, California): 88-92 FB with plus sink; good 79-82 SL; iffy 76-78 CB; good 81-82 CU; 6-2, 180 pounds
His last fully healthy season at Cal Poly Pomona saw him put up really good (9.35 K/9 and 2.34 BB/9) numbers. Assuming that his stuff has held up, I’m intrigued. An even more fun assumption would be that the twenty or so pounds he’s put on since his prep days and the usual assortment of physical, mental, and emotional growth that an individual experiences as they transition to teenage kid to young adult equates
14.408 – LHP Jesse Adams
On Jesse Adams from December 2015…
SR LHP Jesse Adams is not particularly big nor does he throw particularly hard, but he’s been consistently effective and figures to remain so as a professional. I think there’s clear matchup lefthanded reliever upside to him with the chance that a team less concerned about his size and more enamored with his three-pitch mix (87-91 FB, above-average mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) will let him keep starting.
I’m less enamored with Adams now than I was a year ago, but that matchup lefty upside still seems attainable if he can hit the ground running in pro ball. His control slid back a bit in 2016 and he became more fastball/changeup reliant. I’m not particularly hopeful that Adams sees the big leagues, but I’m rooting for him if only because of a new-ish super slow upper-60s curve he introduced into his arsenal this past spring for kicks. It’s not quite the RJ Swindle starter kit (there will never be another RJ Swindle…), but it’s the closest we’ve seen in a while.
15.438 – RHP Jesse Stallings
Back-to-back Jesse’s off the board to the Reds in rounds fourteen and fifteen. I often wonder about things like this. It had to be intentional, at least on some level, right? The odds of them waiting another thirty picks and being able to take Jesse Stallings in the sixteenth round after first taking Jesse Adams in the fourteenth round were really, really good. Maybe they just loved the two Jesse’s so much that they couldn’t risk losing out on one, but I’ll believe until my dying day that somebody in the Reds draft room thought it would be fun to take back-to-back Jesse’s and things progressed from there. Anyway, Stallings has a really good arm (low- to mid-90s fastball up to 96-97, quality splitter) and could work himself into the middle relief prospect mix before too long, but a spotty college track record (strong run prevention, mediocre peripherals) pumps the breaks on that enthusiastic outlook a bit.
16.468 – OF Mauro Conde
I’ve got nothing on Mauro Conde outside of general positive vibes (strong arm, decent runner, bat is promising but still a question mark) from secondary sources that may or may not mean much in the big picture. Still have to give the Reds credit for getting a high school prospect signed past round ten. I’ll repeat it in every draft review if I have to, but any high school player signed in a double-digit round is a good investment in the current draft system.
19.558 – RHP Matt Blandino
I lost track of Matt Blandino after two just all right seasons at Central Connecticut State. Turns out he landed about ninety minutes away from me at Felician University. Small world. Blandino was really good as a junior, so that’s cool. He was also really good in his pro debut with the Reds. That’s also cool. Blandino gets by more on command and pitchability than knockout stuff, so he should carve up hitters for a few years before getting his first real challenge in the upper-minors.
21.618 – LHP Andrew Wright
Having just finished the Giants draft review, this pick makes a lot of sense. Took me a minute to realize that Cincinnati and not San Francisco took the 6-5, 225 pound lefthander from USC with a big fastball (90-94, 95 peak) and little control (10.70 BB/9 in 14.1 junior year innings). I’m willing to give the athletic Wright a bit of a pass for his wild ways due to his two-way background, limited time on the mound, and the adjustments that come when you go from mid-80s in high school to mid-90s in college.
22.648 – RHP Aaron Quillen
The well-traveled Aaron Quillen is coming off two really solid seasons as one of Belmont’s top starters. His size (6-3, 200) and stuff (88-92 FB) paint him as a fairly ordinary mid-round potential middle relief prospect. Everybody thinks that “ordinary,” “generic,” and “pedestrian” are insults, but that’s never the intent. There’s no shame in being familiar. Plus, being an “ordinary” middle relief prospect in professional baseball beats the breaks off of being an extraordinary cubicle dweller, right? No offense to 98% of the working population, of course.
23.678 – SS Manny Cruz
The Reds finally get their man. Manny Cruz was originally a thirty-ninth round pick by Cincinnati out of high school, so it’s only right that they wind up together again three years later after Cruz’s successful (.327/.427/.437) three year run at Southern New Hampshire. Included in that career line is his eye-opening .373/.487/.509 (44 BB/30 K) junior season. Cruz followed that up with a strong pro debut (.272/.355/.400, 118 wRC+) for the AZL Reds. He played almost exclusively at second in said debut, so showing off increased defensive flexibility going forward will likely be what makes or breaks him as a prospect. If he can play on the left side of the infield as well as he can at second, then he gets put in the overflowing “potential utility player” pile that all teams seem to have. There are worse fates than that.
“Fun” fact that I’ll include in lieu of actual Manny Cruz knowledge: of the eleven players drafted out of Southern New Hampshire in the modern era (all but one since 2011), Cruz is only the second position player to come out of the Penman program. SNHU is really Pitcher U, am I right?
24.708 – 1B Bruce Yari
I hate that the Reds went back to British Columbia a second time to select Bruce Yari fifteen rounds after grabbing Alex Webb, but accepting that all teams double-dip with colleges comes with the reality of following the draft so closely. It’s hard to buy the “you can’t criticize a front office since you’re a damn dirty outsider” argument I hear all the time when you see teams taking the convenient route over the best option. That said, there are times when convenience and quality intersect. When you add in the draft value of getting a thumper like Bruce Yari this late in the draft, then you have yourself a real QVC pick*.
* My mom forced my sister and I to go to career camp when we were kids. She was all about free/cheap day camps that got us out of the house and doing stuff. Can’t wait to do the same to my kids someday. Anyway, at career camp we went to day trips to all sorts of local businesses. Two have always stuck out: the trip to the Philadelphia Inquirer offices (where I managed to get my name in the paper by lying about Spam…long story, but the short version is that I was a weird kid) and the trip to QVC headquarters. One of the few things I remember specifically from that visit was learning what QVC stood for. I knew then that one day I’d use that knowledge in something vitally important that may or may not change the world as we know it forever. Today was that day. Now we wait…
25.738 – 2B CJ Wright
Remember that potential utility player pile that every team has that was referenced two rounds earlier? If Colby Wright is the guy at the top of said pile, then you’re doing all right. I really like Wright as a potential big league backup infielder. Between his time at Kansas and with the Reds, he has experience at every infield spot already, so that gives him a leg up on some challengers to his utility throne off the bat. Speaking of the bat, Wright has a good one. If his development threads a very tight needle (i.e., things go perfectly), he could do enough to warrant regular time at second or third one day. That’s the rich projection, so we’ll stick with the more realistic utility future. If he does, then he’ll bring this special skill to the table. From March 2015…
Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright has been a baseball magnet this season (11 HBP in 65 official AB!). I liked his pop, patience, and glove combination coming into the year, and nothing has moved me off that as of yet.
My quick math has him at getting hit once every fourteen times he came to the plate throughout his four years at Kansas. That’s insane. He then got hit nine times in 153 professional plate appearances. That’s right on the Brandon Guyer pace. Wright got plunked once every seventeen trips to the plate while Guyer’s career mark is once per ever sixteen and change. Is Colby Wright the next Brandon Guyer? No, no, he is not. But he does get hit by a lot of pitches like him, so they at least share that potential similarity.
26.768 – RHP Patrick Riehl
A really good read on Patrick Riehl can be found here. A choice excerpt…
After recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Schuler was not surprised to see Riehl begin to throw harder than ever. Schuler likened the recovery to those recovering from Tommy John surgery, where pitchers will have to basically learn how to throw all over again, which will show an improvement in their mechanics, allowing them to throw at a higher velocity than they once thought was their max.
After recovering from surgery, Riehl began to hit the mid-90s.
When Riehl began hitting in the mid-90s, interest in him grew. Scouts began to take notice of him and he ultimately was invited to a Cincinnati Reds tryout.
That mid-90s velocity helped Riehl sit down 12.44 batters per nine in his draft year. The newness of the velocity, however, may have played a part in spotty command and below-average control. In addition to the whiffs, Riehl also walked 5.49 batters per nine (plus eight wild pitches and two bean balls) on the way to a 6.57 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched. It’s not every year you see a Division II pitcher drafted with an ERA that high, but mid-90s heat is mid-90s heat.
For reasons I can’t remember, I made note of Riehl’s last three appearances for Mars Hill. Pitching in relief against Tusculum, Montreat, and Bluefield State, Riehl did the following: 5 IP 2 H 0 ER 3 BB 8 K. I’m not quite sure why past-me thought those last three outings were so noteworthy; if I had to guess, I’d say there was a connection between his recovery from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and the promise of a strong finish. Considering he pitched really well in his debut — 8.45 K/9 and 2.82 BB/9 in 38.1 IP more than qualifies — that would seem to be the most likely reason. Very interesting sleeper.
29.858 – OF Daniel Sweet
I’ve slowed down some with these draft reviews since I first started a few months ago. That’s a bit of a shame for Daniel Sweet, who would have gotten one thousand words minimum if the Reds were one of the first teams profiled rather than one of the last. Still, I like Sweet a ton and am happy to write about him as a draft prospect one last time. The amount of words spend on him over the past four years is admittedly a little silly for a player who turned out to be a twenty-ninth round pick, but it at least backs me up as a charter member of the Sweet fan club. I’m no Sweet-loving-Johnny-come-lately, dammit. Here’s a fun excerpt from March 2016…
Daniel Sweet came into the season as the top Dallas Baptist hitting prospect for me and I don’t want to be reactionary by moving him off because of the hot starts of those around him, but some of his teammates have made things mighty crowded at the top. Sweet’s blend of power, speed, and athleticism have made him a favorite for years. I still believe in his bat enough to think he can make it as a future regular in center and potential big league leadoff hitter. In the event that doesn’t work out, his overall skill set lends itself to quality backup. I’ve compared him to a more powerful Andrew Toles in the past; Toles’s pro career hasn’t quite been all it was expected to be so far, so take that comparison with the requisite block of salt.
If Sweet can continue to tap into his considerable physical gifts as a pro (above-average raw power, above-average or better speed) then he legitimately could have a similar professional impact as Andrew Toles. I loved Toles as a draft prospect, so his resurgence in 2016 emboldens me to continue to tout Sweet as a potential big league regular. Like Toles, he already has the defensive thing down, so it comes down to whether or not he can do enough offensively to warrant steady playing time in center. I obviously think he can. The better bet is quality fourth outfielder who plays good defense and drills righthanded pitching, an outcome that would still represent tremendous value this late in the draft.
36.1068 – 2B Ty Blankmeyer
I saw Ty Blankmeyer play a few different times over his years at St. John’s. Never really gave much thought to him as a pro prospect. High makeup and a lifetime spent around the game mean different things to different people, though.
41.1217 – OF TJ Friedl
The undrafted — or forty-first rounder if you’re feeling cheeky — TJ Friedl got $732,500 to sign after a variety of factors (confusion and cost, mostly) kept him from being selected in the 2016 MLB Draft. He’s got plenty the speed and athleticism to make him a defensive asset in center. His approach at the plate that could make him a potential top of the order hitter if his lack of power doesn’t undercut the rest of his offensive skills. All in all, it’s a nice package made even nicer when the expense is only cash and not a top five round pick. My fake ranking of him would have put him around 115th overall in this class, ahead of Michael Paez and Bryson Brigman (his closest comparison that I can see) but just behind fellow draft-eligible sophomore Charles LeBlanc.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Mitchell Traver (TCU), JC Flowers (Florida State), Todd Lott (Louisiana), Dion Henderson (TCU), Cooper Johnson (Mississippi), Vincent Byrd (?), Austin Langworthy (Florida), Matt Crohan (Winthrop), Nick Derr (Florida State), Ty Weber (Illinois), Walker Whitworth (Missouri Southern), Alec Benavides (Alvin CC), John Wilson (Old Dominion), Otis Statum (Nevada), Michael Bienlien (NC State)
After we get past the Magnificent Seven of the SEC, we get to a tier of pitchers with tons of promise but with compelling questions that will need answering at the pro level. Check the whole list here and then swing back below for some actual analysis — an attempt, at least — of some of the standout pitchers who didn’t make the cut in the top tier yet still have big potential pro futures. Let’s first look at some of the talented guys with question marks that kept them just out of that top tier…
Keegan Thompson and Kyle Serrano are both very talented, but how will they bounce back from Tommy John surgeries that cost them (or are in the process of costing them) a full year of development? Wil Crowe, the talented righthander from South Carolina, is in the same boat a little bit further down the list. Kyle Cody’s stuff has always outstripped his results on the field. Is he destined to forever be a consistently inconsistent professional in the mold of fellow Wildcat Alex Meyer or is there something more in his game that can be unlocked with the right coaching? Is the fact that you could say similar things about his teammate Zack Brown a good thing (get them out of Kentucky and watch them flourish) or a not so good thing (these are just the types they recruit and develop)? Shaun Anderson and Dane Dunning have flashed outstanding stuff in their own right, but do they have what it takes to transition back to the rotation after spending so much time pitching out of the bullpen as part of the ridiculously deep Florida staff? You could ask the same question of Ben Bowden of Vanderbilt, though I think his body of work is proof enough that his pitching style and far more explosive fastball in shorter bursts make sticking in the bullpen a very attractive long-term plan. What do we do with Austin Bain and Brigham Hill, a pair of draft-eligible sophomores with less of a track record than many of their 2016 draft class counterparts?
The list just keeps going. Look at the lefthanders alone: John Kilichowski, Daniel Brown, Connor Jones, Scott Moss, Jared Poche’. All of those young pitchers have considerable pro upside, yet the likelihood of more than two landing in the top five rounds next month feels like a long shot. Kilichowski excelled last season with nearly a strikeout per inning thanks to a legit four-pitch mix, above-average command, and impressive size on the mound. He’s only pitched 11.0 innings so far in 2016, so evaluating him will necessitate taking the long view of his development over the past few seasons. Brown doesn’t have the same imposing frame at just 5-10, 180 pounds, but, like Kilichowski, he can miss bats with a solid fastball and three average or better offspeed pitches. It may be a little out there, but a case could be made that the other Connor Jones actually has more long-term upside than the righthanded Virginia ace. This Jones has gotten good yet wild results on the strength of an above-average or better fastball from the left side and a particularly intriguing splitter. Moss is a wild card as another good yet wild performer with the size (6-5, 215) and stuff (90-94 FB, solid breaking ball and low-80s CU) to make a big impact at the end of games as a professional. The further he gets from his own Tommy John surgery, the better he’s been. Then there’s Poche’, the LSU lefty who fits in some with our Logan Shore discussion from yesterday with a K/9 that has gone from 5.11 to 5.94 to 7.52 in his three years as a Tiger. I still think of him more as a really good college pitcher than a premium pro prospect, but that progress is at least somewhat encouraging. At his best, Poche’ is more than capable of offspeeding a lineup to death. There’s some fifth starter/solid matchup reliever upside with him.
There are also a host of fascinating relievers that could go off the board sooner than many currently would guess. Mark Ecker has dominated this year to the tune of 28 K and 3 BB in 25.0 innings of 0.36 ERA ball. With a fastball capable of hitting the upper-90s and a mid-80s changeup with plus upside, he’s an honest big league closer candidate with continued development. His teammate Ryan Hendrix hasn’t been quite as good – more whiffs, more walks, and a lot more runs allowed – but remains a good bet to go high in the draft because of his premium stuff (94-98 FB, 83-86 breaking ball that flashes plus) and correctable flaws. I have no feel at all how the industry will come down on Hayden Stone on draft day, but I’ve personally gone back and forth on him as a pro prospect more times than I can remember. If you want him twenty spots higher on this list, I wouldn’t argue. Working against Stone is a lack of knockout velocity, his relatively small stature, and an injury history that includes last year’s Tommy John procedure. In his favor is a special mid-80s breaking ball – consistently plus, flashing plus-plus – and a very strong track record of success coming out of the Vandy bullpen. It seems like there are handful of college relievers without mid- to upper-90s fastballs that sneak their way to the big leagues quicker than their flame-throwing peers every season, and Stone is as good a bet as any to be one of those guys in 2016.