Let’s go back roughly fifteen years ago. The year was 2003. The Reds finished the season 69-93, fifth in the NL Central, and had guys like Jimmy Haynes, Jose Guillen, and Austin Kearns manning the leaky ship that was the 2003 Cincinnati Reds. That same year the Reds drafted a right handed pitcher by the name of Ryan Wagner with the 16th overall pick. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember watching the Reds game on TV, George Grande interviewing the savior of the franchise, Ryan Wagner, a few days after he was drafted and truly believing I was witnessing the initial sprout of a franchise rebound right in front of my eyes.

Ryan Wagner went on to pitch three years in relief for the Reds before flaming out with the Nationals and finishing his career with a 4.79 ERA. He was hardly the franchise savior that I was lead to believe.

Ryan Wagner wasn’t the only Reds’ first round draft pick to be unproductive at the major league level since 2003. Below is the list of the Reds’ first round draft picks since 2003:


From 2003 to 2010 the Reds drafted four guys (Bruce, Mesoraco, Alonso, Grandal) that were eventual All-Stars and guys that I would consider productive major league players. Two of those guys (Alonso, Grandal) were traded by the Reds for Matt Latos when they were in the minor leagues. Homer Bailey and Mike Leake never made the All-Star team, but I would consider both of them quality major league players. So, from 2003 to 2010 the Reds drafted six quality major league players in the first round of the draft. That’s hitting on a player 75% of the time which is actually a pretty good ratio. Only two of them remain on the team.

Since 2011 it’s been a different story. Sure baseball differs from other sports considering just how hard it is to draft a guy that’s going to have an immediate short term impact on your team, but the Reds haven’t had a productive first round draft pick at the major league level since 2011. According to redsminorleagues.com, first round draft picks from recent years such as Nick Howard and Nick Travesio aren’t even in the Reds’ top 25 prospect list. Other first round picks such as Robert Stephenson and Phil Ervin have showed incompetence and no signs of being decent major league players any time soon. That leaves Tyler Stephenson and Nick Senzel as the only two players the Reds have drafted in the first round since 2011 that rank in the top 20 prospects for the Reds.

I know it’s still too early give up on guys like Robert Stephenson and Phil Ervin, but you just have to wonder how much better off this Reds team or farm system would be if they hit on more first round draft picks recently.  The lack of high draft picks succeeding in the organization also makes you wonder if the problem lies within the actual players that the Reds are drafting or the development of these high draft choices. Why have so many high draft picks over the years failed to develop at the minor league level and failed to eventually go on to have an impact at the major league level? It’s a question worth asking.

Until then, we will just keep waiting for the franchise savior, Hunter Greene, to arrive.

33 Responses

  1. Michael

    Are we not counting supplemental first round picks? If you include all 1st round picks you are missing out on Frazier, Stephenson, Lorenzen, Boxberger etc… Also having a 1st round pick make the majors every year from 2003-2012 is very impressive. Even first round picks are a 50/50 shot of even having a cup of coffee in the majors.

  2. Michael

    Also Stubbs is in the top six for war from the 2006 first round draft class. I would say that is a good value pick for the 8th pick.

  3. PDunc

    Some quick research on Fangraphs points to most players rookie years being when they are between 24 and 26 years old (with some outliers both younger and older). Given that Stephenson and Ervin are both now 24 and 25 and getting a taste of the big leagues it seems harsh to say they show “no signs of being decent major league players any time soon.” Senzel and Stephenson are also too young to be making any kind of definitive judgment on. Howard and Travieso, based on their ages and development so far I would agree have been busts.

    An interesting article here from fangraphs on what to consider a successful draft pick.

  4. sandman

    See, everybody was praising the so-called “prospects” we were getting in this rebuild. They were automatically giving their hearts or whatever to these kids just bcuz some people said that they were good even though they hadn’t done crap at the major league level. Maybe a few had a little bit of success at the big league level but most hadn’t seen hardly any time in the bigs. Yes, maybe it is too early to give up on some of the recent picks, but it is ever so frustrating to no end when it seems as if these “prospects” just won’t ever get it. You’ve also got to wonder if the scouts the organization really know what they’re doing, if they really are able to recognize true talent. And if the problem isn’t with the scouts then maybe it’s on the coaching staffs of the minor league teams. Maybe it’s on both or maybe it’s on neither of them…I don’t know. Maybe the problem truly lies with the players themselves. Sure, some do work out and realize their full potential and I guess that’s enough for some fans to keep on giving their love and adoration to these unproven “prospects” whenever the Reds draft or trade for them.

    • Michael

      Holy rant Sandman. Off mark by a mile.

      • sandman

        Michael, what exactly am I off the mark on?

      • greenmtred

        Sandman, I guess the point is that the Reds mostly do pretty well at drafting. It’s very tough to say for sure which 17 or 18-year old will be a good MLB player 4 years from now, and all teams miss some. Baseball is a tough game, and athletic talent alone is far from enough to guarantee success. It’s frustrating, though, I agree.

      • sandman

        greenmtred, well then I’m a little confused bcuz this article seems to be almost criticizing the lack of success by recent draft picks (2011-now) while acknowledging their success at the same time. He even said himself how it’s likely too early to judge the 2011+ picks. I get this article if it’s to praise the Reds success. And if it’s too early to judge the 2011+ picks then why bring them up at all?

      • greenmtred

        Sandman: Just to point out that it’s too early to judge?

      • Michael

        1. Comments about the scouts. The same scouts who have done a great job at Identifying talent. Those scouts are the ones who have identified Disco, Suarez, Duval, Schebler etc…

        2. Comments on the minor league coaches who seem to be doing a really good job.

        3. I guess the lack of overall patience. All the young prospects are really young players trying to find your way and your tone (or how I am reading it) is that they are failing beyond repair.

    • Brian Davis

      I agree man,i know payroll is an issue but the Reds dont even try to resign the star players they produce. Maybe some of these guys like Cincinnati and would take less money to stay or deferred money. Phillips wanted to stay and we traded him and are still paying most of his salary,thats what i really dont understand,if you gotta pay the guys salary then keep him. Frazier,Cueto,Bruce,on and on and im supposed to get excited about a guy in his second year in rookie ball or a guy out of high school. Really i do hope all these guys end up being great but i will believe it when i see it. Also,everybody thinks Nick Senzel is gonna be the teams next big star,and maybe he will be,but if you are already counting on it then go to baseball reference.com and look up a Yankee prospect from the 80’s named Hensley Muellens,the guy was Babe Ruth in the minors and Mario Mendoza in the majors. Im all for looking forward to the future but im happy with what we have right now but with some good starting pitching. If Winker,Senzel or others cant pitch then we are still looking at another long season next year.

      • Chuck Schick

        The Reds re-signed Phillips, Votto and Bailey. They hit on 2 of the 3. Only the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Angels and Dodgers can re-sign whomever they want

        Neither Bruce nor Frazier could be given away over the winter. Frazier is now on his 3rd team in 3 seasons and next year will likely make that 4 for 4. The Mets….who can afford to re-sign him, will almost certainly let Bruce walk over the winter.

        Do you think the Giants are willing to part with Cueto? They are praying that he opts out after this season…..which he won’t since there is no way in hell anyone is going to pay him more than his current deal.

      • greenmtred

        They let BP go because he was blocking whichever prospect (if any of them) will be the next second baseman. Prospects, by definition, are a largely unknown quantity, and the only way to find out is to let them play.

      • Thomas Jefferson

        Fun fact: the departure of the three players you cite here (Bruce, Frazier, Phillips) opened roster spots/playing time for Schebler, Suarez, and Gennett. Each threesome has combined for the same combined WAR value so far this season. The Reds record is statistically identical to the one they would have if they had retained the older three. In making the changes, of course, they got started on developing their next good team, and saved about $25 million to invest in the future of the club (e.g. more minor league coaches, more analytics team members, more signings from Latin America).

  5. CP

    Yeah, the Reds nailed the first round from 2004-2010 and suddenly that becomes the benchmark. It’s ludicrous.

    The development and distribution of the 2011 & beyond Reds draft picks looks pretty normal, particularly given the amount of HS players they’ve chosen 3 or 4 of the guys have had injury issues and only one of them looks like true bust. Also, the Reds have done pretty well with their other picks so it’s not like they’ve completely whiffed.

  6. Kindell

    I just can’t find much to complain about with the way this team has drafted. They were picking towards the bottom of the first round in those two years with Howard and Ervin..

    The 2013 draft they were picking 27. Ervin was one of the best players in the Cape Cod league in 2012. His numbers were comparable with guys drafted much higher than him. I tend to like taking the upside of HS talent when you draft late in the first round, but I can see what they saw in him.

    I had my questions about Howard though. He wasn’t striking out man guys as a starter his JR year. I really wanted them to take one of the HS arms with that pick.

  7. Michael

    Sandman I did not see your other comment until after I posted my response to your question above. I have a huge issue with the article. It does not give any perspective compared to the norm for mlb and it acknowledges that 2011 and on is too early to tell but then roast those guys. Way to early to throw the towel in on players like Ervin or Stephenson. I will acknowledge that the boat was missed with the kid from UVA.


      I would agree. Article should have posted stats with how the Reds compare to the rest of the league. it’s way too early to give up on ROBERT Stephenson or Jess Winker. Not every player is ready at 21-23 to be a Star.

      Very disappointment in this article…

  8. lwblogger2

    I think overall, when you look at the whole picture across MLB, the Reds have done a decent job with their 1st round draft picks. In my opinion, the only pick that can really, really be questioned is the pick of Howard in 2014. Even questioning that pick, I don’t think anyone could have predicted he’d have the strikezone issues he’s had. He was a strike-thrower at UVA. Travieso has been injury after injury, but at the time, the pick was considered pretty solid. Howard is really the only big question mark the way I see it.

    • CP

      I would guess the Reds are probably in the top 5-10 in the league, although I guess it also depends on how you measure success. I don’t think # of guys reaching the majors is necessarily the best measure, but going simply by WAR at the MLB level is probably also misleading since one Mike Trout will skew things.

      The Angels have pretty much whiffed on every draft in the last decade (with the exception of one). That 2009 draft though, someone had a nice run rounds 1-2.

      Randall Grichuk
      Mike Trout
      Tyler Skaggs
      Garrett Richards
      Patrick Corbin

  9. Abdul

    Great article…..just look at the record of our AAA club.

    • Thomas Jefferson

      Look at the record of the AA club. That team is loaded.

  10. Chuck Schick

    There is no context here. The Reds don’t operate in a vacuum. Have most teams completely nailed the first round over this period? Are the Reds some hopeless outlier of first round ineptitude?

    In absolute terms, the Patriots and Steelers aren’t great at drafting. Relative to other teams they are great at the draft…..which is what actually matters

  11. Smokey The Husky

    The first rounds of Reds drafts since 2011 have been pretty much brutal up until 2015. The Reds got Tyler Stephenson at #11 and then the outstanding draft class of 2016. But that took having the #2 pick overall and in each round. The same for 2017, but 2017 just wasn’t as good as 2016.
    2011-Robert Stephenson. Yuk.
    2012- Nick Travieso, Jesse Winker, Jeff Gelalich. At least there was Winker.
    2013-Phillip Ervin and Michael Lorenzen. Not much to celebrate with these 2 picks.
    2014- Nick Howard and Alex Blandino. Rooting for Blandino to rebound, but not much to celebrate here either.
    Four years of the draft that didn’t go well for the Reds, and they are paying the piper now for those bad picks.
    Winker and an erratic Lorenzen is all the Reds got. I think it is irresponsible for anyone to claim the Reds had good top of the drafts from 2011-2014.

    • Thomas Jefferson

      Yes, it’s frustrating for us as fans that they didn’t hit on more in these drafts, and the team would be better if they had, but I haven’t seen anyone argue that these were good drafts. They are also a small sample size in the scheme of things, and the core team of scouts and leadership doing the drafting these years is the same as was doing it in the previous years when they had great success. The inference (or outright statement in some other posts) that the Reds are terrible at drafting and development is not backed by good data; posters making these statements seem ‘irresponsible’, to use your term.

      • Smokey The Husky

        Maybe TJ. The Reds had not so good picks in the first rounds of the draft from 2011-2014. That can’t really be disputed. Facts are facts.
        Now, I did not comment on those drafts as a whole. Just the first round selections. The Reds have been fortunate that some nice later round picks are performing quite well from those drafts. That has rescued those drafts.
        And I didn’t make any comment about the Reds being bad at drafting and development. Where did that come from?
        The not so good drafting in the first rounds of the 2011-2014 drafts is one of the main reasons for this painful rebuild.
        If you are going to take a comment of mine to task, fine. At least get your facts in order before doing so.

      • Thomas Jefferson

        Just getting back to the site today, Smokey – yes, I inferred more blanket criticism to your post than you argued. I should have posted this response to a different comment.

    • CP

      Winker and Lorenzen might be all they need to have a good draft run from 2011-2014.

      Where are all these teams bursting with talent from the 2011-2014 draft classes already wearing MLB uniforms? Are we supposed to compare the Reds to the Cubs, Astros, and Nationals, teams that lived in the top of the draft?

      Most teams that pick outside the top 5-10 are still in wait-and-see mode. It is simply too early to tell how the Reds actually did.

      • Smokey The Husky

        I may point out CP, that the Reds are living at the top of the draft in 2015, 2016, 2017, and are shooting for a third straight year for a top-3 pick. Why can they not be compared to Cubs, Astros and Nats drafts? Cubs didn’t have 3 straight top-3 picks

      • CP

        Certainly we can start comparing given some time. Cubs had 5 straight years top 9 or better. Not many teams work that hard to lose enough games to do that. They also focused on college players and the college players start producing earlier. We probably won’t know if Greene is a huge success for 3-4 years.

        I guess you could compare the Reds to a team like the Twins. They’ve drafted in the top 6 six of the last seven years and the only one scratching at the surface of the pros is Byron Buxton, although Jose Berrios was a comp pick drafted that same year in 2012.

  12. Jonathan

    I would say that since the Reds are getting value out of Stephenson, Winker, and Lorenzen and that causes those drafts are a success. The odds of making it to the Majors are extremely slim. This isn’t like the NFL draft where each team is selecting starters and hopefully superstars. Superstars in MLB are a luck of the draw. Votto was a 2nd Round Catcher. Brandon Phillips was labeled a “bust” before he became the Reds best 2nd Basemen since Morgan.

    Baseball America notes a 17.6% chance of all MLB draft picks to make it to the Majors. http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/one-in-six-draft-picks-will-click/#CRc5ZDsmyiDxhTuA.97

  13. Charles Thomas

    I have been a Reds fan since 1969 and this is the absolute worst pitching staff I have ever seen. The Reds should be ashamed to field this pitching staff and heads red to roll. The Reds need some serious coaching and front office help. This is not the players fault, management is responsible for evaluating and signing good talent. This staff would struggle at AAA. Come on make some positive changes FAST!!!!!!!!!!