The Cincinnati Reds draft is now complete. The organization made six draft picks over five rounds on Wednesday and Thursday nights. They wound up selecting three players from high school and three from college. Three of the players were pitchers and three were position players. Let’s take a look at each of the picks with some quick thoughts on each player.
1st Round pick: Austin Hendrick
He got his own write up on Wednesday night as he was the only selection that day by the Cincinnati Reds. There’s plenty of upside for Austin Hendrick. The outfielder has some of the best raw power in the entire draft, and could hit 40 home runs if he fully develops. There are some concerns about how much average he’ll hit for after some swing-and-miss last summer, but the Reds aren’t worried about that – they believe he will hit for both average and power.
2nd Round Pick: Christian Roa
The first pick of day two for the Reds saw them select right-handed pitcher Christian Roa out of Texas A&M. From a scouting perspective you can absolutely see it on the right day where he’ll flash two above-average pitches, a plus pitch, and a 4th pitch that is average. A fastball that touches 96 MPH, a plus change up, and two breaking balls will play. But he’s been limited as a starter in college and the results, as well as the stuff, have been inconsistent. The upside is definitely there, but there appears to be some risk as to whether he can remain a starter.
2nd Round, Comp. B Pick: Jackson Miller
With their competitive balance pick following the 2nd round, the Cincinnati Reds selected high school catcher Jackson Miller. He hasn’t been catching very long – just moving to the position in the last year. He does show the tools to stick at the position long term, but he’ll need to continue to put in the work. At the plate he’s got a chance to hit for both average and power in the future, which is rare coming from the catcher position. During the shut down of the baseball world he’s been spending time at his family’s baseball facility where several big leaguers have been working out, including Pete Alonso.
3rd Round Pick: Bryce Bonnin
The Reds took right-handed pitcher Bryce Bonnin with their 3rd round selection. After starting his career in the bullpen for Arkansas, he transferred to Texas Tech following an injury and in 2019 and pitched out of their rotation most of the last two seasons. He’s got strong stuff with two potential plus offerings in his fastball and slider. There’s also a solid curveball and change up in the mix. He’s going to need to clean up his mechanics and control if he’s going to remain in the rotation – but the fallback plan as a late inning reliever is there.
4th Round Pick: Mac Wainwright
Cincinnati stayed in state with their 4th round pick on Thursday night, picking up Mac Wainwright out of Lakewood’s St. Edward High School in the greater Cleveland area. Wainwright had multiple offers to play football in college, but took the option to play baseball at Ohio State – that is, until he was selected by the Reds. He missed some time on the field with injuries, but when he’s been on the diamond he’s stood out. At 6′ 1″ and 205 lbs, he’s got a strong frame already and plenty of power potential to tap into. He’s also a strong athlete who may have an outside chance to remain in center field, but will fit in well in right where he’s got a strong arm if he’s got to slide over to a corner spot.
5th Round Pick: Joe Boyle
The final pick of the draft for Cincinnati saw them take Notre Dame reliever Joe Boyle. When it comes to pure stuff he’s got the best 2-pitch mix of anyone they selected and could match up with anyone in the draft. His fastball sits in the upper 90’s and he’ll reach back for 101-102 at times. His slider is also a plus offering. But there are big risks here, too, as he’s walked 48 batters in 36.0 innings for the Fighting Irish over his career. The Reds are hoping they can work with him to drastically lower his walk rate and let absolutely elite stuff play.
Overall Thoughts on the 2020 Reds Draft
It’s interesting to look at the class as a whole. Cincinnati got two premium athletes with Austin Hendrick and Mac Wainwright, and the third position player – Jackson Miller, sticks out at catcher for his athleticism, too. All three of those guys come from the high school ranks. With this group the Reds clearly leaned on upside and all three guys have it.
With the three pitchers that the team selected, it’s clear that they went on upside here, too. All three of the pitchers came from the college ranks, and all three of them come with some risk. The track record of throwing strikes for each pitcher isn’t great (except for Christian Roa, who simply hasn’t spent a lot of time as a starter so it’s just his overall track record as a starter that’s perhaps in question). The organization has been working for the last two years to change up a lot of the developmental pieces in their farm system, and this draft class of pitchers could be where they make a difference.
Usually you feel good about a draft right after it happens. And you should. The team isn’t going to say anything bad about the players they just selected – they have their reasons to believe in them. Too often, though, the outside expectations are too high for baseball players in the draft. Historically speaking, by the time you reach players taken in the teens, much less beyond the first round, the reality shows that you’re likely to get a solid bench player or reliever rather than even an average starting player or back end of the rotation pitcher.
In a strange year for the baseball world, and the draft itself, the Cincinnati Reds went with upside. A good draft usually contains one every day starter or one solid starting pitcher, and one quality reliever or bench player. Anything beyond that tends to make for an above-average draft.
For my money, I’m a big fan of the position player class that the Reds went with. The pitchers, I understand why they were all taken and when they were taken. But they also seem to come with a little more risk as a group than I personally would have liked. There’s certainly guys that struggled with consistency and walks in college that became professionals and were able to turn things around. But there’s a lot more guys who never did that. Still, if you’re going to take those guys, take the ones who if they figure it out have big stuff and that’s what Cincinnati did.
That’s the tough question. First thing to come will be the signing of free agents who went undrafted. With a limit on signing bonuses to just $20,000 or less, the pickings aren’t likely to be much more than college seniors. With that said there are some quality guys out there who could be had. All teams are working on the same playing field when it comes to bonus money here, so teams have to sell their organization like their a college recruiter rather than simply say “we’ll give you more money than anyone else” this year.
As far as getting the players onto the field…. that’s another story. It seems almost guaranteed that there’s not going to be anything like a minor league season this year. But there has been talk about an expanded Arizona Fall League this year that could get at last some players on the field. Before that, though, the team is going to need to get these guys signed – and in a year with only five rounds, expect everyone to sign because teams weren’t likely drafting anyone before knowing exactly what it was going to take to get their name on the contract – and then they will likely send each player a plan of things to do in order to work in their local area as best they can.