Saturday, May 31, 2008

Let's Talk Draft!!

The MLB draft is scheduled to begin on Thursday June 5th and since it is just around the corner, now is a good time to talk about what the Reds should do with the 7th overall pick.

At this point, it looks very unlikely that the Reds will get a shot at high school shortstop Tim Beckham or stud Vanderbilt 3b Pedro Alvarez. In addition, the Reds likely won’t pursue high school 1b Eric Hosmer, as he is asking for a $7M contract and the Reds have recently put an emphasis on prospects who play the premier defensive positions. Given that the Reds tabbed Devin Mesoraco with their first pick last year, Florida State catcher Buster Posey is unlikely as well.
After ruling those players out, here are a few thoughts on the remaining top candidates:

Brian Matusz
As for the rest, well, just started taking a look at some of these guys and right out of the gate I'm really not sold on Brian Matusz. He's rated #3 by Baseball America, but I have a few concerns. He's a tall lefty, but I'm not sold on his mechanics. He seems to throw almost exclusively with his arm, as he doesn't coil his body on the leg kick to store up energy and he throws pretty upright, which makes it difficult to generate much leg drive. In addition to being rather upright, he looks fairly stiff in his delivery. He strikes me as an injury risk, because he doesn't incorporate his body into his delivery very effectively.

Aaron Crow
University of Missouri right hander Aaron Crow is rated #5 by Baseball America. His mechanics are pretty clean and his stuff looks very impressive, but I do see a bit of Mark Prior type arm action in him, which makes me a tad nervous. He gets his elbow up a bit too high after breaking his hands, which leads to a higher stress whip like arm action coming through, especially with his live arm. That could put extra stress on the arm, but he's got a live arm, good stuff, and the rest of his mechanics are clean. I do like him much more than Matusz, but for me, there is a bit of a red flag on him.
Still, he looks like a #1 starter, IF he can stay healthy. But, how big is that IF?

Tanner Sheppers
Tanner Sheppers was rated number 9 by Baseball America, but unfortunately he drops out of the running after questions surfaced about the health of his pitching shoulder.

Shooter Hunt
Shooter is intriguing and I like his mechanics a lot. He's got a very high, over-the-top delivery. He's got very good stuff and his stats rate equal to, if not favorably with, Crow's. Still BA ranks Crow #5 and Hunt #11. He uses a 91-96 mph fastball and has a power curve. In addition, he's got very strong mound presence. His command hasn't been as good as some of the other top prospects, but while his command needs work, it certainly isn't a huge flaw. All in all, I like what I see from Shooter a great deal and he could develop into a top of the rotation starter.
In addition, it's hard to imagine a better name for an MLB pitcher. "Gimme the Shooter!"

Christian Friedrich
Friedrich was rated #15 by Baseball America. He seems solid from a mechanics standpoint, but if it's true that his ceiling is that of a #3 starter, then he never enters the discussion in my mind. If we can't find a player with a better upside with the 7th pick than that, then we should just close up shop now.

Gordon Beckham
Gordon was rated #8 by Baseball America. Watching Gordon hit makes me wonder how well his offensive game will really transfer to the pros. He's got surprising power for his size and he demonstrated good power in the Cape Cod league with a wood bat. Even so, I'm not sure I really buy into Beckham. I'm not sure that his arm or range are really all that impressive, but he should be a solid offensive player. He strikes me as being an Aaron Hill type player, which wouldn't be too shabby. In addition, from what I've read, he's got good intangibles and is a real blue collar type player.

Justin Smoak
I like University of South Carolina Justin Smoak's swing and offensive game, but I'm just not sold on taking a 1b and given our recent preference for premier defensive positions, he seems an unlikely choice.

Casey Kelly
The other name that does intrigue me is one that has been linked to the Reds. I'm sure some will roll their eyes on this one, but I must admit, Casey Kelly really intrigues me. I know he's been talked about as a reach, but I do give extra points for an MLB pedigree. It's not fair to the rest of us, but genetics does play a big part with these legacy type players and his father, Pat Kelly, did have a cup of coffee at the MLB level. Casey is an impressive athlete and he should have no difficulty staying at short in the professional ranks. Despite his 6'4" height, Kelly is graceful with very good range and a plus arm.
Kelly had a good high school season, but questions still linger over his bat. In addition, Kelly would have to be convinced not to go to University of Tennessee to play quarterback. Still, the Reds would have an advantage, as Pat Kelly manages the Reds Rookie League Gulf Coast Team. BA rates him as the 19th best prospect, but here's a guy who is a legitimate shortstop prospect and could grow into a strong offensive player to boot.

SO, WHO SHOULD WE TAKE?

For me, I've got it narrowed down to Aaron Crow, Shooter Hunt, Gordon Beckham, and Casey Kelly.
To pare it down a bit further, here's where I stand. Crow's mechanics give me a slight red flag for injuries, so I'm going to bump him down the list. I think Shooter Hunt has better mechanics and suffers only from a very slight, if at all, downgrade in pure stuff. Both have projectible frames and good stuff, but Hunt seems a slightly lower injury risk.

As for Gordon Beckham, I love his attitude and intangibles, but I don't see him sticking at shortstop. His bat should play well enough at 2b, but I'm not looking for a 2b. So, I'll move Gordon down the list.

Once again, this brings us back to Casey Kelly. I must admit, Kelly really intrigues me. I love the way he moves in the field, he has good size, a smooth swing, and a plus arm. Unfortunately, the Reds lost their 2nd round pick for signing Coco Cordero, so that makes it more difficult for the Reds to justify the increased risk of Casey Kelly.

So, for me, it comes down to Shooter Hunt and Casey Kelly, both of whom I rate highly. I'm taking Casey Kelly. His defense should translate well to the professional game and his bat could make him an electric player. He is undoubtedly a bit of a risk and I don't usually favor high school players, but Kelly could be the shortstop that we've been seeking since Barry Larkin retired.

If the first six picks include Tim Beckham, Pedro Alvarez, Brian Matusz, Aaron Crow, Gordon Beckham, and Justin Smoak, then Kelly could be a real option at #7.

Sometimes you have to take a bit of risk in order to reap bigger rewards.

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