Monday, May 18, 2009

Draft: Backwards and Forwards

Well, it's almost time to start looking forward to the draft, so may as well take a quick look back.

In 2008, the Reds obviously adhered to the Best Player Available strategy when they selected Yonder Alonso. The Reds system was lacking true impact hitters and they immediately addressed that shortfall by selecting the University of Miami first baseman. Yonder was the choice despite the fact that they already had Joey Votto locked in at first base. It's a curious decision and I have to wonder if they would have made the same decision if Joey had performed at his 2009 level back in 2008. Would that have made a difference? Or, were the Reds planning on shifting Votto to left the entire time?

Regardless, Yonder has wasted little time in establishing himself as one of the premier hitting prospects in the minors. In 2009, Yonder is hitting .281/.365/.477/.841 with a stellar 20/18 K/BB ratio. The slugging percentage isn't all that impressive, but he is playing in a pitcher's park in Sarasota, which is 6% more difficult to hit a homerun in than the average park. At this point, Y0onder may not quite be on the fast track that was expected, but he shouldn't be in the minors for long. The Reds appear to have drafted the impact bat that they wanted.

The player that I liked most for the Reds in the last draft was Casey Kelly, who has the type of athleticism, power potential, and defensive ability that you rarely see combined at the shortstop position. While the "hit tool" was the largest question mark on Kelly and some scouts advocate never rolling the dice in the first round on a prospect with a questionable "hit tool," I still liked him more as a shortstop. Even so, I saw his pitching ability as a fallback option that would diminish the inherent risk that he might fail to develop as a hitter. Ultimately, Kelly was selected by the Red Sox, who have implemented a very interesting development plan for Kelly.

The Red Sox are using Kelly as a pitcher in the first half and will allow him to play shortstop in the second half. The Sox don't want Kelly throwing too many innings, so when reaches ~100 innings, the Red Sox will start using him as a shortstop. I'll be very interested to see how he performs in the field, but he'll have to be pretty effective if he's going to stave off a career as a pitcher. On the hill, Kelly has been dazzling for low-A Greenville. In 37.1 innings, Kelly has a 0.96 ERA, 2.04 GB/FB ratio, and a stellar 33/5 K/BB ratio. He's got the athleticism and tools to be a strong defensive shortstop with plus power, but it'll be interesting to see how much of an opportunity he gets to develop as an everyday player. He'll likely have to show something to avoid being switched to pitching full time sooner, rather than later.

As for the Reds, it's difficult to argue with the improved results over the past few years. A quick look at the Reds over the past two decades reveals much:

1998 - Austin Kearns

1999 - Ty Howington

2000 - Dustin Mosely

2001 - Jeremy Sowers

2002 - Chris Gruler

2002 supplemental - Mark Schramek

2003 - Ryan Wagner

2004 - Homer Bailey

2005 - Jay Bruce

2006 - Drew Stubbs

2007 - Devin Mesoraco

2007 supplemental - Todd Frazier

2007 supplemental - Kyle Lotzkar

2008 - Yonder Alonso

Nothing has had a bigger impact on the changing fortunes of the Reds as an organization than the resurgence of the farm system. As the draft gets closer, it'll be easier to get a feel for who the Reds might take, but at this point it seems a safe bet that they will continue to select the Best Player Available. In a draft that is short on top tier talent, it's the only strategy that makes sense for the upcoming draft.

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