Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Draft: Amir Garrett Thoughts

Time for some quick Amir Garrett thoughts.

Obviously, Robert Stephenson was the first round pick, but in certain respects Garrett is the pick that has everyone buzzing. Not bad for a 22nd round pick. Given his multi-sport background, Garrett is certainly the most intriguing pick.

First impression of Garrett? He looks better on the basketball court than on the mound. Judge for yourself:

And, here he is on the bump:

On the court, he's explosive and smooth in equal measure. Obviously, he possesses great athleticism, which could bode well for his pitching career. However, on the mound, he looks rough and unpolished. He obviously needs to refine a few things, but his less than polished mechanics are far from surprising given his divided focus. Even so, he does possess a live arm and generates very good velocity from his athletic frame. When watching him work, the first thing that caught my eye and what appears to be the defining feature of his delivery is that he seems to throw up hill.

If you watch him when he is at the apex of his leg kick, he breaks down his back leg before driving to the plate. When he does that, you can see the level of his shoulders change as well. His back shoulder necessarily drops, which results in him appearing to throw up hill. From that position, it will be a bit more difficult for him to work on a downward plane, which is surprising given that he stands 6-6. Basically, he gives away some of the advantage of his height.

Additionally, his plant foot has a tendency to land too far to the first base side, which leaves him in something of a closed off position. As a result, his momentum is forced to work over or around his body a bit, which could lead to inconsistency in his command and control and rob his delivery of efficiency. However, he does have good deception, as it's difficult to pick up the ball early in his delivery.

But, in the grand scheme of things, these problems aren't insurmountable and his off the charts athleticism would be a big advantage if he were to commit to baseball full-time. His body control is strong, which can only help him repeat his delivery and maximize his power without having to sacrifice balance. Garrett has a long way to go and simply needs to get more innings under his belt, but it's easy to see reasons for optimism. These aren't problems that can't be corrected and players with that type of athleticism simply don't come around very often.

As for the Reds, the risk/reward balance on this pick tips heavily in favor of the reward side of the scale. Garrett is an intriguing pick who has good upside. He has some development risk, but he came at such a low price that it's basically all upside for the Reds.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011 Draft: Final List of Reds Draft Picks

Well, here's the final tally for the Reds in the 2011 draft courtesy of Baseball America:

127Robert StephensonRHPAlhambra HS, Martinez, Calif.Calif.
284Gabriel RosaOFColegio Hector Urdaneta, Rio Grande, P.R.
3114Tony CingraniLHPRiceTexas
4145Kyle McMyneRHPVillanovaPa.
5175Ryan Wright2BLouisvilleKy.
6205Sean Buckley3BSt. Petersburg (Fla.) JCFla.
7235James AllenRHPKansas StateKan.
8265Jon MatthewsRHPSt. Petersburg (Fla.) JCFla.
9295Cole GreenRHPTexasTexas
10325Brooks PinckardRHPBaylorTexas
11355Vaughn CovingtonRHPKillarney SS, Vancouver, B.C.B.C.
12385Joe SerranoSSSalpointe HS, Tucson, Ariz.Ariz.
13415Nick FleeceRHPTexas A&MTexas
14445Leo KempRHPSt. Joseph'sPa.
15475Joseph DortonRHPLugoff-Elgin HS, Lugoff, S.C.S.C.
16505Conor CostelloOFSanta Fe HS, Edmond, Okla.Okla.
17535Morgan PhillipsSSDouglas Academy, New YorkNY
18565James MoranRHPSouth FloridaFla.
19595Chris JoyceLHPSanta Barbara (Calif.) CCCalif.
20625Dan JensenRHPCincinnatiOhio
21655Carlos GonzalezRHPCal State NorthridgeCalif.
22685Amir GarrettLHPHenderson (Nev.) International SchoolNev.
23715Salvatore RomanoRHPSouthington (Conn.) HSConn.
24745Nicholas O'Shea1BMinnesotaMinn.
25775Justice FrenchRHPMercerGa.
26805Juan Perez2BJC of the Canyons (Calif.)Calif.
27835Taylor Wrenn2BTampaFla.
28865Vordanys PerezOFCalabasas, Calif. (No school)Calif.
29895Dariel DelgadoRHPMiami (No school)Fla.
30925Josef Terry3BCal State FullertonCalif.
31955Erik MillerRHPTexas ChristianTexas
32985Mike DennhardtRHPBoston CollegeMass.
331015Steve SelskyOFArizonaAriz.
341045Bryson SmithOFFloridaFla.
351075Sammy Kimmell2BIndian River State (Fla.) JCFla.
361105Randy YardRHPHawaiiHawaii
371135Michael SuiterOFPunahou HS, HonoluluHawaii
381165Daniel BowmanOFCoastal CarolinaS.C.
391195Justin AmlungRHPLouisvilleKy.
401225Sam Travis3BProvidence Catholic HS, New Lenox, Ill.Ill.
411255Carson BaranikRHPParkway HS, Bossier City, La.La.
421285Jacob StallingsCNorth CarolinaN.C.
431315Ty Washington2BPlano (Texas) East HSTexas
441345Shon CarsonOFLake City (S.C.) HSS.C.
451375Travis RadkeLHPOaks Christian HS, Westlake, Calif.HS
461405Jose Brizuela3BArchbishop McCarthy HS, Southwest Ranches, Fla.Fla.
471435Kirby Pellant2BChandler Gilbert (Ariz.) CCAriz.
481465Jon WebbLHPSouth CarolinaS.C.
491495Eric AlessioRHPMaristN.Y.
501524Austin RobichauxRHPNotre Dame HS, Crowley, La.La.

Monday, June 6, 2011

2011 Draft: Players the Reds Should Target

Well, now that we've kicked around the top prospects and a few prospects that might be in the mix for the Reds, it's time to look at players I'd like to see the Reds land with the 27th pick. The Reds farm system is in decent shape, but could use just about everything but additional catching prospects. And, given that a catcher is unlikely to be the consensus best player available, that shouldn't pose a problem.

So, here are a few guys that I'd like to see the Reds target. Anyway, away we go...

Chris Reed - LHP Stanford

Reed stands 6'4" and weighs 195 pounds. He both throws and hits from the left side. He's a junior and served as the closer for the Stanford Cardinal.

Reed's fastball sits in 91-94 range, which he compliments with a power slider and an above average change-up. His three pitches all have plus potential, but remain inconsistent likely due in no small part to his limited experience. Reed worked only a grand total of 60 collegiate innings at Stanford. In fact, during his collegiate career, Reed worked almost exclusively as a reliever, but his arsenal certainly should translate to the starting rotation. He provides the type of power stuff that you don't often see from the left side.

As for mechanics, Reed has very clean, efficient mechanics. Here's a look at him in action courtesy of BaseballAmerica:

Reed has simple, compact mechanics, but still generates good velocity and incorporates his body into his delivery. He has a nice high leg kick and coils his body to generate potential energy. He gets a good push off the mound and incorporates his legs effectively into the delivery, which should reduce some of the stress on his arm. He works from a high three-quarter arm slot and has a quick arm and a clean throwing action.

The obvious red flag on Reed is his limited workload. Will he be able to hold up under a professional starting pitcher workload? Will his repertoire translate into success the second and third time through the batting order? That's the great unknown. If not, then he'll be developed as a high leverage reliever, but you hate to burn 1st round picks on relief pitchers. So, there is some uncertainty and development risk at work with Reed, but he's one of my very favorite southpaws in the entire draft and certainly among those southpaws who should be available in the second half of the first round. The Reds have had good success in developing pitching prospects as of late, but as the continuing struggles of their MLB rotation attest, you can simply never have too much pitching.

Tyler Beede - RHP H.S.

Tyler Beede stands 6'4" inches tall and weighs in at 200 pounds. He throws from a high three-quarter arm slot with a clean arm action.

Beede catches the eye because of very clean, efficient pitching mechanics. Clean mechanics, at least in theory, should reduce his risk of injury and allow him to more efficiently transfer all the energy he generates to the baseball. And, the ability to efficiently transfer all the energy generated by the windup to the baseball should have performance benefits.

Here is a look at Beede in action, courtesy of dbtung:

As you can see, Beede has a very fluid windup and one move flows naturally into the next. He steps towards first with his left foot and then shifts his right foot down onto the rubber. He then brings his leg up into a high, strong leg kick with his knee up by his chest. He generates good potential energy by taking a high leg kick with some body coil from hip rotation. He then begins to unpack his leg kick as he drives to the plate. He has a quick arm and very smooth throwing motion. His push off the mound is strong and he utilizes a good stride to the plate. Overall, Beede both generates good potential energy and effectively transfers it to the baseball. One thing I like to see in pitching prospects is the ability to generate good velocity without sacrificing balance. The combination of power and body control portends well for the future and I think that's apparent in Beede's mechanics.

As for his repertoire, Beede works with a 89 to 93 mph fastball, a sharp biting curveball, and an emerging change-up. Additionally, probably due in no small part to his clean mechanics, he has good command and control over all three pitches. Beede also has a good feel and understanding of pitching, which helps his stuff play up a tick.

To me, the real question on Beede, and the one that will likely define his professional career trajectory, is whether he'll be able to add velocity as he gains strength and adjusts to the rigors of the professional workload. If he can improve his velocity a tick or two, then he could become a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher. Given his age and ideal pitching frame, it seems a reasonable possibility that he will. At the very least, he looks like a polished high school arm with a nice ceiling. Of course, the remaining consideration is signability, as Beede has committed to Vanderbilt. So, the Reds might have to go over slot to convince him to sign a professional contract, but the more I see of Beede the more I really like what he brings to the table.

Jason Esposito - 3b Vanderbilt

Esposito caught my eye in a Vanderbilt game in 2010. At that point, I thought he was the guy for the Reds to grab in 2011. Something similar happened when I saw Brandon Crawford play shortstop for the UCLA Bruins. However, instead of building on their respective sophomore season success, both players regressed somewhat in their junior years. Crawford regressed to the point where he would have been an overdraft by the Reds and the same might be true of Esposito. The lesson I've learned from these two players is that you can't count on an impressive sophomore to continue to improve as a junior. Instead of linear progression of elite college players, there can be regression.

In 2011, Esposito hit .362/.429/.560 with 8 homeruns and 15 steals in 25 attempts. He started out the season slowly, but got hot later in the season to bring his numbers up to a very respectable level. The final numbers look very good, but his production was erratic, happening in fits and spurts. He had a few significant slumps that raise a bit of a red flag.

In his swing, Esposito uses a high leg kick as a timing mechanism, which caused the timing of his swing to get out of whack at times. He stands very upright and can seem a bit stiff and mechanical at the plate. There are also questions of whether he can handle elite velocity.

Here's a look at Esposito at the plate:

On defense, Esposito plays a very nice thirdbase. He has good range, soft hands, and a strong arm. In fact, his defensive game is so strong that he spent some time manning shortstop for Vandy, but he projects as a third baseman in the professional game.

I'm still a fan of Esposito, but the questions about his hit tool have increased to the point that I no longer view him as a lock for the Reds if he's available. Another lesson I've learned over the years of doing this is that it's not wise to gamble on a questionable hit tool in the 1st round. I still think Esposito has a nice, well rounded game and could develop into a very good MLB player. He has good defensive skills and a nice power/speed combo.

I'd love for the Reds to get Esposito, but whether he's worthy of a first round pick or should more realistically be a second round guy remains an open question in my mind. If we were to pass, then I'd hope he slips to the Reds in round 2, which would be similar to Ryan LaMarre in 2010. As a result, I wouldn't mind seeing the Reds land him at 27, but I don't have the same concrete opinion on it that I did before his 2011 season.

Jose Fernandez

Jose Fernandez is an interesting story. He fled Cuba, twice, to make it to the U.S. As a result of that hardship, he takes nothing for granted and is driven to succeed. Additionally, he is a mentally tough pitcher, which should be an asset as he endures the rigors of professional baseball and climbs the ladder. His work ethic and (over?) confidence rival any pitcher in the draft class.

Fernandez features a power repertoire. He throws his fastball in the mid 90s with very heavy sink. He features a true 12-to-6 curveball and a biting slider. By all reports, his arsenal is big league ready right now and all three pitches are swing-and-miss offerings. He needs to continue to refine his secondary offerings, but his control of the fastball is already quite good. And, not many power pitchers are also ground balls pitchers, but Fernandez might fit that bill. The ability to avoid contact and get ground balls would be intriguing for the Reds in Great American Ballpark.

In addition to a power repertoire, Fernandez also has clean mechanics. Here is a look at him in action:

All in all, his mechanics are sound. There is some effort to the delivery, which could add stress to his arm. He also has a slightly different coil than is typical, as he reaches apex before he coils inward, but it effectively generates potential energy. Despite the effort in the delivery, his arm action remains fairly clean.

His build reminds me quite a bit of Chad Billingsley, as he's a stockier type pitcher and has a thick lower half. Some view that build as being ideal for power pitchers and workhorse starters, while others feel he'll have to work hard to keep his body in shape and avoid adding bad weight to his lower half.

One possible red flag is that some question his age. According to his listed age, he'll be 19 before the end of the season, but some question whether he's even older than that. A belief driven perhaps in part by his stockier build and thick legs. Even if he was found to be 21 or 22, then it wouldn't be the end of his prospect status, as even if his performance would be skewed by being more advanced than the competition his stuff and mechanics would remain. Obviously, age is a key factor in development, but pitchers are less beholden to the ticking clock of Father Time than position prospects. Still, his age is something to consider.

Overall, Fernandez is an interesting arm. He has big league stuff right now and is fairly polished for a high school pitcher. There are questions about his age, but he has a nice blend of stuff and mechanics. He might be off the board before the Reds select, but if not he should be in the conversation.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I'd slot these guys on my draft board as follows: 1) Tyler Beede, 2) Chris Reed, 3) Jose Fernandez, and 4) Jason Esposito.

Unfortunately, each comes with some measure of risk that you won't find in the more "sure thing" prospects taken in the first half of the draft. Beede has signability concerns, Reed has workload and positional issues, Fernandez has body type and age risk, and Esposito has performance risk with the hit tool. So, to a certain extent, you have to pick your poison and manage your subsequent risk.

For me, Tyler Beede is the guy to target. He has the best combination of ceiling, floor, and risk and could develop into a special talent. He's projected as a sandwich pick, but I like him just a tick better than that. After that, I'm really intrigued by Chris Reed and would be interested to see if he can make the successful transition to the rotation. If he can, then he could be a sneaky good value. As for Fernandez and Esposito, my gut tells me that Esposito is the better option, but my head is saying Fernandez. So, this time, I'll go with my head.

2011 Draft: Players of Interest

Well, it's that time of year again. The Rule IV Amateur Draft is about to get underway.

The Reds are slated to pick 27th overall, the price of success, which makes it more challenging and slightly less fun to determine who they will pick. Still, this is a very deep draft and the Reds should be able to find value even late in the 1st round.

There are a number of impact players at the top of the draft that are really intriguing. Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon and UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer are the two that leap to mind. Rendon has been plagued by injuries this year, but he is an elite talent and should be a cornerstone at third base for a lucky franchise for a long time. As for Bauer, he's a Tim Lincecum-esq talent. He generates mid-90s velocity by throwing with his entire body and generating a great deal of torque. He patterns his game after Lincecum and certainly has gotten similar results. His mechanics don't seem quite as fluid as Lincecum's, but the collegiate performance level is similarly dominant. Personally, I like Bauer better than his teammate, Gerrit Cole, who is projected to go first overall. Bauer certainly had a significantly better season at UCLA than Cole. I also prefer Bauer's mechanics to those of Cole. However, Bauer's mechanics, height, and unusual training routine have him sliding down some teams' draft boards just a bit. That seems like a mistake to me. Bauer is a true student of pitching and has a very cerebral approach to go along with his nasty arsenal of pitches. But, in addition to Cole, some teams prefer the higher floor pitching prospects, even though they come with lower ceilings. For me, there isn't a better pitching prospect in the draft than Bauer, so he and Rendon would be my top 2 with Dylan Bundy a rather close third. But, I digress, let's turn our eyes to the bottom of the first round where the Reds will pick.

So, let's start by looking at some intriguing prospects, but not ones that I necessarily have at the top of my list for the Reds to reel in with their first round pick.

Jackie Bradley - Bradley is the centerfielder for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. He stands 5'10" and weighs 180 pounds. He hits from the left side and throws from the right.

Bradley was one of the more electric collegiate players in 2010. He led the South Carolina Gamecocks to the College World Series championship and earned the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament award in the process. In the end, he hit .368/.473/.587 with 13 homers and 7 steals in 10 attempts. Additionally, he plays a very good defensive centerfield despite lacking plus speed. His instincts and ability to read the ball off the bat allow him to cover a great deal of ground. Suffice it to say, it was a very successful season and one that raised his prospect profile all the way up to the rafters.

Unfortunately, 2011 didn't go over quite as well. He suffered a wrist injury and ultimately needed to have surgery to repair ligament and tendon damage. His season never got back on track, as his average slipped to .259. Overall, he hit .259/.361/.468 with 6 home runs and 1 steal in two attempts.

Here's a look at Bradley at the dish courtesy of DiamondScapeBaseball:

When he's healthy, Bradley is a well rounded player with good baseball instincts. However, his offensive performance fell off the table in 2011, which is somewhat disconcerting. It's likely that the 2011 season was ruined by injury and he'll rebound going forward. However, the season was just enough of a red flag for me to drop Bradley down my list. That said, I wouldn't have a problem if Bradley was the pick for the Reds. He doesn't have the best tools, but he's has very good skills and knows how to get the most out of his gifts. He's a baseball player through-and-through and gambling on a return to form might not be a bad play for the Reds with pick 27.

Charlie Tilson - Tilson is an outfielder from New Trier High School in Illinois. He stands 5'11" and tips the scales at 175 lbs. He both bats and throws from the left side.

Here's a look at him at the dish courtesy of Baseball America:

As you can see, Tilson has a smooth, fluid swing with a short swing path to the ball, which is what caught my eye. He also maintains good balance throughout, which is due in part to the fact that he doesn't generate very good power. His offensive game is contact and speed based, so his swing is compact and well controlled. He doesn't sell out in his swing trying to maximize his power production. And, he doesn't cock and fire his hips all that effectively to generate power in the swing. In fact, the comparable MLB players you see tossed around for Tilson are Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Obviously, a leadoff type hitter is the type of player the Reds could really use, but at this point I'm not convinced that Tilson is the right pick for the Reds. And, you should draft the best player available in the early rounds of the draft, not draft according to need, even though the player may project to perfectly address an organizational need.

Tilson's ability to stick in centerfield is in doubt, which would likely relegate him to leftfield due to underwhelming arm strength. Additionally, he has limited power upside. These two limitations could really work to drag down his prospect ceiling. As a result, you are left with the normal development risk for a high school prospect, but a lower upside payoff for that risk. A lower ceiling and the same level of development risk makes Tilson a less than ideal choice for the Reds at #27, but if he slips to the Reds in round 2 then he's worth considering.

Brandon Nimmo - Nimmo is a prospect that I like, but he lands on this list because he's unlikely to last until the Reds make their selection. Nimmo is an interesting case in that he comes out of Wyoming, which doesn't even offer high school baseball. As a result, he's had to work hard to prove himself in showcase events and on traveling teams.

Nimmo is an outfielder who runs well and currently plays center. He suffered a knee injury playing football as a junior in high school, but has largely recovered. He had a recent bout of tendinitis, but has no real lingering health issues to concern big league clubs. Ultimately, he could end up shifting to a corner slot, but for now projects as a centerfield. While he has good speed and solid defensive tools, his bat remains his calling card. Nimmo has a smooth lefthanded swing that has carried him up draft boards despite coming from a region that is the farthest thing you'll find from a baseball hotbed.

Here's a look at Nimmo in action:

That's the type of swing that should translate well to the professional ranks. He has good bat speed and maintains good balance throughout. His swing utilizes a short path to the ball, which enables him to handle good fastballs. Also, he controls the bat well and has a very good understanding of the strikezone, two factors which when found in the same player should result in consistently high batting averages. At this point, his power is still developing and he is more of a gap-to-gap hitter, but as he physically matures he could unlock his power potential.

For now, Nimmo looks like a pure hitter with good on-base skills, but he also has some power projection to his game. Unfortunately, he's likely to be off the board by the time the Reds draft, but he'd certainly be a good pick if he slides to the point that he's still available when pick 27 rolls around.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thoughts on May 29th Game

***Joey Votto looked less than inspiring. In the bottom of the 2nd, Rolen made a very nice play at third, timing his charge so he could step on third for the force and fire across the diamond to try to get the double play on the runner heading to first. For reasons unknown, Votto didn't even have his foot on the bag, so what would have been a bang-bang play wasn't even a play because Votto wasn't on the base.

Secondly, in the top of the 9th, Votto was on first with 2 outs and Fred Lewis hits a single to right. For some odd reason, Votto didn't make it over to third base despite the fact that the outfield was deep in a no-doubles defense. If you're running on contact with two outs, then you should easily make it over to third on that play.

***Obviously, he needs to get the bat going a bit more and getting picked off first base isn't helping his cause, but it's fun to watch Janish and Phillips play defense.

***Jay Bruce is seriously locked in. Bomb to right and an opposite field single. Looks very, very comfortable at the dish.

***I wouldn't mind having Jordan Schafer playing leftfield and leading off for us. I really like his game. A lot. That throw from the warning track to second base on the fly without any momentum was impressive and he made something like 8 putouts last night. He even chokes up more with 2 strikes. Almost laced a double off Cueto, instead had a great AB and worked a walk. A defensive outfield of Schafer/Stubbs/Bruce would be ridiculous and if Schafer can keep his average up then he'd be a legitimate leadoff hitter.

***Johnny Cueto gets high marks in my book for going the distance. We needed a deep outing by the starter and Cueto rose to the occasion to give the bullpen some much needed rest. The one and only certainty in the rotation.

***Do Barry Larkin and John Kruk really travel to the city of the home team for every Sunday night game so that they can sit outside the ballpark at a desk? Seems like a job that could be done from a studio, but I suppose if heading to Bristol is the alternative, then maybe they don't mind.

***I miss having a true speedster in the lineup. Someone to make the other team nervous the moment he steps on first base.

***I still like what Fred Lewis is doing out there. Seems like he's taking good ABs and putting good swings on the ball.

***I like Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser, but I'm not sure Bobby V. is a good fit on Sunday night baseball. Johnny Cueto is going to take strike 3 to avoid getting on base and tiring out his legs?? Seems rather unlikely to me, Bobby V. There should be a rule suspending pitchers who unintentionally hit a batter in the head with a pitch? Really Bobby V.? Barry Larkin would have been a better fit. On the other hand, I love Orel's insight into pitching.

***Rolen is so damn solid at third, it's a pleasure to watch and a comfort from a fan's point of view.

***Looks like Brandon Phillips has a better stretch at first base than Joey Votto.

***Rolen really has a top hand heavy swing these days. Is that how he has always swung the bat or a concession to his chronic left shoulder problems?

***I don't know why, but I think I'd feel more comfortable with Freddie Gonzalez at the helm than Dusty. Maybe it was the pick off call to get Paul Janish at first after Cueto pulled the bat back on the bunt attempt. I'd imagine that's a call made by the manager.

***Janish has limited tools, but he has a lot of skills. That slide was great.

***It always surprises me that Brandon Phillips is so comfortable dropping his right knee down on routine groundballs hit right at him. Obviously he knows what he's doing, but seems like a strange choice.

***Am I the only one who looks at Drew Stubbs and thinks of Fred Lynn?