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 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.
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.