Thursday, May 30, 2013

2013 MLB Draft: Who the Reds Should Avoid

Well, the draft is right around the corner, so I'm working to pare down the list of players I'd like to see the Reds draft. It's a much longer list than normal due to the Reds draft position and a watered down draft class. There just isn't much certainty in the draft outside a likely top 3 of RHP Mark Appel, RHP Jonathan Gray, and 3b Kris Bryant. So, it's a bit more work and I thought I'd start off with a few guys I'm crossing off my list.

In the first round, I'm looking for as much upside and as much certainty as I can get. I want the best blend of performance level, upside projection, and risk. As a result, I want to avoid as many red flags as possible, including those flaws that may be of the correctable variety. While there may be flawed talent available that can be "coached up" into impact talent, it's better to go with the player who doesn't have the flaw in the first place.

All that said, here are a few guys I'm crossing off my draft board:

Hunter Harvey
RHP Bandys High School (N.C.)
6'2, 168 lbs

I've seen a mock draft that had the Reds selecting Harvey with the 27th overall pick. Harvey is the son of former MLB closer Bryan Harvey, so he has the bloodlines on his side. He also has a similar build to Reds prospect Robert Stephenson, rather long and lean. He doesn't have the same velocity that Stephenson had, though Harvey's slim build may leave room for additional physical projection and perhaps a few more miles per hour on the fastball. He also throws a curve and a change-up, but both need work.

All that said, my problem with Harvey is purely mechanical. Harvey's leg kick is problematic in my view. When he reaches the apex of his leg kick, he unpacks the leg kick BEFORE driving to the plate. Instead of utilizing the potential energy created at the apex of the leg kick, he instead lowers his leg kick before driving his momentum to the plate.

Here's a look, courtesy of baseballfactoryTV on YouTube:

Interestingly, his leg kick out of the windup ends up looking a lot like his slide step out of the stretch. In both situations, his actual drive forward to the plate occurs with his left foot close to the ground. To me, it's just too inefficient, bleeding force out of the delivery that will be a drag on his performance level and/or increase the stress on the arm. There's just not enough lower body drive in the delivery.

Is it a fixable flaw? Possibly. But why roll the dice on a first round pick who may need to have his mechanics immediately reworked? In a later round, where the risk is lower, I might consider Harvey, but not in the first couple of rounds.

Cross him off the list.

Phil Bickford
RHP Oaks Christian H.S. (CA)
6'4, 200 lbs

Bickford has a good frame and a quick arm. He throws a mid-90s fastball, but lacks quality secondary offerings.

Here's a look at Bickford in action courtesy of Steve Fiorindo on YouTube:

Bickford is fairly sound mechanically. He incorporates his lower body well and has a clean arm action. However, his mechanics are somewhat funky due to a closed off stride and a cross-fire delivery. The cross-fire delivery is paired with a low three-quarters arm slot to give his mechanics an unusual look. However, the lower arm slot may lead to both struggles against opposite side hitters and difficulty in developing an effective breaking ball.

A pitcher's arm slot must be taken into account when determining what pitches to incorporate in his arsenal. Bickford's low-three quarter arm slot makes the curveball problematic, as it's difficult to stay on top of the ball to get the proper spin. He'll likely need to utilize a slider, but he'll need to maintain the proper hand position in order to get tilt on the pitch.

Overall, the cross-fire delivery and low-three quarters arm slot makes it difficult to envision him developing into an impact starting pitcher. Is it possible? Sure, Justin Masterson is the best example. Is it worth burning the 27th or 38th overall pick in order to find out? No.

Cross him off the list.

Jonathan Crawford
RHP Florida University
6'1, 205 lbs

Crawford features a plus fastball, touching 96 mph on the gun, and a hard, biting slider. He also throws a change-up and a curveball, which are behind his other two offerings. Crawford raised his profile with a no-hitter for the Gators in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament and an effective turn for Team USA. As a junior, Crawford posted a 4.03 ERA with a 64/33 K/BB ratio and a .248 batting average against over 80.1 innings. His performance level hasn't matched his raw stuff.

However, again, the problem with Crawford is mechanical. As with Hunter Harvey, it's a lower body issue. Like Harvey, Crawford unpacks his leg kick before driving to the plate, robbing his delivery of force. Crawford also uses a short stride, limiting his ability to fully and completely rotate his hips, though the early unpacking of the leg kick really doesn't give him much force to transfer through the hip rotation.

Crawford also suffers from inconsistency in his lower body action. Harvey may have unpacked the leg kick too early, but at least he has the body control to maintain consistent actions. The same can't be said for Crawford. Crawford's stride occasionally lands in a closed off position, creating a cross-fire delivery that causes him to fall off to the first base side. Other times, his stride foot doesn't land in such a closed off position, but he still seems to struggle to finish out over his plant foot.

For me, the early unpacking of the leg kick creates too much inefficiency and too much stress on the arm. The inconsistency in the lower body action may also be creating control problems. There's just too much performance risk and injury risk to justify an early round pick.

Cross him off the list.

Sean Manaea
LHP Indiana State 
6'5, 235 lbs
Courtesy: SportsPix/2012

Manaea was projected to be a top 5 pick heading into the 2013 season. Last summer in the Cape Cod League, the southpaw was throwing 95-96 mph with a plus slider. However, his stuff just hasn't been quite as good for Indiana State this year. It was later revealed that Manaea has been dealing with both hip and shoulder soreness this year. Hip soreness is one thing, but shoulder tightness is much more concerning.

“We thought it was normal soreness after his last start because he’s been pushing it a little bit coming back from the hip. It just didn’t loosen up and then he said it didn’t feel right when he was out there. We didn’t want to risk it,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.

The Reds simply can't afford to be wrong with their high draft picks. Manaea's shoulder injury simply presents too much injury risk for the organization to incur.

Cross him off the list.

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