Written by: Nick Lobraico
Follow him on Twitter: @LobraicoNick
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On the position player side, the Reds picked players who have skill sets that can clearly translate to professional ball, including a pair of powerful outfielders. The story is much different for the pitchers they drafted. Some are high-risk high-reward while another is a strike thrower with no put-away pitch. With Kyle Boddy, founder of Driveline Baseball, as their minor league pitching coordinator, it’s possible these pitchers have greater potential than it appears; perhaps a few adjustments are all they need to see a jump in performance (like most Driveline clients do).
Round One, Pick 12: OF Austin Hendrick
Age: 19 B/T: L/L Height: 6’0” Weight: 195 lbs
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Hendrick is a very talented athlete who has what it takes to become a great major leaguer. His swing is fundamentally solid: no power is leaked, and no movement is wasted. Along with his strength and mechanics, Hendrick’s bat speed is exceptional in hitting the ball hard. At his most recent Perfect Game showcase, his exit velocity maxed out at 105 mph. What makes the power worthwhile is that he can hit the ball consistently. With his coordination and quick hands, Hendrick projects to have no problems maintaining consistent contact at higher levels.
Hendrick will probably be a better fit in the corner outfield spots than in center. Of course, if his hitting holds up, his defense won’t be a problem. It’s slightly below average but by no means a liability. While has solid footwork, a good arm, and above average speed, it’s not at the level of the major leagues’ best outfielders. He has the fundamentals to not be a DH threat, though, and that’s what matters. His ceiling is a slightly above average defender, which he may be able to achieve as he gets more reps in the outfield.
Round Two, Pick 48: RHP Christian Roa
Age: 21 B/T: R/R Height: 6’4” Weight: 220 lbs
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Based on his stats (ERA around 4.00, WHIP around 1.35, low walks but also low strikeouts), Roa is a curious pick at 48 overall. He has a four-pitch mix, but nothing really stands out. He’s a high-floor prospect with a rather limited ceiling for a second rounder. His fastball is not thrown exceptionally hard (92-94 mph) and doesn’t overpower hitters, so he needs to rely on a mix of offspeed pitches to help get outs. His slider looks like it has the potential to be the best of the three, but it’s too inconsistent for now. Its sharp break with quality movement makes a good pairing with the fastball, especially if Roa serves a relief role.
Roa is a strike thrower, but his stuff has not been enough to dominate higher-end competition. This is for a variety of reasons: one is that no one pitch in his arsenal is exceptionally hard to hit; the other is that his command in the strike zone is not special either. The Reds must see something in Roa that points to him being something other than a decent multi-inning reliever that fills the strike zone. If that’s his outcome, good for him, but there are better options for a top 50 pick.
Competitive Balance Round B, Pick 65: C Jackson Miller
Age: 18 B/T: L/R Height: 6’0” Weight: 195 lbs
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Like Roa, Miller’s stats are unimpressive (high school varsity slashline of .312/.415/.362), but there’s some tangible hope that Miller can turn things around. I foresee a Yandy Diaz transformation: higher launch angles and more extra base hits. What Miller does wrong is that his stance makes it too hard for him to hit the ball in the air. His bat knob points towards the catcher, which is fine with a shoulder-based uppercut (think Aaron Judge). However, Miller keeps his shoulders level throughout his swing. One or the other has to change to unlock his power, which the Reds hopefully noticed or else they shouldn’t have picked him this high. The potential is there, though, and there’s a strong chance that fully embracing either a linear or rotational approach to hitting will help tremendously. If so, then Miller is a real weapon at the plate because he doesn’t strike out much, and he has a good, patient eye in the box.
Miller is pretty raw defensively, but he has the potential to grow into a solid defender. Catchers tend to have a longer development path, so it’s unlikely we see this 18-year-old in the majors anytime soon. That’s fine for the Reds, who have Tyler Stephenson as their next big thing behind the plate. His running is not good compared to the average player, but it is for a catcher. He’s an athletic player who at least has the ability to fully develop all parts of his game besides his speed. The Reds got a good player who has the luxury of time with Stephenson above him.
Round Three, Pick 84: RHP Bryce Bonnin
Age: 21 B/T: R/R Height: 6’2” Weight: 190 lbs
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This one’s another headscratcher for the Reds: a seemingly mediocre college pitcher selected in the third round. However, he saw a big jump in strikeouts from 2019 to 2020, so maybe it’s worth taking the chance on him. He has the talent to be a good major league pitcher, but there is an increasing amount of people who believe his arm might be better off in the bullpen. Bonnin has a nasty one-two punch in his fastball and slider, but in order to be an effective starter he needs more than that. His average-at-best curveball and changeup are a tier or two lower than his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. They are not very tempting to opposing batters, and they might just be holding him back.
Bonnin’s max-effort delivery leads some to believe he won’t be able to sustain success as a starter. Another reason is his control, which led him to walk over five batters per nine innings in 2018 and 2019. As a reliever, I believe that all of these concerns can cease to exist. He can embrace the fastball-slider combo and maybe hone in on his curve or change on the side to add a third good pitch. But as it is now, the latter two pitches are hard to incorporate with his others because the difference in quality is so high. Another plus is that Bonnin can disregard all considerations of pacing and sustainability, which would enhance his best two pitches even more. He should be able to succeed as a high-leverage reliever, which is where I believe he has the most value.
Round Four, Pick 113: OF Mackenzie Wainwright
Age: 17 B/T: R/R Height: 6’1” Weight: 205 lbs
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Wainwright makes this draft worth it, no matter how questionable the rest of it is. He has a great swing with standout power and some ability on the defensive side as well. To touch on the swing first, he has recorded exit velocities up to 104 mph already as a 17-year-old. A strong, balanced, steady leg kick starts a controlled rotational swing, and it works. From his stance before a pitch is even thrown through the end of his swing, everything enables a rotational approach that highlights his strong upper body to generate power. For a guy with the body of a football player, this is a smart swing type to choose. To reference Aaron Judge again, he does this too and with a similar body type, and we all know how that works for him.
There’s a chance Wainwright could play center field, but it’s more likely he ends up in right. In his favor are average speed and a good arm. To be able to contribute in the outfield makes his value much greater than that of a slugger limited to DH. So while his swing alone is cause for excitement, it is just as good that he’s a real outfielder. This is the Reds’ best pick since Austin Hendrick, who might share an outfield with Wainwright in Cincinnati.
Round Five, Pick 143: RHP Joe Boyle
Age: 20 B/T: R/R Height: 6’7” Weight: 240 lbs
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Boyle’s upper-90s fastball and mid-80s slider would be good enough to get batters out in the major leagues right now. A firm fastball with carry and a two-plane slider with a double digit speed diffrence will be successful as long as they can be thrown over the plate (but not down the middle, of course). What holds him back is a severe lack of control. In his 2019 and 2020 college seasons, his BB/9 was 9.5 and 14. On the bright side, he strikes out a lot of batters too, but nothing else matters with walk numbers like that. The Reds will have to go to work with promoting consistency and accuracy in his delivery, and if that happens Boyle can be a promising relief prospect.
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