The Cincinnati Reds have the 2nd overall pick in the June 2016 Major League Baseball draft. It will match their highest pick in the history of the draft (which goes back to 1965). The Reds history of drafting in the top five isn’t exactly strong. The organization has had a pick inside of the top five on five different occasions.

In 1985 the team hit a double grand slam when they drafted Barry Larkin 4th overall. In 1983 the team made their highest pick ever when they selected Kurt Stillwell (3.1 career WAR). The next year they had the 5th overall pick and selected Pat Pacillo (-0.7 career WAR). In 1992 the team selected Chad Mottola (-0.9 career WAR) with the 5th overall pick. Then in 2002, the most recent time the Reds had a top five pick, the team picked Chris Gruler with the third overall pick. Gruler injured his shoulder and never made the Major Leagues.

With the team in a rebuild/retooling/whatever you would like to call it, having the 2nd overall pick is pivotal for accelerating that plan. The 2014 draft already has provided four teams with significant contributions for the White Sox (Carlos Rodon), Cubs (Kyle Schwarber), Phillies (Aaron Nola) and the Mets (Michael Conforto).

The 2016 draft isn’t considered a strong, or necessarily weak draft at the top. What it is right now, is uncertain. The raw talent is there, but no one has really separated themselves at the top just yet with their performance and raw talent. Here’s a quick preview of the players in the MLB Pipeline Top 5 as we enter the season for both college and high school players.

Jason Groome | LHP Barnegat High School (NJ)

A big left hander, listed at 6′ 6″ and 220 lbs. the high schooler features a big fastball and curveball combination. He also has a change up, but it lags behind the other two offerings and needs to keep improving. His season has not started.

AJ Puk | LHP Florida

Another big left handed pitcher, Puk is listed as 6′ 7″ and 230 lbs. He has a fastball that’s touched 98 MPH and sits around 94 MPH. He mixes in an above-average slider and a solid change up. Coming into the season the biggest question was his higher walk rate, Puk walked just over 4.0 batters per 9.0 innings in his first two seasons. He’s made two starts this season for the Gators and has one walk and 11 strikeouts in 6.2 innings.

Alec Hansen | RHP Oklahoma

Hansen throws from the right side, but like the pitchers before him he’s tall, listed at 6′ 7″ and 235 lbs. He sits in the mid 90’s and can touch the upper 90’s with his fastball. He’s got an above-average slider and above-average curveball to go with a solid change up. That hasn’t translated well in 2016 so far as the righty has posted a 9.00 ERA in 4.0 innings over two starts where he has seven walks and six strikeouts.

Riley Pint | RHP St. Thomas Aquinas High School (KS)

Compared to the earlier players, Pint is short at his listed 6′ 4″ and 195 lbs. The right hander sits 93-95 with his fastball and tops out at 99 MPH that he mixes with an above-average slider and a solid change up. The change up doesn’t get used often, but when he does bring it out it’s a solid offering. Control has been a concern in the past. His season won’t start until March 23rd.

Corey Ray | OF Louisville

No one has had a better start to the season than Louisville’s Corey Ray. A true five-tool player, the left handed hitter has destroyed the ball through two weeks for the Cardinals. In 34 plate appearances he’s hit .536/.588/1.143 with four walks, four home runs, three doubles, a triple and six stolen bases. The thing he needed to work on heading into the season was his strikeout-to-walk ratio (24 walks and 60 strikeouts in 2015 – top college hitters almost always walk more than they strikeout and it’s a red flag when they don’t). So far, so good in 2016 with two strikeouts against his four walks in the early going.

It’s still early in the 2016 season with most high schools around the country yet to even begin playing and colleges just two weeks in. A whole lot can change between now and the first week of June. The top of the draft board right now doesn’t look great from a performance standpoint as the two big college pitchers had have some struggles and the two high school pitchers have yet to play. Corey Ray on the flip side has gotten out to a start that stacks up with anyone in the country. We will revisit the 2016 draft in a few weeks with another update on some of the top players in the draft (we will likely check in on these guys as well as some others).

Join the conversation! 19 Comments

  1. I have seen Corey Ray play all of U of L home games thus far and yes he looks very good so far. But the pitching he has faced at home has been very weak. The Cards destroyed their first two opponents in their first 4 games

  2. Given reds trade approach has been to get close-to-MLB ready prospects, I think they will be hoping to be able to take a top college player who can move the quickest thru system, likely a position player given current reds prospect list. Reds have down that approach twice that I know of and failed, taking Chad Mottola when per reports Jeter was player to take which Yankees did immediately with next pick and again 2003 with college closer in Ryan Wagner, instead for example a local ohio kid starting pitcher from Defiance OH in Chad Billingsley.

    • I doubt they draft a position player simply because they have pitchers. You can never draft for need because of how fickle baseball prospects are. Ryan Wagner is a perfect example of drafting for a need instead of drafting the best player available. A Reds scout that I knew at the time couldn’t believe the team would waste a pick in the 1st round on a guy the team was going to use as a reliever.

      Draft the best player on your board, regardless of their position. If you get to a point where that guy doesn’t have a place to play in the future, and he’s still the guy you thought he would be when you drafted him, you’ve got a prospect worth his weight in gold and can command just about anything you want in trade. At the #2 spot in the draft you should be drafting an MVP/Cy Young caliber talent. You don’t worry about not having a need for that because you always have room for that kind of guy except in very, very rare cases.

  3. Some may think it’s a reach at 2, but I think Kyle Lewis may very well end up being the biggest name/star this draft produces. If that ends up being the case, then it’s not a reach at all.

    He’s got a higher power ceiling than Ray, and this organization is already stocked full of pitching talent. Lewis fills a need (right handed power bat with good speed who can hit for average and play one of the corner outfield spots), passes the eye test, and very well may be a future superstar. I think this “sleeper” out of Mercer definitely deserves a look even at number 2 overall..

    http://www.fueledbysports.com/kyle-lewis-scouting-report/

    • Don’t know how Lewis will stack up come draft time but it is very notable that per the linked article that he emerged as a likely 1st rounder in the wood bat Cape Cod summer league. In addition to being many players’ first serious exposure to hitting with a wood bat; the CC league is often also a step up in aggregated numbers of higher talent level players for many of the participants.

    • Watching his swing, I was reminded of a slightly more athletic Brandon Phillips sort of swing.

    • He sounds alot like Phillip Ervin. Ervin played at a small college, Samford. He was the MVP of the Cape Cod League. And as luck would have it, Ervin has stalled somewhere between A+ and AA. The Louisville OF, Corey Ray, is batting leadoff for UL this year instead of third. This is the guy we want to keep an eye on. This guy could make BHam expendable/tradeable soon. The Reds need table setters.

      • Ray shouldn’t be a leadoff hitter. Too much power to waste at the top of a lineup. I don’t care where he hits in college because I don’t root for the Cardinals – but their manager is wasting his talents up there at the top of the lineup.

  4. And isn’t it just typical of the Reds luck of late that the draft looks like it may be top heavy in their existing strength, pitching.

    • Exactly my thoughts. Not only a pitchers filled draft but probably a so-so one.

      • As Doug said, it’s early. Really early. This draft looks a little “so-so” at the moment but a lot can change before June. We don’t know who might take off. It’s tough to really predict with such young guys.

  5. Doug, in your experience following amateurs leading up to the draft, do position players usually force themselves into the top tier by having a great last season? Or are the top players usually known going into the season?

    Basically, is their much hope that a fantastic position player (other than Ray) will emerge, based on past trends? Thanks!

    • Usually you know who the top few guys are, but sometimes guys force their way in from that middle/late 1st round area coming into the season into the top portion. It doesn’t happen all that often that a guy jumps up to #2 – but take last year as an example – Andrew Benintendi went from people not even knowing he was draft eligible to a Top 10 pick with an incredible spring performance.

  6. Great job Doug as always. Please keep us updated about these kids. One of them could be the impact player this team so sorely needs to change its fate.

  7. Now that all the free agents with qualifying offer compensation have signed, the Reds competitive balance pick will be at either #35 or #36 overall. I have seen it listed at both places. Then their second round #2 pick should be around #46 or #47. The Reds cannot afford to blow it on their #2 overall pick. The Reds don’t often find themselves in this position, so they should take full advantage of it. A college pitcher chosen at #2 will probably find themselves in the wave that has Travieso, Romano, and Mella. A HS pitcher at #2 will be the foundation of the next wave of pitchers, after this one. A lot has to play out between now and June.

  8. As Doug said, regardless of who is available, take the most talented player. As WVRedLegs has noted, the Reds have 3 picks in the top 50. That should be three players into a farm system that is getting better (with previous trades) that should emerge as Major Leaguers from this draft.

  9. To me this is simple, you take the best talent available at that second pick and hope. There is no bigger gamble draft wise then the MLB draft. The odds of getting a superstar is slim, the chances are you might get a quality guy who in 3-4 years might help you out. The big thing is you can’t wiff, like said before, you can’t draft to position in baseball, because you can always use that drafted player down the road as a trade piece.

    • Last night, Jocketty and Williams were on a TV round table and were asked about that. Walt said that in the past their philosophy with the #1 pick has been “best talent” but if close, take a pitcher. He thought they’d flip that this year and look for position player talent. He acknowledged the organization is lopsided toward pitching prospects. Jocketty also pointed out you can trade young pitching for young hitting, which I’ve endorsed as a move for them.

  10. Not a stretch in mind of the recent “trades” that Jockey/Williams have initiated to see ways in which the duo will screw up the number 2 pick in the draft. Something tells me that they will have a few more top five drafts to screw up as well…

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