Let’s go back roughly fifteen years ago. The year was 2003. The Reds finished the season 69-93, fifth in the NL Central, and had guys like Jimmy Haynes, Jose Guillen, and Austin Kearns manning the leaky ship that was the 2003 Cincinnati Reds. That same year the Reds drafted a right handed pitcher by the name of Ryan Wagner with the 16th overall pick. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember watching the Reds game on TV, George Grande interviewing the savior of the franchise, Ryan Wagner, a few days after he was drafted and truly believing I was witnessing the initial sprout of a franchise rebound right in front of my eyes.
Ryan Wagner went on to pitch three years in relief for the Reds before flaming out with the Nationals and finishing his career with a 4.79 ERA. He was hardly the franchise savior that I was lead to believe.
Ryan Wagner wasn’t the only Reds’ first round draft pick to be unproductive at the major league level since 2003. Below is the list of the Reds’ first round draft picks since 2003:
From 2003 to 2010 the Reds drafted four guys (Bruce, Mesoraco, Alonso, Grandal) that were eventual All-Stars and guys that I would consider productive major league players. Two of those guys (Alonso, Grandal) were traded by the Reds for Matt Latos when they were in the minor leagues. Homer Bailey and Mike Leake never made the All-Star team, but I would consider both of them quality major league players. So, from 2003 to 2010 the Reds drafted six quality major league players in the first round of the draft. That’s hitting on a player 75% of the time which is actually a pretty good ratio. Only two of them remain on the team.
Since 2011 it’s been a different story. Sure baseball differs from other sports considering just how hard it is to draft a guy that’s going to have an immediate short term impact on your team, but the Reds haven’t had a productive first round draft pick at the major league level since 2011. According to redsminorleagues.com, first round draft picks from recent years such as Nick Howard and Nick Travesio aren’t even in the Reds’ top 25 prospect list. Other first round picks such as Robert Stephenson and Phil Ervin have showed incompetence and no signs of being decent major league players any time soon. That leaves Tyler Stephenson and Nick Senzel as the only two players the Reds have drafted in the first round since 2011 that rank in the top 20 prospects for the Reds.
I know it’s still too early give up on guys like Robert Stephenson and Phil Ervin, but you just have to wonder how much better off this Reds team or farm system would be if they hit on more first round draft picks recently. The lack of high draft picks succeeding in the organization also makes you wonder if the problem lies within the actual players that the Reds are drafting or the development of these high draft choices. Why have so many high draft picks over the years failed to develop at the minor league level and failed to eventually go on to have an impact at the major league level? It’s a question worth asking.
Until then, we will just keep waiting for the franchise savior, Hunter Greene, to arrive.
Jeff is Cincinnati born, Ohio University educated. Reds baseball has been a central theme of his family ever since his mom and dad helped him skip school to attend Opening Day. Jeff has been accused of having a “man crush” on Joey Votto and longs for the day that he gets to witness the Reds finally win a playoff series. You can follow him on Twitter @Gaaangs