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Cincinnati Reds: Potential pitching draft picks

Cincinnati Reds 2018 MLB Draft

The MLB Draft does not receive the same amount of fanfare as the NBA or NFL. Small market teams like the Reds, however, live or die by how their first-round picks turn out. The last two years have given the Reds a shot at elite talent, drafting Nick Senzel in 2016 and Hunter Greene in 2017. 2018 should be no different, as the talent pool at the top of the draft has a ton of upside. This Reds draft may be the most important, as it could be the final piece to the World Series puzzle.

This year’s draft is anybody’s guess as to how it will unfold. The latest reports have Casey Mize out of Auburn as the consensus first pick, with conflicting reports for every pick after that. Mize’s latest start was not too strong though, so he may be picked second or third behind a couple college bats. College arms will help the major league team sooner, whereas high schoolers fit the high-risk, high-reward mantra.

Today, we will outline the most commonly seen pitchers floating at the top of MLB mock drafts from industry experts. Each expert has their own ranking for the pitching talent, so any of these names could be selected by the Reds at pick No. 5.

High School Pitchers

Cincinnati Reds 2018 MLB Draft
Will the Reds take left-handed ace Matthew Liberatore with the No. 5 pick in the draft? (Photo from azcentral.com)

The high-risk gamble of prep arms has made MLB evaluators weary, with less being drafted in the first-round annually since 2014. Kyle Glaser of Baseball America wrote an article detailing this. It is a good read if you want to make yourself scared of high school pitchers.

In 2017, there were only two high school pitchers taken in the first round. There is a lot of talent in this year’s class, which could push down some of the high school pitchers.

Carter Stewart is the top high school arm in this draft class. He couples a mid-90s fastball with an exceptional curveball. For the advanced analytic folks, Stewart’s curveball’s spin rate is truly amazing. Stewart has a changeup as well that grades to be just an average offering in the future. The Florida native’s two above-average pitches and a velocity increase this spring has Carter sitting firmly in the top 10. Stewart has similar upside as Hunter Greene, but with a slower fastball.

Matthew Liberatore is the best left-handed high school arm in the class. His profile is the polar opposite of somebody like Greene. Liberatore has four pitches, all of them well developed for a high schooler. His fastball sits low 90s, hitting as high as 96 in one start and falling as low as 88 from the stretch.

The downside with Liberatore, however, is that none of these pitches grade elite in the long run. Liberatore is one of the safest high school pitchers to enter the draft in a long time. Is a top 5 pick worth spending on a pitcher who will never be an ace, but potentially a solid mid-rotation arm?

Honorable mention goes to Ryan Weathers (yes, son of former Reds closer David “Stormy” Weathers), Ethan Hankins, Kumar Rocker and Cole Winn, who are just some of the other high schoolers to keep an eye on as the draft looms closer. Each player would have been first-rounders 10 years ago, but could wind up as second-rounders due to the aforementioned prep school weariness.

College Arms

Cincinnati Reds 2018 MLB Draft
Brady Singer has been dominating the SEC for three years now. Could he be doing the same to the NL Central in a couple years? (Photo from gatorsports.com)

College pitchers have been all the rage lately in drafts. Top college players only require two to three years in the minors. Couple that with being cheaper since they do not have leverage and better competition than high schoolers, and it is easy to see why college arms have been more frequently drafted as of late.

This year’s crop is no different, as there are a plethora of names surfacing near the top of draft boards. Casey Mize is the consensus No. 1 pick at this time, but there are still other players the Reds could focus on instead.

Brady Singer was a little inconsistent to start the 2018 college season, but outdueled Mize when they played. He was the ace of the Florida rotation and could be a stellar selection for the Reds at No. 5 this draft.

Singer has had three injury-free seasons of strong production for an elite college program. Singer has three above-average offerings, including a fastball that hovers around the mid-90s. The Florida ace should move quickly in the farm and will look good accompanying Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle.

Shane McClanahan has the elite fastball Reds scouts drool over (see Hunter Greene and Tony Santillan). The lefty is the ace of the University of South Florida’s staff and has thrived in that role. His fastball has brushed triple digits several times this season and has a changeup with great movement on it. Some scouts have gone so far to compare him to Chris Sale, especially if his slider comes around.

Shane’s K/9 is crazy, reaching double-digit strikeouts in 50 percent of his starts (six out of 12). He has also had five walks in four of his 12 starts, hence his biggest negative. If Reds scouting thinks they can fix the walk issue, McClanahan’s upside is insane. Unfortunately that is easier said than done though.

Conclusion

This should be the last season the Reds have a top-five pick anytime soon. Hitting on these picks is what turns a Wild Card contender into a perennial playoff team. The Reds have plenty of offense already between all levels of the system, but only have a couple pitchers who are expected to make any major league impact.

Grabbing a college pitcher to join the Reds when the theoretical playoff window is open seems like the smart choice. The hardest part is deciding which one.

Make sure to check in next week as the hitters the Reds could take in the first round are outlined.

 

Featured image from mlb.com

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