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Cincinnati Reds’ draft: Potential hitter picks

The MLB Draft is right around the corner and the Reds are in a prime spot to draft a future cornerstone. The Reds draft with no tendency towards a certain position or preference on college vs. high school. The Reds have had nine first-round picks in the last five drafts, with five being college players and four being high schoolers. Three pitchers, three infielders, two outfielders and one catcher is the positional breakdown of the draft picks over the same time.

The 2018 MLB draft has talent at a lot of positions, most of which with college backgrounds. I wrote last week on the pitching talent that will be available to the Reds with the fifth pick. This week, I will be focusing on the hitting talent that will potentially be available at the Reds pick.

Infielders

Reds Draft
Nick Madrigal would be the perfect OBP machine to hit in front of the heart of the Reds lineup. Photo courtesy of Steven Branscombe of USA Today Sports.

All Nick Madrigal does is get on base. In his three seasons at Oregon State, the second basemen has never struck out more than he has walked. Madrigal’s 2017 was electric, hitting for a .380 AVG, 27/16 BB/K ratio and had 16 stolen bases to boot. The power will likely never amount to many home runs, but Madrigal gets his fair share of doubles. Scouts were unsure how Madrigal would rally after missing the first half of 2018 with a wrist injury, but he has picked up right where he left off.

The knock on Madrigal is his height, as he measures in at 5’7”. It is not a matter of if he can play, but will the body hold up to the length and rigor of MLB seasons. The best comp for Madrigal is Dustin Pedroia with a little less power. Scrappy, short, very good defense and insane on-base ability. Madrigal would look good in a Reds’ uniform hitting in front of Votto and Suarez in a couple years.

Jonathan India is the swiss army knife of the draft. Above average in everything with no elite tools. He plays third base for the Florida Gators, but can easily move to second base, and some scouts believe he has the athleticism for shortstop. India displays very good plate discipline, with 47 walks and 47 strikeouts in 2018. The 2018 season has been a power breakout for India as well, with 17 home runs to go with his .362 AVG.

Jonathan India does not have that elite tool, but he will be an above average major league regular for double-digit seasons. The comp for India is a healthy Anthony Rendon. The Reds definitely should not receive any shade if they picked India with the #5 pick.

Outfielders

Jarred Kelenic is the top high school outfielder in the draft. Kelenic is out of Wisconsin, which makes scouting interesting because the high school season does not begin until late May. Kelenic has enough tape from his 2017 high school season and travel team ball to warrant a 2018 top 10 selection. Above average arm and speed with the hit tool to match. Questions linger around whether he can stay in center field, but would be an above-average defender in either corner.

Reds Draft
Travis Swaggerty has hit like crazy for South Alabama. Will he be doing the same for the Reds farm in the near future? Photo courtesy of Mike Kittrell of al.com

Kelenic is an interesting prospect who has more value if he can stick in center. In an era of power, his frame is pretty much set and the power is never going to be better than average. The other knock is just the fear of development with high schoolers vs. college bats. Mickey Moniak went firsst overall in 2016 and has flatlined in the Phillies system. He had a similar skill set to Kelenic. The question is, why go with an “unknown” like a high school bat when college bats are further ahead in development and play better competition?

Travis Swaggerty is sitting in the top 10 of most boards, despite plying his trade at the University of South Alabama. This is because Swaggerty is an OBP machine who has all the tools to stick to center field. His 2017 season was truly special, hitting .356 with 11 HRs and 19 SBs and displaying great defense in center. In 2018 has Swaggerty sporting a .296 AVG, but with elite walk to strikeout numbers and 13 HR’s to go with it. Swaggerty literally has 54 BB’s and only 38 K’s in 57 games this season.

There are two knocks though, level of competition and wood bat production. Out of conference, South Alabama played a few top 25 teams, but conference play makes up two-thirds of the schedule. Swaggerty also has wood bat experience when he played for Team USA but did not hit any home runs in those 64 at-bats. If Swaggerty’s power translates, the comp for him is Christian Yelich. Swaggerty can be a guy who will give you a floor of 15 HR’s, 15 SB’s, and a .400 OBP with above average center field defense. In 2020, the Reds weakness in the outfield may become a strength with Swaggerty and prospect Taylor Trammell patrolling together.

Quick Hit Honorable Mentions

If Joey Bart somehow falls to the Reds, they would be foolish to pass. Bart is the next big thing at catcher, dominating in the Cape Cod summer league and with Georgia Tech. The lone issue is that the Reds are deep at catcher in the lower levels of the system already. Baseball management does not draft based on need though, but by best player available, which Bart would be if he falls to the Reds at the number five pick.

Alec Bohm is very highly rated but I’m not as sure about him. He has the second best raw power in the class and an above average hit tool. Bohm is below average with his glove and arm, which means he will likely shift across to first base. The National League not having a DH makes this difficult for the Reds, with Joey Votto entrenched at first until 2023. Worst case, Bohm would be a very valuable trade chip when the Reds are ready to shore up their rotation come playoff contention time.

Nolan Gorman is the only other high schooler floating around the backside of the top 10. Gorman has the best power profile and wears the crown of high school home run derby champ. The power legitimately grades out to at least 70 on the MLB’s 20-80 scale. There has been inconsistencies with the glove at third and the hit tool. Gorman’s easy player comp is Joey Gallo, but if the hit tool comes around, he could be a truly elite power bat.

Thanks for reading and do not forget to tune in to the MLB draft on June 4th.

 

Featured image courtesy of mlb.com

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