Cincinnati Reds: Does Austin Hendrick resemble Jay Bruce?

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 20: Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 20: Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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The Reds took Jay Bruce with the 12th overall pick in 2005.

The Cincinnati Reds will be in a familiar spot come next Wednesday evening. With the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Cincinnati will likely be in prime position to take one of the best high school outfielders available. The last time the Reds had the No. 12 overall pick, the team selected Texas high school product Jay Bruce. That worked out pretty well.

One of the top high school talents in this year’s draft is West Allegheny High School outfielder Austin Hendrick. Hendrick has been seen as a favorite to land in Cincinnati by several baseball experts and insiders. In one of his earlier mock drafts, Jim Callis of MLB.com predicted Hendrick to be taken by the Reds, saying the choice comes down to a high school or college arm.

CBS Sports contributor Mike Axisa echos the same sentiments, saying if the best college arms (Asa Lacy, Emerson Hancock, Reid Detmers and Max Meyer) are off the board, he predicts the Reds will go with Hendrick. In a later post, Axisa says the Cincinnati has been linked most often with Hendrick.

Scouts drool over Hendrick’s power. According to MLB.com, on the scouting scale of 20-80, Hendrick owns a 60 in terms of raw power. That’s the highest among any high school player expected to go in the first round. Last year, we saw Cincinnati grab power-hitting infielders Rece Hinds and Tyler Callihan with their second and third-round picks respectively.

Hendrick profiles as a right fielder at the major league level, though some scouts feel as though he could stick in center field. Sound like someone else you know? That’s right, three-time All-Star Jay Bruce was drafted by the Reds with the 12th overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft. Bruce dominated minor league pitching throughout his first three years and found his way to the bigs in 2008.

Jay Bruce raked in 2007, dismantling pitchers at three different levels (Advanced-A, Double-A and Triple-A). The left-handed hitting outfielder slashed .319/.375/.587 in 133 games that season while recording 26 home runs and 89 RBIs. Bruce topped the list of best prospects in 2008 according to MLB.com. He made his big league debut in 2008 at the age of 21.

Could Austin Hendrick follow in Jay Bruce’s footsteps? There’s definitely some similarities, but to be sure, there are some differences. Bruce was also known for his speed and overall hitting. The coronavirus pandemic put an end to the high school baseball season, so there’s no telling what improvements Hendrick made to his game from 2019 to 2020.

As a power-hitter, it should come as no surprise that he can be a boom-or-bust type of player who may be subject to some swing-and-miss at-bats. However, if you’re looking for power, no one else in the prep class is going to come close.

The Reds are severely lacking a power-hitting outfield bat in their farm system. Neither Mike Siani or Stuart Fairchild, Cincinnati’s top two outfield prospects, project as middle-of-the-order type hitters. Hendrick possesses average or above-average tools across the board. If he can play up to his potential, he could be a stud in the bigs for years to come.

Next. The Reds should draft a college pitcher

The question mark surrounding Hendricks will come down to consistency. Can he hit for average? If the answer is yes, I don’t care if Reid Detmers is available at No. 12, the Cincinnati Reds should unequivocally take Austin Hendrick. However, if the feeling is that he may be a below-average hitter with power, you could see reason for the Reds to hesitate if a quality college arm is available.