Reds 2020 draft preview: The case for a college pitcher

MINNEAPOLIS, MN- AUGUST 23: Cole Wilcox (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN- AUGUST 23: Cole Wilcox (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images) /
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The Reds should draft a college pitcher in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft.

If history has shown us anything, it’s that the Cincinnati Reds prefer college talent when making their first-round selection. At least, that’s been the case in three of the past four years. With Hunter Greene being the lone exception in the 2017 draft, Cincinnati’s front office has gone with experience over youth. This year should be no different.

With their first pick in last year’s draft, the Reds went with Nick Lodolo out of the Texas Christian University. A three-year starter for the Horned Frogs, Lodolo was the first pitcher taken in the 2019 MLB Draft. Cincinnati won’t have the luxury of taking the best college pitcher in the 2020 MLB Draft, but that shouldn’t stop them from going after a college pitcher at No. 12.

Some of the top talent in this year’s draft are college pitchers. Texas A&M’s Asa Lacy is expected to go in the Top 5 and possibly within the first three picks of this year’s draft. Emerson Hancock of Georgia and Max Meyer of Minnesota will likely go in the Top 10, and Reid Detmers of Louisville has chance to join them.

However, if all four of those pitchers are gone before Cincinnati picks 12th, there are still some talented college arms available. Garrett Crochet of Tennessee, Cade Cavalli of Oklahoma and Cole Wilcox of Georgia could all be available when the Reds are ready to make their first round selection.

Now, you may ask why the Reds should select a pitcher in the first round if their top two prospects are also pitchers. It’s true, according to MLB Pipeline, Lodolo and Hunter Greene are the team’s No. 1 and No. 2 prospects respectively, however, Cincinnati’s starting rotation heading into 2021 could look very different.

Both Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani are slated to become free agents. With the economic unrest among Major League Baseball teams due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see either player return to Cincinnati after next season.

The Reds did sign Wade Miley last winter, but a questionable run in September combined with his age (33), you may have to squint pretty hard to see the left-hander on Cincinnati’s roster after the 2021 season. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray look to be long-term solutions in the Reds rotation, but beyond that, the outlook is muddled at best.

Other top prospects Tony Santillan and Vladimir Gutierrez took giant steps backwards last season and it’s questionable now whether either player will find themselves as part of the Cincinnati rotation going forward. Packy Naughton had a solid 2019 season for Double-A Chattanooga, but the likelihood of no minor league season in 2020 will definitely impact the left-hander’s development.

If Reid Detmers is on the board at No. 12, Cincinnati should not hesitate for a single second to nab the left-hander. However, most mock drafts have Cade Cavalli as the highest-rated college pitcher available when the Reds make their first-round selection. While the upside of a prep outfielder like Austin Hendrick could be quite enticing, snagging Cavalli would be the more prudent pick at No. 12.

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The Reds have subscribed to idea of taking the best player available in recent drafts, and there’s no reason to suggest that Cincinnati will sway from that way of thinking. However, if it comes down to a high school bat or a college pitcher, Dick Williams and Nick Krall would do well to go with latter.