Reds 2020 draft preview: The case for a high school hitter

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 1: Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 1: Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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The Reds should draft a high school bat in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft.

The last time we saw the Cincinnati Reds go with a prep bat in the first round was in 2015. Tyler Stephenson, who’s now one of the top prospects in the team’s farm system, was taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. The Reds pick 12th during Wednesday’s draft; might Cincinnati go after one of the top prep outfielders in the country?

When it comes to drafting high school talent, the one word that emerges is patience. We’ve seen it pay off in the past. Jay Bruce was taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft. The three-time All-Star had a lot of success in the Queen City. More recently, Jesse Winker was taken out of Olympia High School in Florida back in 2012 and is now one of the Reds top outfielders.

We saw Cincinnati move on from one of their top prep outfielders last July. The Reds dealt to Taylor Trammell, whom they drafted out of Mount Paran Christian School in Georgia, to the San Diego Padres as part of a three-team deal in order to acquire right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer.

Might the Reds look to reinvigorate their depleted farm system with another young bat? Last year, Cincinnati selected Nick Lodolo with the 7th overall pick in the draft, but went back-to-back with prep bats in Round 2 (Rece Hinds) and Round 3 (Tyler Callihan). Adding another young prospect with upside would help elevate Cincinnati’s No. 24-ranked farm system.

While the argument can always be made for acquiring more pitching, let’s not forget what the Reds lost in terms of position players over the past two seasons. Nick Senzel graduated to the big leagues, Shed Long and Jeter Downs were traded, and former Top 20 prospect was just recently released. Jose Siri is also gone, as is the aforementioned Taylor Trammell.

According to MLB.com, the Reds do not currently have any position players ranked among the Top 100 in all of baseball. Stephenson, Cincinnati’s highest-ranked position player, isn’t among the Top 10 at his position. Jonathan India is rated as the 8th best third base prospect in Major League Baseball, but his woeful performance in 2019 has cast doubts as to whether he’ll be productive or not.

The 2020 MLB Draft offers several talented high school bats. While Zac Veen is likely to be gone by the time Cincinnati is on the clock at No. 12, there are others who are worthy of that pick. Robert Hassell III, Pete Crow-Armstrong and Austin Hendrick could all still be on the board.

Hassell III offers the most consistent swing. He has the ability to make contact, though some scouts doubt his power. Crow-Armstrong is the most athletic of this group, but will be become more than just a speedy outfielder with a glove? Finally, there’s Hendrick, who has the most power of any high schooler in the draft.

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If the Reds are looking to upgrade their farm system with a young, talented outfielder, this might be the year. While Cincinnati has shown a propensity in recent years to go with a college player, this could be the year that the Reds front office takes a risk. It could pay off in the long-term.