So if one was to make an optimistic argument in favor of this draft, I suppose it would be:
1. The one area where the Reds have been absolutely fantastic is drafting college relievers (particularly those with very good fastballs) and converting them to starters. Cingrani and Lorenzen (early, but looks great) are prime examples. I know some will say it wasn't necessarily a need. But if Howard pans out, a 98 MPH throwing young starter is the type of commodity that can get you whatever it is you need in a trade. If you feel like you've maybe found a market inefficiency, continue to exploit it until other teams catch on. Plus, if this is an area that you feel like your minor league instructors excel and are well equipped to handle, perhaps is is both a market inefficiency and an area that your organization and knowledge actually adds value to this type of player more than others.
2. With Blandino, obviously the hitting and upside is a question. However, I think perhaps the more important question is his defense. If he can stick at SS or at least 2B, that really lowers the bar in terms of what is considered acceptable with the bat. If the Reds are correct that he can play a passable middle IF, then all of a sudden it looks more like a bat that can play. Who knows how long we will stick with Phillips. And I don't see a 2B coming anywhere on the horizon in the system that looks like a starter. Maybe Blandino becomes the heir apparent at 2B and makes Phillips expendable? With the pitching we have short and long term and a potentially strong middle of the order (Votto, Bruce, Mez, Frazier) we need a couple guys who are cheap and at least decent starters in the middle infield. With the current roster, maybe a 50% chance of landing a decent (if unspectacular) MLB starter is better than a 2% chance at landing a superstar.
3. With Sparks, the tools are there and I can see the upside. It's just a question of if he can learn to take a smarter approach. His swing looks like a 1st round type of swing. After playing it somewhat safe with the first 2 picks, this looks a little bit more like a swing for the fences type of pick even though it's a college player.