New owners, new GM, new philosophy
Organization unafraid of big commitment up front
BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
HOUSTON - Right-hander Luke Hochevar probably has the best stuff in Tuesday's draft.
But he already has turned down $2.98 million. He has switched agents twice from Scott Boras to Matt Sosnick back to Boras.
Hochevar is pitching for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association after failing to reach an agreement with the Los Angeles Dodgers by the May 31 deadline.
That put him back in this year's draft.
Here's the shocker: He is still on the Reds' draft board.
"We're still investigating his situation," said Chris Buckley, the Reds' senior director of scouting. "We think he might be gone by the time we pick."
But, if he's there when the Reds pick eighth, they might select him.
That the Reds are even considering him is more evidence that the club has changed the way it does business under CEO Bob Castellini and general manager Wayne Krivsky.
The Reds shied away from Boras clients in recent years. Signability ran alongside talent when rating the draft.
The philosophy now?
"We're going for the best guy," Buckley said.
Signability remains a factor. But the Reds aren't dismissing players simply because they are clients of Boras.
But there is no use drafting Hochevar if you have no chance of signing him. Players - most notably brothers J.D. and Stephen Drew - have played independent ball rather than sign deals they didn't like.
"All teams look at signability," Buckley said. "Even the Yankees have a cap on what they'll spend. It plays a role."
The decision on who to pick will be Buckley's. Krivsky will be involved.
"But I'm not going to tell them who to pick," Krivsky said. "(The scouts) have been working on this since mid-January."
If the Reds should pick Hochevar, Buckley said Krivsky and Castellini would be involved because it likely would involve a big-league contract.
Hochevar, 22, throws up to 97 mph. He has a good slider to go with a curveball and a changeup. He won 15 games for Tennessee last year. In his last start with Fort Worth, he was consistently throwing 94 and 95 mph.
He projects to be in the big leagues quickly. If Castellini thinks Hochevar can help the Reds quickly, he could be convinced to sign him to a big league contract.
You can make a pretty strong case that $4 million to $5 million invested in 22-year-old who was successful in college is better than investing $2 million in a high school player who is four years - at least - from helping the big-league club. See Ty Howington and Chris Gruler for evidence.
The Reds' one foray in giving draft picks a big-league contract didn't turn out too well. But David Espinosa was a high school player, and the Reds knew Dane Sandinha's bat was a long way from the major leagues when they did that.
It should be noted that the Cardinals, the team Castellini last was associated with, was the team that ultimately selected and signed J.D. Drew.
Again, Buckley said Friday that Hochevar probably would not last until the eighth pick.
"Things will start to take shape over the next 48 to 72 hours," he said.
Baseball America, the draft bible, has Hochevar going fifth to Seattle.
BA has the Reds taking Brandon Morrow, a junior right-hander from Cal. The magazine speculates the Reds would draft Drew Stubbs, a University of Texas outfielder, if he's still on the board.
Buckley acknowledges the Reds have interest in both.
"The thing about picking eighth is you can't be sure what's going to happen above you," he said. "It's not like picking third or fourth."
Buckley came to the Reds from the Toronto Blue Jays. Expect a mix of college and high school players to be picked.
"A guy I worked for in Toronto used to say it's like an investment portfolio," Buckley said. "You want a mix of stocks and bonds. If you go too heavily one way, you get in trouble."
So the question is, will the Reds go for a big investment up front in hopes of a quick return?
We'll find out Tuesday.
The Reds will draft someone with the eighth pick in the Tuesday's amateur free agent draft and proceed to make him a rich young man. As the club's record indicates, being a first-round pick is no guarantee for success. The Reds did their best work in the draft's early years. Here's a look at the team's first-round picks through the years:
Bernie Carbo (No. 16 overall) 3B: Best draft because a guy named Bench was picked in the second round.
Gary Nolan (13) RHP: Nolan had a good career (110-70, 3.58 ERA). Would have had a great career if not for injuries.
Wayne Simpson (8) RHP: Went 14-3 with a 3.02 ERA in '70. Injuries kept him from lasting greatness.
Tim Grant (13) RHP: Did not make the majors (DNMTM).
Don Gullett (14) LHP: Possibly best No. 1 pick for Reds. Was in the big leagues at 19. Key member of two World Series championship teams. Headed to the Hall of Fame when injuries ended his career at 27.
Gary Polcynski (15) SS: DNMTM.
Mike Miley (24) SS: Did not sign. Picked in the first round by California in '74. Played 84 games with the Angels.
Larry Payne (7) RHP: DNMTM.
Brad Kessler (22) OF: DNMTM.
Steve Reed (23) RHP: DNMTM.
Tony Moretto (22) OF: DNMTM.
Mark King (23) RHP: DNMTM.
Tad Vegner (24) 3B: DNMTM.
Nick Esasky (17) OF: Broke the streak of DNMTM at six. Hit 122 homers in his career.
Dan LaMar (20) C: DNMTM.
Ron Robinson (19) RHP: Decent big-leaguer (49-37). One of the all-time great nicknames: The True Creature.
No first-round pick.
Scott Jones (22) LHP: DNMTM.
Kurt Stillwell (2) SS: Good glove. Didn't hit enough for such a high pick.
Pat Pacillo (5) RHP: Pitched in a total of 18 games for the Reds before being traded to Montreal.
Barry Larkin (4) SS: If Gullett isn't the best first-round pick by the Reds, Larkin is.
Scott Scudder (17) RHP: Was part of the 1990 World Series team. Career ended at 25.
Jack Armstrong (18) RHP: His great first half was key to the wire-to-wire title in '90. Went 12-9 that year. Never had another winning season. Wonder if he's working on a tuna boat now?
No first-round pick.
Scott Bryant (20) OF: DNMTM.
Dan Wilson (7) C: Good pick. He was key to the trade that got Bret Boone from Seattle.
Pokey Reese (20) SS: He could pick it with the best of them, just didn't hit enough.
Chad Mottola (5) OF: Picked him over Derek Jeter. Enough said. Playing in Triple-A with Syracuse.
No first-round pick.
C.J. Nitkowski (9) LPH: Has played 10 years in majors, despite a 5.37 ERA. Was key to getting David Wells for the 1995 stretch run. Still pitching in Triple-A.
No first-round pick. Got Brett Tomko in the second round, however.
John Oliver (25) OF: DNMTM.
Brandon Larson (14) 3B: Was called "a Robin Ventura with more speed" on draft day. He wasn't that.
Austin Kearns (7) OF: Also got Adam Dunn and Todd Coffey in this draft. Not bad at all.
Ty Howington (14) LHP: Was recently released by an independent league team in Nebraska. Have to wonder what he would have been if he had stayed healthy.
David Espinosa (23) SS: Signing him to big-league deal was called "groundbreaking." It was groundbreaking for foolishness.
Jeremy Sowers (20) LPH: Did not sign.
Chris Gruler (3) RHP: Trying to get off the Ty Howington career path.
Ryan Wagner (14) RHP: Still struggling at Triple-A.
Homer Bailey (7) RHP: Great stuff. Needs to start putting up numbers.
Jay Bruce (12) OF: Has looked like the real deal so far.
It's only low-A ball, but four starting pitchers at Dayton have put up great numbers so far:
Player, Age Rec ERA
RH Johnny Cueto, 20 5-1 2.72
RH Carlos Fisher, 23 4-3 2.97
RH Zach Ward, 22 3-0 3.66
LH Travis Wood, 19 5-0 3.38