Reds won't draft for big-league needs
Cincinnati gets 15th pick in first round of First-Year Player Draft
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Endless crisscrossing of the country to take last looks at players. A cellphone is constantly ringing with scouts on the other end. When the traveling is done, hours and hours of meetings loom ahead.
Reds scouting director Chris Buckley loves every bit of it. It just means the First-Year Player Draft is getting closer.
"The draft is sort of like Christmas," Buckley said. "You want to make sure you see all of your presents."
The 2007 First-Year Player Draft is June 7-8 at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. The first round will be aired on ESPN2 beginning at 2 p.m. ET. MLB.com will have every pick of the 50-round draft from start to finish.
Based on last season's 80-82 finish, Cincinnati will draft 15th in the first round this year. Last year, the Reds used the eighth overall pick to select outfielder Drew Stubbs from the University of Texas.
"Because we're dead set in the middle, a lot of guys we're looking at could be gone ahead of us," Buckley said. "There could be guys falling with signability issues. Last year at No. 8, you have a little better handle on it. When you're down this deep, it's kind of hard to ask the first 14 teams what they're doing."
If they're still on the board at No. 15, the Reds could be interested in high school third baseman/first baseman Mike Moustakas out of Chatsworth, Calif., or Missouri State left-handed pitcher Ross Dettweiler. However, both players are projected as top 10 prospects by Baseball America.
Other potential names could be high school lefty Josh Smoker from Georgia, or third baseman Kevin Ahrens out of Memorial High School in Houston, Texas.
Unlike the counterpart drafts of the NFL or NBA, teams at the MLB draft rarely aim to select players based on immediate needs at the big-league level. Players selected even in the first couple of rounds could take up to four or five years to reach the Majors.
All teams have organizational needs at every level, but Buckley even avoids basing the Reds' draft board exclusively on need.
"When you're drafting out of need, you end up elevating players and pushing them," Buckley said. "I'm against drafting for need."
The stakes are high when selecting unproven young talent, especially in the top round. Stubbs received a $2 million bonus when he signed last summer. The 2005 first-round pick, outfielder Jay Bruce, received a $1.8 million bonus.
Last year, 15 of the Reds' first 18 picks -- and 34 of 50 overall -- were players taken out of college. Buckley felt the draft had a stronger high school crop than it did last year. Cincinnati also selected 23 pitchers.
"I always strive for balance, not too far one way or another," Buckley said. "There is such an attrition rate with pitching. You like to sign a lot of them in order to get a few of them."
The Reds signed each of the first 17 picks last year, and 31 players overall.
"It's a business of assets," Buckley said. "We certainly try to put as many assets into our farm system as we can. Eventually, we might have to trade some of our assets to get things we don't have."
Here are the Reds' past three first-round draft picks:
OF Drew Stubbs, 2006 (eighth overall): A three-year starter at the University of Texas, Stubbs signed quickly and batted .252 with six homers and 24 RBIs in 56 games with rookie-level Billings. Although he's an exceptional athlete with speed, the organization is working with Stubbs to cut down on his strikeouts.
OF Jay Bruce, 2005 (12th overall): At advanced Class A Sarasota, the 20-year-old is among the Florida State League's batting leaders and remains one of the organization's top prospects with five-tool talent. In 2006, Bruce batted .291 with 16 homers and 81 RBIs for Class A Dayton and was Baseball America's low Class A player of the year.
RHP Homer Bailey, 2004 (seventh overall): The 21-year-old hard-throwing right-hander is on the cusp of reaching the Majors at Triple-A Louisville. Although many in the organization feel its top prospect has a few edges left to smooth -- namely his off-speed stuff -- Bailey's arrival to Cincinnati is a matter of when, not if.
Rising fast: SS Chris Valaika (third round, 2006)
In his first pro season, Valaika was the Pioneer League's MVP and set a league record with a 32-game hitting streak. Valaika is among the top Midwest League hitters this season with Class A Dayton.
Cinderella story: OF Carson Kainer (14th round, 2006)
A higher-round pick because of a kidney ailment, the University of Texas standout and teammate of Stubbs underwent a September kidney transplant. Able to begin limited workouts during Spring Training, Kainer began playing his first games in May for Class A Sarasota and hit his first home run. Although he'll have to take anti-rejection medication, he is expected to live a normal life and could become the first professional baseball player to reach the Majors after a kidney transplant.