You really have to be a baseball diehard to even know this, but the first round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft was held Monday evening. The Cincinnati Reds were picking 27th overall — not exactly a prime position to land a future superstar.
However, from all accounts, the Reds maxed out on their pick by getting excellent value when they selected high school pitcher Robert Stephenson from Martinez, Calif.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Stephenson has a fastball that tops out at 97 MPH and is known for his good control as well. He was projected by everyone to be a first-round pick — and many analysts thought he would be off the board before the Reds picked — so this certainly appears to be a job well done by Cincinnati scouting director Chris Buckley and his staff.
And in case you want to feel really old, Stephenson, 18, was born nearly three years after the Reds’ last World Series title. The right-hander will be one of the few top pitching prospects in the lower levels of the Reds’ minor league system. He will likely start out playing low rookie ball if he signs this summer. Then, next year, look for him to play at low-A Dayton.
The last time the Reds took a high school arm in the first round was 2004 when they selected Homer Bailey. Buckley actually compared Stephenson to Bailey, while admitting that Bailey might have been a tad ahead of Stephenson at the same stage. And that makes sense considering Bailey was taken seventh overall.
The bottom line here is that the Reds found what could be a good MLB starting pitcher at the bottom of the first round. Can’t complain about that.
* In the second round (pick No. 84 overall) on Tuesday afternoon, the Reds stayed in the high school ranks … but went to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to do it. They took Gabriel Rosa (6-4, 185) who was considered the best Puerto Rican hitter available in the draft. He played centerfield and shortstop in high school, but might be a corner outfielder in the Reds’ system. Rosa is very young (17) and won’t turn 18 until July 2.
If you consider Rosa an outfielder, this marks the second straight year that the Reds drafted an OF in the second round. In 2010, they took Ryan LaMarre out of the University of Michigan.
And in case you’re wondering why Puerto Rican players must enter the draft to be eligible to play Major League Baseball, while players from other Caribbean islands like the Dominican Republic can be signed as free agents, it’s simply because Puerto Rico is technically part of the United States.
* In the third and fourth rounds on Tuesday, the Reds went with college pitchers: left-hander Tony Cingrani (6-4, 200) from Rice, and right-hander Kyle McMyne (5-11, 220) from Villanova. Both of them are expected to be relievers.
* The draft will continue throughout today and will conclude tomorrow with the 50th, yes, 50th, round.
UPDATE (4:20 p.m., Tuesday): The Reds appeared to get a steal with their fifth-round pick when they nabbed second baseman Ryan Wright from the University of Louisville. He was projected to be a second-round pick by many draft analysts. As a sophomore in 2010, Wright (6-1, 195) was named second-team All-American by Baseball America when he batted .366 with 16 HRs and 80 RBIs.
And just when I thought I couldn’t like this pick any more than I already did, I learn that Wright, 21, was born in Columbus and grew up a Reds fan. Look for him to start at Billings (high rookie ball) this season and perhaps move up to Dayton by the end of the year if things go well.
* In the sixth round, the Reds took third baseman Sean Buckley (Chris’ son) who is from St. Petersburg (Fla.) Junior College. Buckley, 21, is 6-4, 220 pounds, and draft analysts say this is not a pick based on nepotism. This is about where Buckley was projected to go.
* In the seventh round, Cincinnati took Kansas State closer James Allen (6-0, 197). The 21-year-old Allen is a right-hander. And yes, Chris Buckley certainly coveted college relievers in this draft considering the Reds took three of them in the first seven picks.
* In the eighth round, the Reds drafted Sean Buckley’s college teammate in centerfielder Jon Matthews. He is 6-3, 205 and is 21 years old.
* In the ninth round, the Reds again went the college route and took Texas right-handed pitcher Cole Green (6-0, 220). This was a very interesting pick because Green, 22, was actually picked by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. However, he turned down somewhere between $300,000-$400,000 to return to Texas for his senior season. Wow. These are the little stories you know nothing about until your team drafts a player and you do a little research on him. I feel bad for the kid that his draft stock dropped a full five rounds, but I feel good for the Reds.
* In the 10th round, the defending National League Central champions took Baylor pitcher Ronald “Brooks” Pinckard (6-1, 190). The right-handed Pinckard, 22, also played outfield and was a pretty good hitter in college. But the Reds have drafted him as a relief pitcher.