Re-Evaluating the Cincinnati Reds’ Top Draft Picks from the Past Decade

It’s what’s on the agenda when a team is eight games under .500 and 11.5 games out of first before June. Because a Reds rebuild seems all but certain with ace Johnny Cueto playing in the final year of his contract, it’s time to assess what’s worked and what’s in store.

What has Walt Jocketty assembled in the last seven seasons, and what did previous general manager Wayne Krivsky leave him with? The following is a list of the Reds’ first-round draft picks from the past decade:

 

2005: Jay Bruce, OF

Has time snuck up on you too? Jay Bruce was drafted 12th overall that year and was widely considered the future. He was called up to replace Corey Patterson in the early part of 2008 after hitting above .300 across three minor league levels in 2007.

Did he go on to become the Reds’ future? The term’s subjective—after all, it was Bruce’s looping swing that ended the playoff drought and brought the Reds back for the first time in a decade. It’s hard to argue that he became the face of this franchise—Joey Votto or Johnny Cueto may have thoughts on that matter—but there’s no denying he’s contributed in a big way.

His rookie season, he finished No. 5 overall in Rookie of the Year voting, he’s a three-time All-Star with two Silver Slugger awards, and he finished No. 10 in MVP voting two years straight (’12-’13).

He’s a career .250/.323/.486 but has 571 RBI and 189 home runs. In now his eighth year, Bruce has only hit fewer than 20 home runs once—last year, a year that featured arthroscopic knee surgery.

Despite a lengthy slump, there is no denying how prolific Bruce has been to a playoff roster. This was a successful pick by Krivsky. Considering his contract and the Reds’ oncoming fire sale, it’s likely we’ll see the end of the Bruce era here. He’s likely to fetch a good return, especially if his recent hot streak continues.

 

2006: Drew Stubbs, OF

Believe it or not, Stubbs was the eighth overall pick that year. He ended up debuting with the Reds in 2009 as the Reds were assembling their new product post-Griffey-Dunn Era, ripe with high draft picks.

In a lot of ways, Stubbs contributed—his defense in center was good, and averaging nearly 30 stolen bases and over 12 home runs a season was good. But power aside, Stubbs was not a good hitter. His OBP was never higher than .329; .255 was the highest average he’d have in four years—all of which are very forgettable, especially for a top-10 overall draft pick.

But Walt Jocketty turned Drew Stubbs into Shin-Soo Choo, a pivotal piece of the Reds’ 2013 playoff campaign. And for that, Stubbs proved even more useful.

 

2007: Devin Mesoraco C, Todd Frazier 3B, Kyle Lotzkar RHP

Can we universally agree the first two names from 2007 are successes? Both made the All-Star Game in 2014, and Frazier was a Home Run Derby for what it’s worth, the first Reds participant since Ken Griffey Jr.

But Frazier is currently No. 2 in NL home runs behind Bryce Harper. His career line in now his fourth season is .258/.328/.461, but there’s no denying the impact he’s had on the Reds offense. He’s had two good batting average years (.273 in ’12 and ’14) and two bad ones (.232 in ’11, .234 in ’13).

He’s one of the only notable acts happening at Great American Ball Park right now. Devin Mesoraco perhaps would be, but he can’t stay healthy. The young slugger has made it to the disabled list again after just 51 plate appearances.

For his career, he’s slashing an unimpressive .242/.313/.423. But Mesoraco has just two years since 2011 where he’s played in over 100 games. He was an All-Star last season, a season that featured a career-high 440 plate appearances.

Kyle Lotzkar came and went. This was a swing and miss of Jonny Gomes caliber. He never made it higher than Double-A, which is where he’s at now, within the Texas Rangers organization.

Thus ends the Krivsky portion of the re-evaluation. Time to see how Walt did.

 

2008: Yonder Alonso, 1B

Was Yonder Alonso a successful pick? Walt Jocketty turned him and two other first-round draft picks into Mat Latos, the key No. 2 in the rotation that earned the Reds the 2012 NL Central crown. He was also the pitcher who surrendered the deciding Buster Posey grand slam to end that season.

That was Latos’ most important pitch as a Red, but there’s no denying his three exceptional years in a Reds uniform, never finishing with an ERA above 3.48 and tossing over 200 innings twice.

 

2009: Mike Leake SP, Bradley Boxberger RHP

Despite Mike Leake’s recent struggles, this pick skipped the farm and went right to the pros after being drafted. He’s never been asked to be the ace, and prior to this season, he’s never had to play the role of a No. 2 guy. So his career 55-46 3.97 is a remarkable contribution.

Leake threw over 200 innings for the first time last year. He’s on pace to do it again this season. Should the Reds enter rebuild, Leake is a candidate for trade, but he’s also an extension candidate, especially if and when the Reds move Cueto and free themselves of enormous fiscal responsibility.

Bradley Boxberger was packaged with Alonso and one other to land Latos.


2010: Yasmani Grandal, C

Grandal was also moved in the package for Latos. Devin Mesoraco won the role of Reds future catcher in Cincinnati.

 

2011: Robert Stephenson, SP 

Baseball America‘s No. 1 Reds prospect and one of the Reds’ only two Top 100 MLB prospects (MLB.com), Stephenson has struggled mightily since reaching Double-A. In now his third Double-A season, the promising right-hander is 9-16 with a 4.87 ERA.

That’s not to say there isn’t serious potential here—there most assuredly is. In 39.1 innings pitched, Stephenson’s recorded 46 strikeouts. That’s serious. The problem is his control. He’s averaging 6.6 walks per nine innings. Command has plagued him since reaching Double-A, after he finished averaging seven walks per nine innings in 2013.

 

2012: Nick Travieso SP, Jesse Winker OF, Jeff Gelalich OF

Nick Travieso is developing fine as the Reds’ No. 8 prospect. He’s 2-4 with a 3.88 ERA and 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s just in High-A, so it’s unlikely we’ll see him anytime soon.

Jesse Winker is the other Top 100 MLB prospect the Reds are sitting on and the Reds’ No.3 prospect, according to Baseball America. Prior to his wrist injury last season, Winker was killing it. But since reaching Double-A last season, Winker is slashing .225/.341/.333.

That could be just due to a cold start—Winker did impress in the Arizona Fall League (hit .338). Still, there’s no reason to suggest he’s regressing or anything yet, not unless his averages remain like this for the whole season. 

Winker is considered by man to be the heir to Jay Bruce’s throne in left field. 

Jeff Gelalich is now in his fourth minor league season. He’s still hovering around High-A and is only slashing .240/.326/.332. This left-handed hitter is a working project, often displaying flashes of potential, but he lacks consistency. 

2013: Phillip Ervin OF, Michael Lorenzen SP

Ervin bats behind Gelalich for the High-A Daytona Tortugas. It’s the highest level of competition he’s seen, and thus far he is handling it fine, slashing .253/.338/.460 in 202 plate appearances. 

Ervin wasn’t listed as an organizational top prospect, but he’s coming off a poor season in Dayton, where he hit just .238.

Michael Lorenzen, the No. 4 organizational prospect, has been an incredible draft pick so far. Lorenzen was pitching in Double-A last season. He started this year in Triple-A, and following season-ending surgery for Bailey, he’s pitching in The Show and doing it well (1-1, 3.12).

2014: Nick Howard RHP, Alex Blandino SS

A closer in college, the Reds tried converting Howard to a starter, and prior to this season, it was looking like a good move. This season has been brutal for Howard, though, and following a bad stretch where he surrendered 10 earned runs in three starts and never made it out of the fourth inning, he was moved back to the bullpen.

After three scoreless appearances from the bullpen, Howard’s been roughed up. He’s sporting a 7.03 ERA and a WHIP over 2.00.

Alex Blandino, however, is performing well in the same lineup as Ervin and Gelalich. He’s slashing .319/.405/.448. Numbers like this make him an enticing heir to Zack Cozart’s throne.

Krisky’s last picks, minus Lotzkar, were all good. The jury is still out on Jocketty’s 12 picks. Three of the 12 became Latos, who ultimately became Anthony DeSclafani, so hard to knock those. Two of the 12 are currently in the Reds starting rotation. The other seven are in development, but none of them above Double-A.

Still, from a pitching stance, the pipeline seems stocked with future contributors, provided they make it.

Stats courtesy of Baseball-reference.com unless noted otherwise. Organizational rankings compliments of BaseballAmerica.com while Top-100 prospects come from MLB.com.

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