John Manuel of Baseball America has released the first mock draft of the year. The Cincinnati Reds holding the second overall pick in the 2017 Draft. It’s a huge opportunity for the team to get what should be premium talent that could move quickly.

At the top of the draft it’s Hunter Greene going to the Minnesota Twins. They have long been linked to going the pitching route. There’s no surprise to see them taking high schooler Hunter Greene here. That brings us to the Cincinnati Reds, who could go in several different directions. Manuel believes that the Reds will go with Louisville left handed pitcher Brendan McKay. Some teams prefer him as a first baseman, but the Reds are not one of those teams. A scout from a different organization had this to say about McKay:

“Typically, the hitters at the top of draft have more explosive athleticism than McKay does. He’s a really good hitter, but he’s not super explosive. With those kinds of guys, there’s usually no margin for error, though with him there is the pitching.”

Entering the year, McKay was seen as a Top 10 caliber guy, but his performance at the plate and on the mound has seemed to push him up the lists some. In three starts for the Cardinals he has thrown 18.0 innings with a 0.50 ERA, eight hits allowed, five walks and he’s struck out 29 batters. In his most recent start against Pittsburgh he tossed 7.0 shutout innings with one walk and 15 strikeouts in what is one of the most dominant performances in college baseball this season.

Looking at the scouting reports entering the year, McKay gives off more of a Mike Leake vibe than a top of the rotation kind of vibe. His pure stuff is good across the board, but nothing jumps out at you. His fastball works in the low 90’s from the left side and he mixes in average to slightly above-average offspeed stuff with his curveball and change up. He throws strikes and the results have been outstanding since he arrived in Louisville as a freshman in 2015.

McKay has only made three starts, and there’s a lot of baseball left to be played. As things sit right now, it just seems like McKay is more safe than he is star. At the #2 overall pick in the draft, that’s not what I’d be looking for. When you’ve got a top two pick in the draft, shoot for the stars. When looking at pure upside, McKay doesn’t compare to several other players in this draft. He seems like one of the safer picks to be a quality big leaguer, though. There’s something to be said for that, but you don’t get to pick #2 overall very often (this will only be the 3rd time in franchise history they’ve had a pick this high).

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50 Responses

  1. James K

    So, at this point whom would you pick, if you were in charge? (And I think you should be!)

    • Doug Gray

      I’d be so far out of my element in this role that it wouldn’t be funny. At this point, assuming Hunter Greene was off the table, I’d be leaning slightly towards Royce Lewis. But, for me, it’s still way too early to say anything. I’d be considering Bukauskas, Faedo, Beck. Lots of questions with everyone at this point, though.

      • MuddyCleats

        McKay sounds like M. Lorenzen all over again? IMO, Reds R linked 2 him because they probably feel they can get him 4 less $$$?? Agree w/ the writer; Reds should select an outstanding athlete w/ upside. Please do not select another project w/ #2 pick overall!

      • Doug Gray

        Not really. McKay isn’t learning how to pitch still. He’s been a full time starter for three entire seasons in college. Michael Lorenzen was a reliever for two years, and a 1-inning reliever at that (many college relievers are multi-inning guys). McKay’s a good athlete, though not to the extent that Lorenzen was/is. I’m not thrilled with the idea of McKay at #2, but I think you’re drastically underselling what he is.

  2. KyWilson1

    If the UNC kid keeps pitching well and is there when the Reds are on the clock, they have to take him.

    • Doug Gray

      Bukauskas is a guy that I really like. My problem with him is that he’s short with rough mechanics (not that being taller with rough mechanics would be a big improvement). From a pure stuff standpoint, he’s above any of the other college guys in my opinion. But there’s plenty of reason to think he’s going to wind up a possible reliever. At the same time, I could see him easily being the best pitcher from this class in five years.

      • The Duke

        He’s essentially the same size as Johnny Cueto was at the same age. I’m no expert on pitching mechanics, but when I’ve watched him pitch this year it didn’t seem that complicated or rough.

        My board right now is :

        Lewis
        Bukauskas
        Greene
        Faedo
        McKay

        I need to see more video of Greene, but I worry if he has a quality off speed pitch. He definitely doesn’t have anything that I’ve seen like Garrett or Groome’s curveball from last year.

  3. Mr. French Tickler

    I might be in the minority here and normally I would say best player available but I’m really hoping they take a position player. With the uncertainly of pitchers and their project-ability, the Reds can’t afford a miss this high in the draft. Doesn’t seem like a college hitter, other than the Louisville first basemen is separating themselves unfortunately. Think I’d rather see them take a high school player like Greene or Lewis if they are there.

    • Doug Gray

      Well, the Reds are selecting the Louisville first baseman here. They just would draft him as a pitcher.

  4. Arnold Ziffle

    Lets not go down that road of Is he a position player, or is he a pitcher? As it stands today, Baukaiskas or Lewis should be the choice if Greene is off the board.

    • RFM

      Amen. Something I like about Lewis and Bukauskas is that there’s no question of whether they are hitter or pitcher. One might have to prove he’s a shortstop, the other might have to prove he’s a starter, but it’s not a case where every poor outing we’ll hear how the real problem is that the guy was miscast. Maybe a two-way player has fall-back plan in case they struggle (like Nick Howard), but I hope that is irrelevant for a #2 overall draft pick.

      It was a silly argument pushed loudly by a vocal minority early in Michael Lorenzen’s career (he gave up a homerun? Well, with his 98mph fastball he should be playing the OUTFIELD!) that I strongly hope to avoid repeating on a #2 overall pick…

  5. AlphaZero

    Senzel was such a perfect fit for the Reds at number 2 last year. A college position player with an advanced plate approach added to a farm system that lacked anyone of that ilk.

    This year, it feels like the Reds are going to have a tougher decision on their hands. Do they go the prep route and shoot for the stars with Lewis or Greene? Should they instead take a high upside college arm in Faedo or Bukauskas? Or do they take the play it a bit safer by drafting McKay and sacrificing some ceiling?

    I think I like McKay a little more than most. None of his offerings will blow you away, but everything is average or a little better. And the guy simply knows how to pitch. And I think it’s fair to expect that he’ll at least be above average as a pitcher at the dish, which can provide a bit of surplus value for an NL team. I’m probably a little biased as I am from Lousiville, but then again, I wanted no part of Corey Ray last year. I think he’s the safest pick, and some might be underselling his ceiling just a bit.

    • Wes

      The ceiling is low because he’s already there. What’s left to project? He can hit and pitch and win. Hard to grow into much more than a guy who’s on pace to have best college season ever.

      • Doug Gray

        Best college season ever doesn’t mean you’re going to be the best pro player from that class. The ceiling isn’t low, but it’s not high. And it’s not because there’s not projection left. There’s not much projection left in JB Bukauskas either. But his ceiling is much higher because his stuff is much better.

    • Mike

      I too am from Louisville and watch Mckay all the time. He is a steady talented performer , both on the mound and at 1st base. But I don’t see him as a #2 overall pick talent . My position is think long term and go for the High school raw talent this year . Given the history of failure with High school first round pitchers taken in the draft over the years, go for the high ceiling high school position player.

  6. Greenfield Red

    If they are taking a Pitcher, it must mean they are going to sign Luis Robert! Right?

    • Doug Gray

      We can hope.

      But until we see him actually being available, I’m not holding my breath.

      • Greenfield Red

        Me either.

        As you mentioned, he is a prospect you find money for. If he becomes available, I hope they do.

  7. Champ Summers

    Not exactly a draft class to do flips over. Let’s hope the rest of the season allows for someone to distinguish themselves as a clearer choice.

  8. Norwood Nate

    McKay would rank no higher than fifth if I were picking. I still have Lewis, Greene, Faedo, and Bukaskus as the top 4

  9. Steve

    Doug, with Greene and McKay at the top of the draft boards currently as the best 2 way high school and college players, if the Reds drafted either, do you see them pigeonholing them to a position from the start or allowing them to play multiple positions? Doing it at the high school level is totally different than at the college level. That being said, Greene has more upside, but McKay a more polished player right now. McKay is a 2 time Olerud winner, likely to win his 3rd this year. Leake was a SS/P, Lorenzen OF/P, both were pitchers from the start of their professional careers. I think at the same point of their careers, McKay is the best hitter among he 3, Leake or McKay the best pitcher. Lorenzen was a reliever, so not a good comparison. To me, McKay is similar to Shohei Otani, the Babe Ruth of Japanese Pro Baseball at the moment, although at a lower level obviously. Otani was allowed to be a 2 way player from the start and has prospered in both areas. Many talented players have made transitions as a hitter/ pitcher after not being productive in one of the areas. Maybe Kenley Jansen the most successful recently moving from catcher to closer. Just wanted to hear your opinion on 2 way players in general and the handling of such a player if drafted by the Reds. Personally, if we drafted either, I’d like to see them remain a 2 way player in the Reds organization.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t think any team would let either of those two guys play both. If you took them in the second round, maybe you let that happen. But that high in the draft, with the money it’s going to take to sign them, no way you let them do both.

      • Wes

        Yeah idk. McCay might be once in a blue moon type player. If he’s the best hitter and pitcher in college baseball – why force either? Let it play out at the next level.

        Where McCay lacks in project ability he makes up for in already ability- As proven as proven gets. That should go a very long way. I’m not blasting reds for taking him even if he’s a future 1st baseman. U can trade him when needed.

        As of now I prefer Lewis but McCay is right choice for this mock draft.

      • Doug Gray

        Because when you are focusing on both, you probably don’t develop your full potential in either.

  10. Simon Cowell

    Pitchers are to risky these days are we are finding out. Draft a bat sign a pitcher via free agency or trade, or go get that arm internationally.

    • Doug Gray

      You see what the Mike Leake’s of the world are making? The Reds will never compete if they can’t develop #1 or #2 guys through the draft.

      • Simon Cowell

        well better chance of getting a Bryant and trading for minor league pitching talents. Or signing some hot stuff Cuban for a few years before he wants half a billion dollars even before his American Citizenship papers come in.

      • Wes

        You just have to find mike leake at right time- like strailey and any number of guys who put it together later in career or bounce back after being down. Always more value there even if you missed vs paying max money at height of pitchers career.

        Somehow, I agree with simon. I want more than just a guy who projects as top starter. To much risk. McCay has something to fall back on if pitching don’t work.

      • Doug Gray

        Planning on a fallback five years from now isn’t something I’m concerned about at all when drafting #2 overall. If that’s your 3rd rounder, sure, I might let that come into play.

  11. Arnold Ziffle

    DG,
    From your 2016 post season top-25 prospects list, it looks as if 4 players on it will move up to the ML by your next rankings. Are your next rankings in mid-season of 2017? I am making that assumption. Barring any trades, it looks as if RStephenson, Winker, Garrett, and Austin Brice will move on. There might be a few who fall out through non-performance, but that will have to play out.
    So, with these 4 most likely to graduate, what 4 prospects on the outside of your top-25 now, have the best shot to make it in your next rankings. To commemorate the NCAA basketball tourney starting today, who would be your next 4 in? As it stands today. I know technically speaking, you have 27 now in your top-25, and losing 4 makes for only 2 openings. But what the hey, lets take 4.
    I hope you get to see a lot of Scott Moss in AZ. I think this is one guy that will have people buzzing by late July.

    • Doug Gray

      Yes, I won’t be updating my new rankings until probably July. There’s little point in doing so until after the draft.

      I’d slide Rookie Davis up now because he is showing velocity again. Not really sure who I’d put next. Trahan, Hanson, Lopez, LaValley, Daal, Vincej, Siri – that’s probably the group I’d be picking from.

    • The Duke

      NostraDukeus’ top 10 Reds 2018 prospects and their projected starting level for 2018

      1. Nick Senzel, 3B, AAA
      2. Taylor Trammell, OF, A+
      3. Royce Lewis, SS, A-
      4. Vlad Gutierrez, RHP, AA
      5. Aristides Aquino, RF, AAA
      6. Tony Santillan, RHP, A+
      7. Luis Castillo, RHP, AAA
      8. Tyler Mahle, RHP, AAA
      9. Shed Long, 2B, AA
      10. TJ Friedl, CF, AA

      Graduated: Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano, Rookie Davis, Jesse Winker, Amir Garrett, Austin Brice

      • Arnold Ziffle

        I like it. I was unsure whether to graduate Romano or Davis. I noticed that #3. I like it too, but only if Greene is taken #1.
        I am hopeful that this is Phillip Ervin’s year, if so he should be in that group.

      • Cguy

        I noticed Luis Robert was not on your list. Is that because you don’t think the Reds can sign him or because you like Friedl, Long, Mahle, etc. better?

      • The Duke

        There’s been nothing to indicate we are more likely to sign him than anyone else who isn’t under penalty. The only sort of rumor I’ve heard hinted the White Sox.

  12. Sandheel

    I so hope they are wrong on McKay.

    Living in Chapel Hill, I’vegotten to see Bakauskas and he is awesome against college opponents.

    Where does ACC baseball compare Ie High A or AA?

    • The Duke

      Rookie ball complex league. Everyone in the complex leagues is a professional baseball player with several players with huge upside. Not every college player on even the best teams will play professionally. College teams might have 1-2 players ready to play in full season ball at the most usually.

    • Doug Gray

      To echo what The Duke said…. most GOOD college teams only have 3-4 guys that will ever see Advanced-A ball, much less get beyond there, and almost none of them are ever ready to step into that league right out of the gate. Think about a team like the Billings Mustangs – it’s mostly college guys, and it’s the best college guys from each of their respective teams. Minor League Baseball is much deeper in raw ability than any college team could dream of.

  13. John

    Doug, why is Jeren Kendall projected so high? His college hitting numbers seem very average, and he’s not a big guy at all.

    • Doug Gray

      Because his tools are all very, very good. He’s a center fielder who could hit 20 home runs, steal 35 bases, win a gold glove and hit for a solid average. Guys like that don’t grow on trees. He’s got to cut down on the strikeouts for me to take him at #2, but when you’re just comparing his tools to the tools from other guys in the draft class, he’s near the top.

      • DanD

        Sounds like stats of Andrew McCutchen. I would take Andrew at #2. Doug, do you see him being that kind of player?

      • Doug Gray

        Right now, no. There’s too much swing and miss in his game for that to be a likely scenario. He’s a little more explosive, tools wise, than Drew Stubbs was, but not by much. That’s who he reminds me of – plenty of tools, questions about the ability to make contact. Hopefully the people the get their hands on Kendall understand what he is and what he isn’t. Don’t try to turn him into a groundball hitter like the Reds tried with Stubbs. Let the guys power play – hit it in the air.

      • Greenfield Red

        Initially, I was all about Kendall, but the guy just strikes out way too much in college. If he showed improvement this year, I’d be all for it, but he hasn’t. He could be anywhere between McCutcheon and Drew Stubbs. The strike out rate makes it look closer to Stubbs.

  14. Paul

    Doug, if Senzel were in this year’s draft instead of last year’s, where do you think he would rank?

    • Doug Gray

      Right now, 1st or 2nd. That could change depending on how the season plays out for a few guys, though. And, of course, that’s assuming we are ranking Senzel from March 2016, and not Senzel of March 2017.

    • Doug Gray

      Worth noting that some schools are much better at updating/uploading information than others. Not all games, even for teams that are good at keeping up to date, are available. It’s better than nothing, though.

  15. Bill

    On the college front, level of competition rises this weekend as more conferences begin weekend conference games.

  16. Tyler

    You can watch Bukauskas pitch on the Watchespn app at 6pm eastern tonight.