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Reds’ No. 1 draft pick offers optimism for current team: A fan’s reaction
The Cincinnati Reds' first-round pick of Robert Stephenson might result in the team's long-term signing of one of its most popular current players. According to Baseball America, Stephenson, a high school pitcher, was not expected to go until later in the first round.
The magazine's draft preview issue predicted that the Reds might choose Kolten Wong, an infielder from the University of Hawaii. Wong was ranked as the No. 1 second baseman in the draft, as well as the second best pure hitter at the college level. Baseball America also ranked him as having the third best strike zone judgment, a quality currently lacking at the top levels of the organization.
The 5-9, 180-pound Wong might have become the ideal leadoff hitter for a team that hasn't had one since Mariano Duncan during the 1990 World Series championship season. "What he lacks in size, he makes up for in tools," BA says of Wong. "He profiles as an above average hitter who will spray line drives from foul pole to foul pole, and he has a professional approach and a good understanding of the strike zone."
That description could have filled the most glaring need for the current Reds' lineup, where Drew Stubbs'(notes) 81 strikeouts leads the league. However, Reds fans can actually be thankful that Wong was taken with the 22nd pick, five teams before Cincinnati's turn came up.
Baseball America also listed right-hander John Stilson and left-hander Andrew Chafin as likely selections. Stilson led the NCAA with an 0.80 ERA and was second in strikeouts last spring at Texas A&M. Chafin, ranked as the seventh best lefty in the draft, starred at Kent State as both a starter and as a reliever. According to BA, "He has the stuff and makeup to become a number 2 starter or a closer."
With the departure of Francisco Cordero(notes) at the end of this season and the inconsistent use of Aroldis Chapman(notes), the Reds might be in desperate need of a closer in a just a few seasons. Thus, Chafin would have made a good draft selection, based on his scouting report and his local ties.
Both of those pitching prospects were available when the Reds got the opportunity to make the 27th pick of the draft. The organization instead chose right-hander Robert Stephenson. BA reports that he showed a good curveball and a fastball that touched 97 while working the mound at Alhambra High School in Martinez, Calif.
In spite of those two pitches, though, BA still ranked Stephenson as the 12th best right-hander behind John Stilson. Basically, the Reds missed on the top-ranked second baseman, and then passed on the seventh best left-hander and a higher-ranked right-hander when they selected Stephenson.
Reds fans should feel optimistic about the outcome of the draft, for it seems to hint at good news for the more immediate future. Their missing out on the top second baseman indicates that perhaps the Reds will sign All-Star Gold Glover Brandon Phillips(notes), whose contract expires next year, to a long-term deal soon. The fact that they passed on a highly-ranked lefty with closer potential implies that the Reds may actually have a plan for Aroldis Chapman to become the future closer.
Everyone in Cincinnati wishes the best for first-round pick Robert Stephenson, who could very well develop into a mainstay in the Reds' rotation in a few years. For now, we can find hope in the selections the team did not make.
Doug Poe once delivered newspapers to Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan, three customers who have made him a Reds fan.
Baseball America, May 30-June 12
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