Following the five-round 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft, MiLB.com takes an organization-by-organization look at each pick with help from team scouting executives.
For Reds director of amateur scouting Brad Meador, the 2020 Draft was time to take some risks.
“We talked about taking some chances on some guys with some higher ceilings, especially with how good we think we are doing with player development now on both sides,” he told Cincinnati.com. “We kept saying, ‘Let’s get some big engines.’ We felt like across the board, we did that.”
Those big engines begin with Austin Hendrick, a big bat out of West Allegheny High School in Pennsylvania, the first of six players drafted by the Reds.
First round: Austin Hendrick (12th pick)
The left-handed hitter has plenty of bat speed and raw power for an 18-year-old but also has a tendency to miss a lot.
“From a physical standpoint, you feel like he’s ready to go compete right now,” Meador told MLB.com. “He doesn’t need to add a bunch of weight or get a lot stronger to be able to compete and move fairly quickly. We think it’s an advanced bat.”
The 6-foot outfielder changed his swing and approach at the plate last summer with the goal of making more contact with the barrel of the bat.
“He was working on it while facing some pretty good competition and still succeeded and was able to incorporate that,” Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. “I think this year, had he played more than the one game and people had seen him, he would’ve been right up there at the top of everybody’s board in terms of potential.”
Drafted as a right fielder, Hendrick possesses a strong arm and the speed to play any position in the outfield.
If he can make more contact, hen should be able to work his way up the ladder quickly. His competition will be sixth-ranked prospect Michael Siani and No. 10 Stuart Fairchild.
“We think he can become a solid Major League player,” Reds general manager Nick Krall said.
Second round: Christian Roa (48th pick)
Roa is a big right-hander (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) with an above-average fastball that tops out at 96 mph. He also throws strikes, averaging just 2.0 walks per nine innings during his career at Texas A&M.
“He’s a big, strong kid who has been in a couple of different roles,” Meador told MLB.com. “We’ve seen him out of the ’pen, we’ve seen him start. He has four solid pitches. His pitchability, we think there is upside there. We think he is a starting pitcher with his best days ahead of him.”
Last year, Roa posted a 3.56 ERA while striking out 46 over 48 frames in 17 games, including 10 starts. In the abbreviated 2020 season, the 21-year-old righty went 2-1 with a 5.85 ERA.
“It’s always really disappointing when you can’t finish a season, especially with your teammates and at a school like A&M,” Roa said. “Obviously, this situation is a lot bigger than baseball, a lot bigger than ourselves. I was definitely sad I wasn’t able to finish the season with A&M, but in the end, it turned out OK.”
Of the Reds’ top 30 prospects, 10 are right-handed pitchers, but only a few -- most notably second-ranked Hunter Greene -- can rival Roa's stuff.
Competitive Round B: Jackson Miller (65th pick)
Miller has high upside as an athletic left-handed-hitting catcher. The only problem is that he doesn’t have much experience at the position, having started playing it on a regular basis during his truncated high school season.
Luckily, his father owns a workout facility where he was able to keep working during the offseason.
“I was lucky to be able to go there and not have to stop working every day,” Miller told MLB.com. “I definitely have benefited, actually, from the whole pandemic because I’ve kept in touch with a lot of really good guys that know a lot about being a catcher and the sport in general. I’ve done a lot of catching.”
Miller has an excellent eye at the plate and tends to stay with the pitch, hitting it up the middle. His power, which is considered average right now, should increase as he puts more muscle on his 6-foot frame.
The Reds added catcher Tyler Stephenson to the 40-man roster during the offseason, indicating he's ready to challenge for the role in the Majors. That leaves plenty of room and time for Miller to develop.
Third round: Bryce Bonnin (84th pick)
A 6-foot-2 right-hander out of Texas Tech, Bonnin has four quality pitches, including a fastball that tops out at 96 mph and a slider with a nasty break. Most likely to become a reliever in the pros, he posted a 7.36 ERA in four starts for the Red Raiders this spring.
In 2019, the righty went 7-1 with a 4.64 ERA in 15 games, including 13 starts, striking out 65 over 64 frames while helping his team reach the College World Series.
“There’s always more right-handed pitchers, but in this year’s Draft, specifically, that’s where the strength was, that’s where the depth was,” Meador said. “That’s kind of how it fell. You have to get the pitching, for sure. We took a chance on some guys that we think have a bigger upside. Maybe they haven’t pitched quite as much, but we like the makings of what it could look like.”
Fourth round: Mac Wainwright (113th pick)
An Ohio State commit, Wainwright starred in both baseball and football at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio, receiving offers in both sports.
"We feel good about the makeup and know what we're getting that's going to put the work in," Meador told MLB.com. "He's got the big engine, and we think we can hit big on him. It may take a little bit of time. It's definitely an upside play, but we think we have to take some of those."
At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Wainwright might have been drafted earlier had a stress fracture in his tibia not kept him from taking part in workouts in front of scouts. Only 17, he'll definitely put on some weight and his power, already a strength, should increase.
Still raw, he'll need to be patient as he learns how to be a pro, especially after losing his senior high school season to the pandemic. He’s another player with high-level potential.
Fifth round: Joe Boyle (143 pick)
Boyle can bring the heat. At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, the righty regularly reaches 100 mph on the radar gun. He does have control problems, but the Reds are confident they will be able to help solve them.
“We’ve seen him a bunch,” Meador said of Boyle. “He’s a guy who throws 100 mph with a plus breaking ball and he shows you all his stuff. He’s a big, strong kid whose best days are ahead of him. We just want to turn him over to our pitching development and see what they can come up with. No one is going to wonder why he is there.”
A true reliever, Boyle finished his career at Notre Dame with 57 strikeouts over 36 innings. As the saying goes, you can’t teach someone to throw hard and you can’t teach height, so if Boyle can develop command with his fastball and slider, his chances of rising through the system quickly are good.
Overall outlook: Meador summed up how he felt about the Reds' haul.
“In this Draft, especially where we only got to take six players, we asked our guys to dig in and really make sure we get to know these guys and know what we’re getting,” he said. “And it goes beyond just the tools. We knew we were going to go for some upside, but we wanted to make sure that we had the right makeup on all of these guys. Are they going to put in the work? Are they going to do what we ask? If they’ll do all that, we have everything in place for them to get better.”