Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Keith Law breaks down Reds draft class

The dust is beginning to settle now that it has been a few days since the conclusion of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft. This means the floodgates are about to open with "experts" publishing their premature evaluations about each team's draft class.

Yesterday, I brought to your attention a grade given to the Reds by the lead writer on prospects from the Bleacher Report. Today, I bring you instant analysis from ESPN Insider and minor league prospects guru Keith Law.

Here is what Law had to say about the Cincinnati's 2014 draft class:

I thought the Reds reached for their first pick, Virginia reliever Nick Howard (Round 1), who has two plus pitches in a relief role but just an average fastball without life or downhill plane when starting. However, I loved their sandwich-round selection, Stanford third baseman Alex Blandino, who was among the best pure hitters in the draft class, with a great swing and outstanding plate discipline that showed this spring and last summer in the Cape Cod League as well. He's more than capable of handling third base, but many scouts liked the idea of moving him to second in pro ball, which I think wastes the value of his 55-60 arm.

Taylor Sparks (Round 2) is an all-or-nothing selection, a third baseman with plus-plus raw power -- Irvine hit 12 homers the whole season, and Sparks had five of them, as well as eight of the team's 22 triples -- but who strikes out at an inordinate rate and needs to tighten up his plate discipline to get to his power with wood.

USC's Wyatt Strahan (No. 3) can hit the mid-90s with some sink -- he didn't give up a homer all spring, although his home park helped with that -- but profiles better as a bullpen arm right now given his command and control. Oklahoma prep hitter Gavin LaValley (Round 4) fits in one of the industry's least-favorite categories, the high school first baseman, and he's not an advanced hitter, but he is very strong with bat speed, so the ball comes off his bat very well. Tejay Antone (Round 5) has a lively low-90s fastball and a loose arm, but his arm action is really long and deliberate, giving hitters a good look at the ball and making it hard for him to repeat it. Jose Lopez (Round 6) was a potential third-rounder before blowing out his elbow this spring, and he could be ready to go for spring training 2015, making his selection in the sixth round a good value play.

For what it's worth, I'm really excited about the potential of LaValley. He absolutely destroyed Oklahoma high school pitching over the past three years as evidenced by his .516/.618/1.126 slash line with 54 home runs and 202 RBI. And although those numbers didn't come against great pitching, nobody hits that well without having at least a good idea of how to handle a bat.

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