The Cincinnati Reds entered Thursday's first round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft with the 19th overall selection and decided to use their pick on University of Virginia right-handed pitcher Nick Howard.
The Maryland native is in the midst of his junior campaign at Virginia where he earned First-Team All-ACC honors. Howard served primarily as the Cavaliers' closer in 2014 en route to posting a 2.15 ERA in 29.1 innings pitched. He limited opposing hitters to a .184 batting average while striking out 50 and walking just 12. In 2013, Howard posted a 6-4 record and 3.38 ERA in 61.1 innings pitch (12 starts).
Here is the scouting report from Baseball America:
"The Cavaliers have moved him to a relief role, where Howard has developed into an aggressive strike-throwing machine with power stuff and malicious intent. He was averaging 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings and had allowed just 18 baserunners through 23 innings. He pitches aggressively off a fastball that ranges from 93-96 mph and touches higher. Howard's curveball comes and goes, at times showing power and 12-to-6 shape, but he doesn't always throw it with conviction. He also throws a slider and changeup at times, all the while employing Virginia's trademark delivery that starts with bent knees. Howard's four-pitch mix and athleticism give him a chance to start, but he could zip to the majors as a reliever."
Howard's baseball skills aren't relegated to strictly the mound either. Similar to Mike Leake, who the Reds drafted in the first round in 2009, Howard is a tremendous athlete as evidenced by the 41 combined starts he made at shortstop and third base for Virginia at shortstop this year.
If you're looking for the next chance to see Howard play, his No. 3 ranked Cavaliers are slated to host the Maryland Terrapins in the Charlottesville Super Regional this weekend, with the winner of the best-of-three series advancing to the College World Series in Omaha.
In case you are curious, here is a quick breakdown at who the Reds used their first pick on in year's past:
2013 - Phil Ervin OF Samford University (27)
2012 - Nick Travieso RHP Archbishop McCarthy High School (FL) (14)
2011 - Robert Stephenson RHP Alhambra High School (CA) (27)
2010 - Yasmani Grandal C University of Miami (12)
2009 - Mike Leake RHP Arizona State University (8)
2008 - Yonder Alonso 1B University of Miami (7)
2007 - Devin Mesoraco C Punxsutawney High School (PA) (15)
Other notable first round picks include Jay Bruce in 2005 (12) and Homer Bailey (7) in 2004.
The Reds also received another first round pick (29th overall) by virtue of losing Shin-Soo Choo to the Texas Rangers via free agency. Cincinnati also boasts the 58th and 94th overall selections in the draft.
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