MILWAUKEE -- The Reds were the only club with three selections on the first day of the 2021 MLB Draft. Once they knocked out the No. 17 pick, they quickly turned their attention to two more choices.
Cincinnati received a first-round compensation pick after they lost pitcher Trevor Bauer as a free agent to the Dodgers over the winter. That No. 30 overall selection was used to take Jay Allen, an outfielder from John Carroll Catholic High School in Florida.
Five picks later, at No. 35, the Reds used their Competitive Balance Round A selection to take catcher Matheu Nelson out of Florida State. Nelson was recently named the winner of the Johnny Bench Award as the best collegiate catcher.
Add in the No. 17 pick, UCLA shortstop Matt McLain, and the Reds got three players who play up the middle -- something they coveted going into the Draft.
“We talked a lot about it. We talk a lot about trying to get players who are going to have impact when they get to the big leagues and they're going to be able to stay there for a while,” said Brad Meador, the Reds’ director of amateur scouting. “It's hardest to get those in the middle of the field, we felt fortunate and we're really excited to be able to do that three times tonight.”
Allen, 18, batted .357 in 28 games during his senior year of high school. The No. 30 pick is valued at $2,365,500.
One of a handful of Draft prospects the Reds invited to a workout camp in Florida a few weeks ago, Allen spent some 1-on-1 time talking with Meador. Allen has a commitment to the Univ. of Florida but demonstrated that he would like to begin his professional career immediately.
“He and I sat in the dugout -- 30-45 minutes -- and had a good long conversation about just that,” Meador said. “That’s what our scouts spend a lot of time on, digging in on the makeup and getting to know the kids. It’s the most important part, especially with a high school player. I just felt like after talking to him, he had all the right answers. We had a good discussion and he convinced me this was the right path for him.”
A 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-handed hitter, Allen was a three-sport athlete in high school – having also played football and basketball. His athleticism is considered a plus attribute.
“That’s what’s so exciting about him. You feel like he’s just scratching the surface in baseball,” Meador said. “He hasn’t ever just focused on baseball and you saw him improve over the summer and even through the spring. He’s only going to get better from here. It’s really an exciting upside.”
Nelson, 22, was named the ACC player of the year after he batted .330 with 23 home runs and 66 RBIs in 53 games for the Seminoles. He is listed at 5-foot-11 and 209 pounds and bats right-handed.
The No. 35 pick is worth $2,095,800.
“He's a really good defensive catcher,” Meador said. “He improved offensively this year, he has really good power and another guy who anyone you talk to will tell you how good of a makeup player he is in college, how tough a kid he is. All the intangibles that go with the position that you're looking for, he has.”