Emerging themes from the Reds' 2023 Draft class

July 11th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- The Reds completed the three-day 2023 MLB Draft on Tuesday, but they have little time to exhale after selecting 21 players.

Now the process begins to get contracts completed with as many players as possible and to get their pro career started at the team's complex in Goodyear, Ariz., and then, hopefully, the Minors.

"We’ll get them signed," Reds amateur scouting director Joe Katuska said. "We should have guys traveling to Goodyear and starting the process shortly. Once we figure out their ramp-up and get them back in game shape, we’ll get them on to active rosters pretty quickly."

Here are four takeaways from the Reds’ efforts in the Draft.

1. Selected pitchers were starters or relievers that could be converted to starters
Cincinnati certainly loaded up on pitchers -- 13 of them -- just like all organizations do each year. The club mixed it up, as it selected righties, lefties, power arms and those with advanced ability with their secondary pitches -- like top pick Rhett Lowder.

"Really trying to recognize what each individual guy's strengths are and figuring out how that fits in. We don’t want just all pitchability guys or all stuff guys," Katuska said. "We want to have a blend of it and understand where they fit and how we can develop each guy individually."

The unifying factor all of the pitchers have is a starting pitcher profile.

"If we miss, we want to miss to the bullpen, but we don't really like drafting relief pitchers straight out of the gates," Katuska said. "The best relievers are generally developed as starters. You want to start with the starting pitcher profile, and that’s going to be three pitches and delivery and arm action that’s conducive to handle the workload.”

2. College athletes accounted for most selections
Of the 21 players selected, 16 were from college and five were high schoolers. In 2022, 18 of the Reds' 22 selections came from colleges. 

There are a couple of reasons why college players are more attractive to teams. Their signing bonuses are often smaller because high school players have the negotiating leverage of a college commitment if they don't sign. College players also usually have an express path through player development to the big leagues.

"You have to fit into the financials. We’re working with a [bonus] pool," Katuska said. "We won’t go over that and lose a first-rounder next year. A lot of them, you feel much more comfortable slotting them into the system and getting their pro careers started than some of the high school guys that will take a bit longer to get going."

3. Stafura was pivotal
The Reds used their second-round pick (No. 43 overall) to take high school shortstop Sammy Stafura on Sunday night. Stafura, who has a college commitment to Clemson, was the No. 32-ranked Draft prospect by MLB Pipeline. Taking him affected how the rest of the team's Draft board was handled. 

"We were really excited to get him. We didn’t think he’d still be on the board when we made that selection, so that was a nice surprise," Katuska said. "When you take a high school shortstop, it probably deprioritizes some of the other [picks]. You have to be able to make sure you can have playing time for them all the way through. 

"We’re always about [taking the] best player available, and [player development] has been great communicating with us. They always tell us we can figure out a way, but we do have to understand they have to play to develop. Making sure we find guys who fit into the system is key."

4. Two-way player among Day 3 picks
When the Reds used their 17th-round pick to take JeanPierre Ortiz out of Chipola College in Florida, they listed him as a two-way player. Ortiz, who went to the same junior college as 2022 Reds first-rounder Cam Collier, pitches and plays shortstop. The club scouted him hard when Ortiz played in high school for IMG Academy. 

"He decided to go to Chipola and maintain Draft eligibility this year," Katuska said. "He’s a really good defensive shortstop. The bat has progressed nicely over the last year. We’ve seen him pitch a couple times. He’s very natural on the mound for a guy who has not pitched much. He gets it really quickly. We hope we can sign him. Certainly no guarantees right now."

If Ortiz does sign, the Reds see him as a shortstop and would prioritize that.  

"It’s always easier to catch up with a pitcher. To develop as a hitter, you need to get those consistent at-bats," Katuska said. "If the game tells him pitching is the better option, I think he’s open to it."