CINCINNATI -- In an even mix on Thursday, the Reds used their five picks on Day 2 of the 2020 MLB Draft to address both power pitching from the college ranks and projectable hitters from the high school level.
Cincinnati’s evening began with its second-round selection (No. 48 overall). The organization took right-handed pitcher Christian Roa out of Texas A&M University.
MLB Pipeline ranked the 6-foot-4 Roa as the No. 89 Draft prospect this year. Scouting reports show his fastball ranges from 92-94 mph, topping at 96 mph. His changeup and curveball are considered above average.
“He’s a big, strong kid who has been in a couple of different roles,” Reds director of amateur scouting Brad Meador said. “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.”
Roa, 21, was 2-1 with a 5.85 ERA in four starts for Texas A&M in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic shut down athletics worldwide. Over 20 innings pitched, Roa gave up 18 hits, walked nine and struck out 35. In his first two outings, he averaged two strikeouts per inning. In ’19, he had a 3.56 ERA in 17 games – including 10 starts – with 46 strikeouts over 48 innings.
“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.”
The Reds drafted high school outfielder Austin Hendrick in the first round on Wednesday.
Here is a look at who else was taken by Cincinnati on Thursday:
Competitive Balance Round B, No. 65 overall: Jackson Miller, C, J.W. Mitchell High School (Fla.)
A left-handed-hitting catcher, Jackson Miller didn’t become a regular behind the plate until his senior season -- and that was cut short after only nine games. However, the 18-year-old had the benefit of working out at an Oldsmar, Fla., facility owned by his father. Some familiar names also use the place, including superstar Pete Alonso and his Mets teammates Marcus Stroman and Dominic Smith. So does former Reds catching prospect Joe Hudson, who played nine big league games for the Angels and Cardinals.
“I was lucky to be able to go there and not have to stop working every day,” Miller said. “I definitely have benefitted, 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 watched Stroman throw bullpen sessions with Hudson and makes it a point to see Alonso hit in the cage to pick up some of what the Major Leaguers do. Scouting reports on Miller indicate an offense-first approach but also someone who has good athleticism and agility behind the plate with an above-average arm. He has treated this time like another offseason and believes he will be up to speed when it comes to catching professionally.
“I know a lot of guys didn’t have the chance to go to a facility like I do every single day,” said Miller, who had a college commitment to Wake Forest. “But being able to get in there and working with the pro catchers who have been through it and a bunch of guys who have hit at the highest level, it’s really benefitted me. I’ve really changed my swing during the pandemic. It’s really helped me a lot.”
Round 3, No. 84 overall: Bryce Bonnin, RHP, Texas Tech University
A 26th-round selection by the Cubs out of high school in 2017, Bryce Bonnin opted for college -- first Arkansas and then Texas Tech. He went to the College World Series with both teams. According to the right-hander, a shoulder injury during his freshman year with the Razorbacks led to his being cut and switching schools.
“Arkansas didn’t think I would recover from [it],” Bonnin said. “Luckily, Tech saw that I probably could. I was able to land there, rehab the fall of my sophomore year and by my sophomore spring, I was 100 percent.
“It definitely taught me how to handle adversity. Leaving Arkansas, it was not easy trying to fit in at another school and start over my sophomore year. I wouldn’t be here without the support of the Tech staff. I’m very grateful for them. I’m grateful for the Arkansas staff, too, because without them, I wouldn’t be here, either.”
Bonnin has a plus fastball that tops out at 97 mph and an above-average slider. However, command of his pitches was an issue. In 67 innings during the ’19 season, he walked 45 batters.
Round 4, No. 113 overall: Mac Wainwright, OF, St. Edward High School (Ohio)
Mac Wanwright holds a record for his Cleveland-area school with three home runs in one game. A 17-year-old right-handed hitter, he is close friends with Hendrick from being on the same East Coast Pro showcase team. However, Wainwright was unable to play because of a stress fracture in his tibia. The Reds had scouts coaching that team and got to know him there, as well as in the fall showcase in Jupiter, Fla., when he was healthy and able to play.
“We feel good about the makeup and know what we’re getting that’s going to put the work in,” Meador said. “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.”
Wainwright, who has a commitment to play for Ohio State, has had throws from the outfield reach 91 mph on the radar -- a product of intense work on his mechanics.
A star wide receiver for St. Edward, Wainwright was recruited to play college football. Big schools were rebuffed because of his commitment to baseball, which he realized bucks a cultural trend.
“Me also being an African American, I am proving a lot of people wrong as it is,” said Wainwright, already wearing a Reds cap. “You see a lot of guys going to play basketball and football, and I’m one of the guys who chose the other route to go play baseball and live that up as my job.
“It’s one of those things that I’ve grown to accept. I have friends who say, ‘Why do you play baseball? Who plays baseball now?’ I love the game. It’s fun for me. I’m out there all the time. No matter what, I could be failing, and I’d still have fun. That pushes me to know that I’m going to be one of the best one day and also as an African American, I can be a role model for a lot of guys like me.”
Round 5, No. 143 overall: Joe Boyle, RHP, Notre Dame
A 6-foot-7, 240-pounder originally from Goshen, Ky., near Louisville, Joe Boyle has reached 102 mph with his fastball. But he walked 13 in 8 1/3 innings during the abbreviated 2020 season. He was 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA and two saves in six games, allowing three hits and striking out 17 batters.
Boyle has one of the biggest power arms in this year’s crop of pitchers, with an 80-grade fastball.
“He’s a guy who throws 100 mph with a plus-breaking ball and shows you all the stuff,” Meador said. “We want to turn him over to our pitching development and see what they come up with. No one is going to wonder why he is there.”
The Reds were even more impressed by Boyle once they saw him in the wood-bat Cape Cod League.
“He had a chance to pitch more and start some games,” Meador said. “So, we saw more innings there when he had an opportunity to pitch a little bit more. We think it’s a huge upside.”