Reds focus on college talent on Draft Day 2

July 12th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- The second day of the 2021 MLB Draft saw the Reds leaning hard toward college talent, pitching and up-the-middle position players once again.

“It just evolved that way. We certainly were targeting best available and trying to balance out the portfolio, and it did end up being a bunch more college guys today,” said Joe Katuska, the Reds’ assistant director of scouting and national crosschecker. “We’re trying to balance it and get a good mix, starting with up-the-middle-players and pitchers, and really everyone that has ability, we’re trying to get in the boat.”

After picking UCLA shortstop Matt McLain at No. 17, high school outfielder Jay Allen at No. 30 and Florida State catcher Matheu Nelson at No. 25 on Day 1, the Reds continued to replenish their pipeline on Day 2 in Rounds 2-10. By going heavy on college players, who usually get lower bonuses than high school talent, they can frontload their pool of bonus money on McLain, Allen and Nelson.

“Yeah, obviously, you have to make all the pool money work, and we anticipate being able to sign all of our guys. That’s definitely part of it,” Katuska said.

Here are the Day 2 selections made by Cincinnati on Monday:

Round 2, 53rd overall: Andrew Abbott, LHP, Virginia

Notable Skill: Abbott’s best attribute is his competitiveness. After not being selected during the five-round 2020 MLB Draft, he bet on himself in returning to the University of Virginia and became a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist. A dominant reliever for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2019, Abbott’s attitude and competitive fire have transitioned well into a starter’s role, as has his powerful fastball-curve combination. Area scouts believe that his control and command mean he can be a starter long term, but there is also a chance he makes it to the big leagues sooner as a reliever.

Fun Fact: Abbott finished third in Division I baseball with 162 strikeouts this season (in 106 2/3 innings), trailing only Jack Leiter (drafted No. 2 overall) and Kumar Rocker (drafted No. 10 overall) in that category.

Quotable: “Can’t believe the draft so far for the Reds! Getting Andrew Abbott this late is another steal in the 2nd Rd … This dude can be a starter or a dominant lefty out of the pen!” -- Former Reds reliever and two-time All-Star Danny Graves on Twitter

Round 3, 89th overall: Jose Torres, SS, NC State

Notable Skill: Torres is a plus defender, with a 60-grade fielding tool and a 60-grade arm, according to MLB Pipeline. Unlike with a significant portion of Draft prospects, scouts have little doubt that Torres can excel in the big leagues at a premium position, such as shortstop. He has a large defensive range, soft hands and advanced instincts for his age.

Fun Fact: Torres came through in the clutch for NC State earlier this year, clobbering a ninth-inning go-ahead home run that sent the Wolfpack to the College World Series. The Dominican infielder is the latest in the line of NC State shortstops selected in the MLB Draft, joining notables such as All-Star Trea Turner (2014) and first-round pick Will Wilson (2019).

Quotable: “NC State!!! Jose Torres!!!” -- Seattle Seahawks quarterback and former Wolfpack infielder Russell Wilson on Twitter, after Torres' postseason heroics

Round 4, 119th overall: Ruben Ibarra, 1B, San Jose State

Notable Skill: Right-handed power. A large and imposing figure at 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, Ibarra showed plenty of power this season while leading San Jose St. in batting average (.381), OPS (1.353), hits (30), home runs (14) and RBIs (32) over 35 games.

Fun Fact: Ibarra’s grandfather and uncle are professional steer wrestlers. The Watsonville, Calif., native also enjoys doing hot yoga.

Quotable: “Light-tower power with a good approach. I had a scout say that he’s built like an offensive tackle. He gets to that power a decent amount.” -- reporter and Draft expert Jonathan Mayo

Round 5, 150th overall: Thomas Farr, RHP, South Carolina

Notable Skill: A transfer from junior college before 2020, Farr has done a good job of maintaining his fastball velocity and command. He generally keeps it in the 93-95 mph range, but he can max out at 97 mph.

Fun Fact: Majored in sports and entertainment management at South Carolina.

Quotable: “He found a spiked curve during the pandemic layoff that’s really worked well for him. He’s got a changeup with sink. He did not have the best delivery in junior college, and cleaned it up a bit. It gives him a chance to be a starter going forward.” -- Draft expert Jim Callis

Round 6, 180th overall: Justice Thompson, OF, North Carolina

Notable Skill: In his one season at UNC after transferring from junior college, Thompson earned second-team All ACC honors, and according to Callis, drew a scouting comparison to Twins outfielder and slugger Byron Buxton. He has raw power, but a lot of swing and miss. Thompson should benefit from the Reds' development system when it comes to learning how to make more contact. Defensively, he can cover a lot of ground and he has an average arm.

Fun Fact: In the first ACC game of his career, vs. Virginia on Feb. 25, Thompson went 3-for-4 with a 415-foot home run, a double, a bunt single and a stolen base. He also robbed Virginia of a homer with a leaping catch at the fence.

Quotable: “He actually went to King High School in Tampa, where two of our scouts went to high school -- so we’ve known about him for a little while. … He didn’t play much baseball growing up, and he only had one offer for colleges. He went to Northwest Florida for Junior College first and we scouted him there last spring and liked him, and obviously, with the five-round Draft [in 2020], it didn’t end up working out. But we followed him to North Carolina, knew a little about him and liked what he did. Really good athlete, developing bat, he has power, he can run. He can play center field, there’s a bright future for him.” -- Katuska

Round 7, 210th overall: Kevin Abel, RHP, Oregon State

Notable Skill: Pitch ability. Abel has a plus changeup with a good breaking ball, but an average fastball. Although his walk rate went up in 2021 after the pandemic shut him down last year, he is capable of being a solid command pitcher.

Fun Fact: Abel won four games in the 2018 College World Series as a freshman, including a complete game in the clincher to win the title.

Quotable: “He can really pitch. It’s not tremendous velocity, but it’s a really good changeup, and we think we can develop him. He’s a little different profile from some of the other guys; there are different things about each guy that we liked. It’s not just one sort of profile that we were after.” -- Katuska

Round 8, 240th overall: Hunter Parks, RHP, Florence-Darlington Tech

Notable Skill: According to the MLB Pipeline scouting report, Parks has a whippy arm that can produce low-90s fastballs that peak at 95 mph. He was a two-way player in high school, but he focused only on pitching once he started at the junior college level. His slider and changeup have potential, but he will need to develop them to become a true three-pitch pitcher. Parks helped pitch his school into the Junior College World Series.

Fun Fact: He has a commitment to transfer to the University of South Carolina.

Quotable: “The five-round Draft [in 2020] limited a lot of guys’ opportunities. We followed him into this year, and we were able to have about six scouts see him this spring. We feel pretty comfortable with that one.” -- Katuska

Round 9, 270th overall: Jack Rogers, OF, Sam Houston State

Notable Skill: After hitting 14 home runs over his first three college seasons, Rogers really accessed his power in 2021 with 16 homers, all while batting .367 with a 1.170 OPS and 55 RBIs in 55 games. In an April 3 game at Central Arkansas, he slugged three homers with a career-high six RBIs.

Fun Fact: He was the teammate of Colton Cowser, the fifth overall pick by the Orioles on Sunday.

Quotable: “Obviously, Jack has a lot of power, and that's what guys like right now. His versatility as a position player, being able to play a couple places, is good too.” -- Sam Houston head coach Jay Sirianni, to The Huntsville Item

Round 10, 300th overall: Donovan Benoit, RHP, Tulane

Notable Skill: A big right-hander, Benoit can throw between 92-96 mph, but he lost his spot as a weekend starter for Tulane during a 2021 season in which he had a 5.64 ERA in 15 games (nine starts). He has a chance to either start or be a bullpen arm as a professional, as well.

Fun Fact: Benoit has been pitching in the Cape Cod League ahead of this year’s Draft and improved his stock while also showing a decent slider.

Quotable “We’ve seen three pitches from him, and think we can develop him as a starter, but we know there’s that high-octane stuff that could fit into a back-end role.” -- Katuska