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Reds’ recent No. 1 picks struggling

If there is one thing for Cincinnati Reds fans to be excited about this year it has to be the Major League draft because the Reds get the second overall pick.

After the Philadelphia Phillies make the first pick Thursday night it will be Cincinnati’s turn — a big, big decision for the rebuilding, retooling, refurbishing Reds.

As one scout said, “You don’t want to mess it up.” Too often, the Reds have messed it up.

THERE IS A PROBLEM, though, with the baseball draft. It is an inexact science, a true roll of the dice, like trying to find Santa’s reindeer barn.

Sometimes you get it right and more often you get it wrong. That’s for all teams. And too often in the recent past the Reds haven’t got it right.

It could be even more difficult this year because while the talent pool is thick there doesn’t appear to be any surefire superstars in the mix, no Kris Bryant or Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.

AND LET’S TAKE a peek at what the Reds have done in recent times with their No. 1 picks.

From 2006 to 2010 their No. 1 picks were Drew Stubbs, Devin Mesoraco, Yonder Alonso, Mike Leake and Yasmani Grandal.

Notice anything? Only one of those No. 1 picks is still with the Reds and that’s catcher Devin Mesoraco, who has barely strapped on his gear the last two years due to injuries.

The rest are all playing in the majors, but they are playing for different teams. The Reds, for various reasons, have traded them all, which is something fans don’t like to see done with No. 1 picks.

HOW ABOUT FROM 2011 to 2015? In order, the Reds have selected with their first picks: Robert Stephenson, Nick Travieso, Phillip Ervin, Nick Howard and Tyler Stephenson.

Of those five, the only surefire seems to be pitcher Robert Stephenson, who is already 2-and-0 for his two major league starts but is pitching in Class AAA Louisville, probably impatiently waiting for the phone call to come back.

Travieso, 22, from Pembroke Pines, FL., is making slow progress through the system. He is in his fifth year in the minors and spent the first four in ‘A’ ball. He is pitching this season at Class AA Pensacola and is 3-and-2 with a 5.13 earned run average in eight starts. His minor league career record is 30-and-19 with a 3.64 ERA in 80 starts.

Ervin, a 23-year-old outfielder from Mobile, Ala., was impressive in early spring training games this year, showing something he hasn’t shown in the minors. He is playing at Class AA Pensacola and hitting .233 with five homers and 18 RBI with 37 strikeouts in 190 at bats. For his four-year minor-league career he is hitting .251 with 35 homers, 192 RBI and 279 strikeouts in 1,492 plate appearances.

Howard, the 2014 No. 1 pick, a 23-year-old pitcher out of the University of Virginia, is the biggest enigma. He is in his third year and hasn’t made it out of ‘A’ ball. He is at high ‘A’ Daytona right now and needs GPS to find home plate. In 15 1/3 innings he has given up 12 hits and 24 walks. He has used up 219 pitches to cover those 15 1/3 innings. He pitches in relief and is 7-and-5 with a 5.11 ERA in 61 appearances with three saves for his career.

Last year’s No. 1 pick, 19-year-old Tyler Stephenson, is a catcher from Kennesaw, GA. Like Devin Mesoraco, he was drafted out of high school and will take longer to develop. So far at low Class A Dayton he is hitting .196 in 102 plate appearances with one home run and 10 RBI.

SO THE REDS’ RECENT No. 1 picks aren’t tearing up the baseball world and aren’t grabbing any attention as to the possibility of being future stars.

That makes this year’s pick even more poignant.

Taking a wild guess, depending upon whom the Phillies take, the Reds need position players and probably will take one of three players — University of Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel, Mercer College outfielder Kyle Lewis (who hit a 461-foot home run this year) or University of Louisville outfielder Corey Ray.

Senzel is the most exciting possibility. He hit .352 in 57 games this year for the Volunteers and drove in more than a run a game with 59. He hit eight home runs and 25 doubles, nearly a double every other game.


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