While it now appears certain that there will not be Minor League Baseball this year, there are still things to think about with regards to prospects and how current changes to the game will impact your fantasy roster going forward. I thought I would take a look at who the Reds should target in the 2020 draft. It was just announced that the Draft will take place over two nights, June 10th and 11th, which will go 5 rounds with a $20,000 cap on signing bonuses for undrafted players after the first five rounds. These changes, I believe, will prompt teams to go after the best available players right away rather than playing “draft games” and waiting to see if they can get a guy in later rounds; the competition to sign undrafted players from rounds six on will be fierce, given the signing bonus cap. This year, teams face the additional challenge of trying to make draft pick decisions without the usual benefit of seeing these players in games over a period of months, instead having to go off of just 4 weeks of game action for colleges, prior seasons, player makeup, and other sources of information that may not be entirely current.
The following are college players I would like to see the Reds target in this year’s abbreviated draft. Initially I felt that the Reds should aim for mostly pitchers, since their minor league pitching depth is pretty sparse after Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Tony Santillan, and perhaps Vladimir Gutierrez. But having looked over Baseball America’s top college and high school prospects lists, I realized that the pitching depth in this year’s draft class is quite expansive, and that the Reds’ first base and second base depth is alarmingly shallow. Accordingly, the players I’ve chosen are guys I think could help out in those areas.
Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma – the big 6’4, 218 lb. right hander had previously been a two-way player, handling DH duties on days he wasn’t pitching. His offerings include an above-average fastball that sits in the mid 90s and touches 98, a sweeping curveball with nasty sink, a slider and a changeup, all of which he throws with a clean, low effort delivery from a three-quarters arm slot. In 2019, in 60 innings pitched, he finished the season with a 3.28 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP, and a 8.8 K/9. Cavalli has dealt with some injury issues over the past few seasons; a back injury in 2017 and a stress reaction in his right arm in 2019, so there is some risk but the upside with his stuff is at least interesting.
Aaron Sabato, 1B, UNC – at 6’2, 230 lbs, Sabato is every bit the first baseman in body type and frame; as you might expect, power is his calling hard, mashing 18 homers in 230 AB last year at UNC, while hitting .343/.453/.696, and an impressive 12.6% walk rate. However, he currently is viewed as below average defensively, and the strikeouts were also a bit high in 2019. But if all goes well with his development, he could become a more consistent, reliable version of Ibandel Isabel.
Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State – I couldn’t find much on him from a scouting perspective, but from video I’ve seen of him, I love his hitting mechanics; he appears to have strong arms, an athletic build, quick hands and strong instincts defensively. He hit 14 home runs in 2019 at Mississippi State, the most he’s hit in his young career so far but from that swing, I see more of that power coming. In 309 plate appearances last year, he hit .331/.395/.564 with a 9-10% walk rate the past two seasons. The Reds’ depth at second base isn’t great, so Foscue could be a nice pickup. He’s also played some 3rd which gives them even more flexibility.
Alec Burleson, LHP/OF, East Carolina – an interesting two-way player, Burleson is not “jump off the page” spectacular at either hitting or pitching, but certainly good enough to be useful in either situation as needed. On the offensive side of things, he hit .375/.440/.547 in 75 plate appearances this year before COVID-19 shut down baseball at all levels. On the mound, he ended his 2019 season with 68 strikeouts in 60 innings, with 4 home runs and 26 walks. In 23 innings this year, he cut down on the walks (only 4) and struck out 22.
Slade Cecconi, RHP, Miami – the big 6’4 hurler for the University of Miami throws a fastball that sits regularly at 96 mph, a curveball, slider, changeup, and cutter, all of which seem to be fairly well developed already, with good late life and movement, as you can see in the video below. He spent time both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen last season, finishing the year with a 4.16 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 10 strikeouts per nine innings. I was impressed with the pure stuff he has.