Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 21

As other players ready themselves for the diamond this spring Amir Garrett is concentrating on helping the St. John's basketball team make some noise in March Madness. The sophomore is averaging 7.4 ppg for the Red Storm as the Reds await the chance to work on developing the 6'6" lefty's raw skills on the mound.

Cincinnati has shown that they are clearly not risk adverse when it comes to signing raw, high-ceiling talent. Amir Garrett might be the biggest example of all the prospects in their system. They selected him in the 22nd round of the 2011 draft. He's probably the only MLB draftee from Findlay (NV) College Prep because the basketball powerhouse does not have a baseball program. Inexperience makes him high risk, but that didn't dismay the Reds signing him with a $1 million bonus.

The biggest handicap to his baseball progress has been an inability to commit to the sport full time while he plays basketball at St. John's. In the meantime the Reds will await completion of his collegiate duties as they try to develop him and his mid-90's fastball into a major league pitcher with the time available. He's also working on a breaking pitch and has a feel for a changeup. Understandably his delivery is raw resulting in a lack of consistency, but his 6'6" frame has an 80" wingspan making providing additional leverage as he polishes it.

The Reds signed him to a two-sport contract which spreads the bonus over five years as they compete with the hardwood for his full attention. He did make his professional debut in 2012 and got knocked around in a handful of appearances in the Arizona Rookie League before throwing six scoreless innings for Billings. Before last year the only data they had on him was a workout in front of some scouts. His performance there in spite of an absence of high school experience left an impression that the game comes very naturally for him.

Garrett will likely celebrate his 22nd birthday this year while playing at Billings, which isn't bad for his age, especially for a part-timer. One would think that he'd be facing batters at a higher level next season had he gone down the same path as other prospects that prepped in high school. However for the time being Garrett intends to pursue both sports which will probably affect his development schedule. Perhaps the Reds can work out a deal to get him exclusively, but his athletic ability and defensive skills make it hard for him to shut the door on basketball. Of course his contract made him ineligible to play baseball for the Red Storm.

Had hoops not been in the equation his raw skills would have been enough for an early round selection. The Reds have been successful adding talent in late rounds by reaching in their pockets to bring young players with sign-ability questions into the organization. Garrett is a different because his college eligibility in the other sport did not go away when he signed on the dotted line. They don't have to worry about other MLB teams while he's under contract, but if his 36" vertical lead may cause the Reds to face competition from another high revenue sport.

In the meantime who knows how far his skills can take him? Lack of experience does not mean lack of ability and for Garrett to draw so much attention could be a reason to think the sky is the limit when said experience is added. Unfortunately for the Reds it does not appear that will happen in the immediate future, but this young man is a lottery ticket that could stir up a lot of excitement on the mound someday.

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