Draft Pick Signings

The short seasons have started and Cincinnati has yet to sign two of their top three picks. Actually they haven't had much of a chance while they've been competing in the College World Series. They have until the middle of next month to join the fold.

In recent history Cincinnati has a good track record for signing picks out of the June amateur draft. However, this season the short season is underway and two of their top three selections remain unsigned. Not to worry though, there's a good reason because they've been busy competing in the College World Series. Top choice Nick Howard and second rounder Taylor Sparks made the trip to Omaha with the University of Virginia and California Irvine. The deadline for signing is Friday, July 18.

Actually Vanderbilt made its mark on the prospective Reds along their championship run. After beating Stanford and compensation pick Alex Blandino in the regional final they knocked off Sparks and the Anteaters along their way to a birth in the championship series. Upon arrival they found the Cavaliers and Howard awaiting them in a best of three series that ended with a 9-8 decision in the elimination game.

Now that their collegiate seasons have been completed they can focus on whether or not they will turn pro. It's expected they will because their other option would be to return for a senior season which would significantly handicap their negotiations one year from now after they've exhausted their college eligibility. That's the reason why most early selections of college players normally sign for bonuses not far off of recommended slot value.

It was right at slot that the Reds inked Blandino, third rounder Wyatt Strahan, and fifth rounder Teejay Anton. They went over slot for fourth rounder Gavin LaValley and seventh rounder Shane Mardirosian who were both drafted out of high school. Those two bonuses combined for around $300,000 over slot. That was recovered when they lowballed picks 8-10, Brian O'Grady, Brian Hunter, and Seth Varner (all college seniors), each with bonuses between $5-10,000. In all they saved $274,000 that can be applied to bonuses for double digit picks pending the outcome of their negotiations with Howard and Sparks.

One of their later picks with was twelfth rounder Montrell Marshall, the cousin of All Star second baseman Brandon Phillips who had a scholarship offer to the University of Georgia. The infielder was a nice sign and is currently on the 60-day disabled list for the Arizona Reds. Also there are still five more unsigned picks from their first thirty rounds: Roderick Bynum (18th round/high), Isaac Anderson (19th/JC), Tyler Parmenter (21st/ Arizona Jr), Robert Byckowski (22nd/HS), and Dustin Cook (28th, JC). Anderson turned down a 34th round selection to return to junior college last year, Cook has been drafted three times now, and Parmenter was a 15th round selection coming out of high school. Byckowski, the son of a Cincinnati scout, is reportedly leaning toward playing at Florida Gulf Coast. Bynum is one of the higher-rated prospects to come out of Alaska in a long time and might be a tough sign. All of the Reds picks from the 31st round and after remain unsigned and the interest level of the franchise is unknown. They did eventually ink their final selection of the 2013 draft, P.J. Cerreto who made his professional debut in the Arizona League this past week with a couple of scoreless relief outings.

There's good reason to believe that Howard and Sparks will soon come into the fold. The Reds failed to sign only three of their top 24 picks one year ago and none of their picks in the first thirteen rounds. Two that got away (Willie Abreu, 14th round and Brett Morales, 24th) were both considered reaches, players that hung around much later than they would have if not expected to be college-bound. 19th rounder Alex Krupa had plans to stay in-state and play at Indiana University, but ended up at Iowa Western (JC).

Overall the Cincinnati 2014 draft class was built for sign-ability. There were also multiple flyers on pitchers without illustrious college resumes that drew interest from fastballs in the mid-90's. It's improbable that many of them will eventually see MLB duty, but it appears that the Reds feel that if they get enough suspects to work with then some will turn out well. The entry of the third base pipeline appears very flush, but some could move if it means getting some good bats to the plate more while coexisting in lineups with other hot corner competition. Right now the task at hand is working out a deal that would send Howard and Sparks to Billings in the near future.


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