Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 25

Any team would love to get the upside of Amir Garrett with a 22nd round pick. The southpaw’s inexperience on the diamond while pursuing a basketball career kept him around for the late selection and now that he’s given up hoops Cincinnati will work full time bringing his high-90’s fastball up through their system.

It’s February and Amir Garrett is not on the Cal-Northridge roster. That may be bad news for the Matadors, but the Cincinnati Reds are happy to finally get a chance to work with the fire-baller without sharing his interests with college basketball. He had previously been managing two sports while playing hoops at St. John’s before leaving to continue his career at Northridge. However, after he sat out a transfer year last August a Twitter feed from CountonAG@Amir_Garrett proclaimed “It’s time to marry the game and I said yeah I do. Baseball I’m all yours!!!”

Previously Garrett had been a highly-rated basketball recruit before playing in the Big East. He actually prepped at a Las Vegas high school known for showcasing talent on the hardwood and didn’t even have a baseball program. As it turned out his athletic career eventually took a major turn years after he showed off a high-90’s fastball in a tryout in front of some MLB scouts.

Even though he got attention from multiple teams, he was the epitome of a raw recruit and was still available for a 22nd round selection in the 2011 draft. It might have been a late pick, but that didn’t stop Cincinnati from offering a $1 million bonus to sign. Since then he’s been laboring in the lower level of their farm system….when available. Now the Reds can work fulltime on polishing the slender (6’5”/210#) southpaw’s delivery. The game may not give him any advantage for his vertical leap, but he does possess a basketball wingspan that is used to generate extra torque when he dials up the velocity.

He has already had some moments while playing baseball part-time. He got knocked around in the Arizona League during his debut, but started out sharp in a handful of games at Billings the next year which sent him to Dayton where he got lit up in eight appearances at the end of the season. It was a different story when he returned to the Dragons for a full season last year and kept a 3.64 ERA over 27 starts while striking out almost one batter per inning.

At first glimpse, Garrett looks like a poor man’s version of Aroldis Chapman. Given the Cuban Missile’s dominance closing over the past few years a prospect that is any version of him is good reason for excitement. Garrett’s upside should be realized more and more as he develops consistency.

At Dayton his walk rate per nine innings was around mid-three, but his high K-rate still provided a K/BB ratio of 2.5. He’ll turn 23 years old in May and sharing time with basketball has probably delayed his progress. Still, there’s good reason to believe that command will improve as he develops repeatability in his delivery.

An old adage in basketball is that “you can’t teach height” and perhaps baseball’s version is “you can’t teach velocity”. Garrett still has good upside remaining as he adds arm strength while his body fills out. He’s on the Reds 40-man roster now, but an MLB debut in 2015 is probably too ambitious for a prospect that has yet to see action above low-A. Look for him to start this season at Cincinnati’s new high-A affiliate at Daytona Beach with an eye out to move him across the state to Pensacola by the end of the year. Garrett is a high risk/high reward prospect and dedication to the sport will improve Cincinnati’s chances of enjoying a reward in one of their future pitching staffs.

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