In the 2007 draft the Reds took 4 kids in the first 10 rounds. They started off by taking 17 year old RHP Kyle Lotzkar out of Canada with one of their two supplemental first round draft picks. In the third round they took Neftali Soto, a shortstop out of Puerto Rico at the age of 18. With their sixth round pick they went back to Canada to select RHP Evan Hildenbrandt. In the ninth round they took another kid out of Puerto Rico when they selected Alexis Oliveras.
Both Lotzkar and Hildenbrandt began their respective seasons in extended spring training but both have turned it on now that they are playing. Lotzkar was promoted to Low A Dayton to pitch with the Dragons on June 13th and he hasn’t looked back. His control was a bit rough over his first four outings (15 walks in 16 innings) but has walked just 3 batters in his last 10 innings pitched. Despite being the youngest starting pitcher in the league he is striking out 33% of the batters that he has faced this season in the Midwest League with his low 90s fastball (up to 96 MPH) and plus curveball. The Reds have him on a strict pitch count for now, which is why he hasn’t gone past 5 innings in an outing to this point. The 18 year old currently has a 3.81 ERA (3.51 FIP ERA) through his first 6 starts (26 innings) to go with 38 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Evan Hildenbrandt is a nearly a year older than Lotzkar at the ripe age of 19 and is pitching for the GCL Reds currently. The righty has a low 90s fastball as well and also throws a good curveball, although its still inconsistent. He has been the best pitcher on the GCL Reds staff as he has posted a 1.16 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP through his first 23.1 professional innings. He has 16 strikeouts and 7 walks.
Puerto Rican Flavor
The Reds went to the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy to get Neftali Soto and Alexis Oliveras in the draft. Soto is the All time High School HR record holder in Puerto Rico as he broke the old record held by Juan Gonzalez. He was the highest draftee out of Puerto Rico last year and he is showing why. Coming off an .807 OPS last year in the GCL he was sent to Billings this year and just tore the cover off the ball to the tune of .388/.423/.746 through 67 at bats before being promoted to Dayton to take over for an injured Brandon Waring. He hasn’t slowed down with the promotion to Dayton as he is hitting .400/.412/.600 in his first few games with the Dragons. Soto has been an extra base hit machine with 18 of them 82 at bats.
Alexis Oliveras got off to a slow start last year, but was considered a raw player who may take a little time. The centerfielder has come out swinging this season though. The former ninth round pick is hitting .405/.488/.514 with 6 walks and 8 strikeouts in 43 trips to the plate for the GCL Reds. Its early, but he has made big improvements to his contact rate as well as his walk rate which is leading to his success.