Baseball America has released their most recent 2021 Major League Baseball mock draft earlier today. This one involved an “industry insider” making every other pick, while the crew at Baseball America made the other picks in the mock 1st round. You’re going to need a subscription to Baseball America to read the article, so I won’t be giving away too much information. That said, they do have the Cincinnati Reds selecting high school shortstop Kahlil Watson out of Wake Forest High School in North Carolina with the #17 overall pick.
A lot of players drafted out of high school as shortstops don’t wind up being shortstops. That’s just a position where many of the better athletes wind up playing in high school because, well, guys that are good enough to be pro athletes tend to be better athletes in high school than the rest of them. You’re shocked by this news, I’m sure. That said, Kahlil Watson seems to be one of the high school shortstops that projects to remain a shortstop as a professional.
This is a strong year in the draft for shortstop, particularly from the high school ranks. Five high school shortstops are rated in the top 20 of the class, with two of them in the top five.
Shortstop is a position of need, at least in the short term, for the Reds at the big league level. But in the minor leagues it’s also a position of need and perhaps more so a long term need. At the top of the food chain, so-to-speak, is Jose Garcia. Beyond that, there’s a very big gap to the next group of players at the position that includes guys like Ivan Johnson, Braylin Minier, Yan Contreras, and Miguel Hernandez who have some upside, but limited experience and what they do have is at the lower levels of the minors – only Hernandez has made it out of rookie ball.
Shortstop looks good at the very top. Jose Garcia is likely to begin in either Double-A or Triple-A whenever the 2021 Minor League Baseball season begins. But the gap in the middle of the system could be pretty big – at least when it comes to prospects. While a guy like Errol Robinson will be there, he’s going to be 26 next year and likely isn’t in the long term plans for the organization unless he comes out and shows something that he’s never really shown before at the plate in his professional career.
With the elimination of short-season, non-complex level rookie teams, there’s going to be a log jam in the middle infield, even if the Reds get aggressive after a 2020 missed season. Miguel Hernandez, who has struggled to hit in Low-A, is likely going to be pushed up a level simply because he’s a prospect, he can handle the spot defensively, and there’s got to be enough playing time for everyone. Ivan Johnson could skip right on over Low-A, a level he likely starts at in 2020 had the season been played.
That could open up spots in Low-A for Yan Contreras, who has all of 20 games played under his belt and 2020 undrafted free agent signee Gus Steiger out of South Dakota State. This is one of the things that will be interesting to see play out over the next few years, with fewer teams and roster spots – how teams handle things with regards to who stays back at the complex and who goes to the full season leagues, and how that may differ from the past when there were two additional teams to spread out playing time for guys.