The Cincinnati Reds made 22 picks in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft. They had three picks in the first round – more than any other team. In theory, that should have given them a leg up on most teams when it comes to the question of “how did the draft look” because the higher you select, the better talent you should get – at least, again, in theory.

It seems that having three picks on the first day did help. But that wasn’t the only reason evaluators liked what the Reds were able to do. Let’s take a look at what some of the national publications had to say about how Cincinnati’s 2021 draft haul looks.

MLB Pipeline

Jim Callis ranked the Reds draft class as the third best over at

The lone club with three picks on the first day, the Reds turned their first-rounder into sweet-swinging UCLA shortstop Matt McLain, a pleasant surprise to find available at No. 17. Then they used their sandwich picks at Nos. 30 and 35 on Florida high school outfielder Jay Allen, a three-sport athlete with the potential for solid power and speed, and Florida State catcher Matheu Nelson, who tied for the NCAA D-I lead with 23 homers.

Baseball America

Carlos Collazo loved what the Cincinnati Reds were able to do with their draft. You will need a subscription to read the entire piece, but the first line of the write up on Cincinnati says this:

Perhaps it’s unsurprising for a team with as many picks as the Reds to make our list of “excitable” draft classes, but I loved seeing the up-the-middle bats the Reds took on Day One, and felt they got several impressive values on Day Two.

Collazo notes within that the team went very college heavy with their picks. The Reds only selected one high school player out of the 22 players that they picked. Jay Allen, their 2nd pick and the 30th overall selection was the lone non-collegiate player that the team selected.


Eric Longenhagen didn’t exactly do a “how did they do” thing at Fangraphs (along with Kevin Goldstein – but Longenhagen had NL Central duties in this one), but did do a quick recap of each player taken in the first two days by the team. There’s more to the write up than what is below, so be sure to read it, but this part seems to be looking at the development team with the hopes that they can improve some guys weaknesses while utilizing their strengths:

After Nelson, they picked Virginia lefty Andrew Abbott (second) who has a vertical fastball/curveball combo but doesn’t throw all that hard, which the new Reds dev group should be able to remedy. Hopefully the same is true of Oregon State College World Series hero Kevin Abel (seventh), who looked amazing the first week of the college season then fell off in a big way. When he’s right, he has two plus weapons in his curve and changeup, but he only sits about 87. South Carolina righty Thomas Farr (fifth) is the opposite. He’s been up to 98 but has inconsistent feel for release, which makes his slider quality pretty variable.

The Athletic

Keith Law thinks that the Reds may have had the best draft in baseball. You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to read his entire write up, but the first and last sentences of the write up tell a lot about what he thinks about the work done by Cincinnati:

The Reds might have had the strongest draft overall, or at least the strongest of any team drafting outside of the top 10.

This is really a great mixture of probability and ceiling, with some smart gambles after the fifth round on players with good risk/reward profiles.

Who is signing?

Ever since Major League Baseball went to a pool allotment system for signing the days of selecting players who you weren’t sure would sign have been over – at least in the first 10 rounds, and mostly for the 10 that followed that one. With the draft being just 20 rounds this year instead of the normal 40 rounds, that means it’s even more likely that a very large majority of the draft picks wind up signing.

We have a good idea of some of the players that will be signing up already. The Reds plans seem to include getting as many signees to Arizona later this week to take their physicals and actually sign their professional contracts.

Comp A 1st round pick Mat Nelson indicated he would be signing on his conference call with the media following the draft. 4th round pick Ruben Ibarra told Jim Seimas of the Santa Cruz Sentinal that he was going to sign. 7th round pick out of Oregon State, Kevin Abel, seems to be suggesting that he’s going to be signing with the Reds after thanking the school on twitter yesterday. 9th round pick Jack Rogers has indicated he will be signing to The Huntsville Item. 10th round pick Donovan Benoit indicated he is going to sign to Patrick Bernadeau of the Pensacola News Journal. Blake Dunn indicated that he would be signing to Dan D’Addona of the Holland Sentinel.

College seniors Andrew Abbott (2nd round) and Thomas Farr (5th round) are also likely to sign, but haven’t given any public indication yet.

16 Responses

  1. Danillo

    On day 2 a number of us lashed out at the direction the Reds took with their picks, knowing where our farm system is I would like to see more high ceiling picks rather than “safe” floor picks. Teams like the Dodgers, Padres, and Ray’s roll the dice every year and all 3 have Top 5 Farm Systems. Obviously the Reds can’t compete for top tier Free Agents year in/ year out the least they can do is get better in their scouting and devepment.

    • Shawn

      I think the main reason the Dodgers system is international signings. With the new rules, I think you will see a lot of teams that were always toward the top of minor league systems come back to the pack

  2. RedsGettingBetter

    So Matt McClain is not sure for signing? Allen is a HS so could he be turning down the offer?

    • Doug Gray

      I mean nothing is for sure until the ink is on the paper. But I’d be shocked if anyone in the 1st through 10th round went unsigned. Deals are almost always pre-announcement agreed upon given the pool money situation.

  3. RedsGettingBetter

    In resume, the Reds draft has been successfull , in theory. I never saw the drafted players in action o something like that , I just read nothing more than info written by especialists about some of those guys but i feel there could be high hopes in McClain, Allen, Abbott, Nelson, Ibarra, Farr, Parks and Callahan if all of them sign, of course.

  4. Tom

    Does Daytona or Dayton see McClain this year? The timeline isn’t that urgent for the Reds to have him available. I’d like to see him in Daytona for the rest of the year. Hopefully he signs soon and gets out to play for the playoff push.

  5. AllTheHype

    Initially I was lukewarm on the Reds draft, but I like it a lot better now.

    The Reds’ pitching development staff, led by Boddy, has been very successful at expanding the upside of mid-tier arms through technologically driven expertise. Look no further than Antone, and the plethora of young pitching talent currently exceeding expectations in Reds MiLB.

    And it is apparent to me now that the draft strategy was to identify mid-tier pitching targets beginning in round 2 that the staff can work with, get them in the system, and expand their upside.

    That strategy allowed the first three selections in round 1 to take high value position players, which they did successfully.

    Now that I understand their strategy, I really like it.

  6. Brad

    I am all for taking position players, specifically up the middle bats, in early rounds (quality) then loading up on pitchers in quantity. With the glut of Senios in this year’s draft, I was interested in taking the best ones early, see below, and saving up for a HS player or two late.

    This year I was intrigued with the Gunnar Hoglund possibility and Jaden Hill, Mikulski, Mace, Abbott, etc with first 4 picks.

    I have liked INTL strategy of going for 2 top players in infield one year and outfield the next. This year is infield and SS Ricardo Cabrera seems to be the top signing. Curious who #2 is.

    • Brad

      Rumor of McLain signing for around $4.6M would make the rest of the draft make more sense. That is $1M more than slow and $2M more that what he was offered 3 years ago at slot. Also, Nelson “near slot” and Abbott “just under slot.” Must have got Ibarra for cheap to make it all work.

      My best guesses:
      McLain $4.6M
      Allen $3M
      Nelson $2M
      Abbott $1M

    • Redsvol

      I’m a little concerned this was too “safe” of a draft for a small market team. Other than Allen there isn’t a lot of super ceilings to the players selected. I would have liked a higher rated pitcher – probably high schooler – taken instead of Nelson. I’ve read some things that don’t speak too highly of his defense. If a college catcher isn’t superb defensively and at handling a staff then he probably isn’t going to develop that. That is a catcher’s #1 responsibility. If Allen doesn’t sign then my opinion of Reds draft falls dramatically.

  7. kevinz

    Never thought Would agree with Law lol.
    But he is sure right on Paper about Reds with this draft.
    Between Value and Not reaching for need.
    Reds crushed this draft as of Now.
    Now up to Health and Devlp.

  8. Steelerfan

    Doug, first off thanks as always for all the amazing content.

    Curious if you had a reaction to Keith Law’s comments that Kevin Able had been overused at Oregon State, leading to the drop in his velocity. Didn’t want to post the excerpt without checking first since it is behind a paywall, but Law’s language was pretty pointed

    • Redsvol

      I saw that too. I’m not a Law fan but I’m glad he calls out these College coaches on pitcher abuse. Able was a Freshman when that happened. Maybe you do it to a junior or senior but you cannot throw a freshman >120 pitches in consecutive weeks in high leverage games. If I was his Dad I would have been torqued. He’s probably ruined at this point but maybe he can develop into a Miley-like pitcher.

  9. DHud

    Someone help me understand what I’m missing here with McLain:

    – questionable if he’ll stay at SS
    – questionable power
    – bad K/BB skills

    But he’s a top 10 prospect and everyone loves the pick?

    IMO if I’m calling a SS, the most important position on the field, a top 10 prospect I need to KNOW he’s gonna stay at SS. I can get an athlete who can play a couple positions anywhere in the draft; true SSs are valuable assets

    Is his hit tool THAT good that we don’t care about this stuff?

    • Doug Gray

      If he’s a shortstop, there’s not questionable power (and there are some, though they are more in the minority, who think he’s got average power instead of below-average power). The Reds, however, do seem to think he’s a future shortstop (and so do enough others). Some people really do love the hit tool. I believe I saw someone drop a 60 on it. I’m not sure I’d label his K/BB ratio as bad. He had as many walks as strikeouts this year. Obviously you want to see it be better than that (can’t we say this about every single thing ever?), but bad isn’t the word I’d use here. Bad would be something like 34/12, not 34/34.