Baseball America has released their first mock draft of the year. College Baseball is in full swing at this point and some guys are really setting themselves apart before conference play gets rolling. Cincinnati has the #2 overall pick in the 2024 Major League Baseball draft and Baseball America has them taking a 2-way player out of Florida – Jac Caglianone.

It’s an interesting profile, as Jac Caglianone is worthy of being a 1st round selection as both a pitcher and as a position player. The questions are – is he worth being a top five pick as either, and if no, is he worth it as both to a team who would allow him to give both things a shot?

Let’s start with things on the mound. The lefty has made four starts so far this season and allowed four earned runs in 20.1 innings. That’s good for a 1.77 ERA. But he’s also walked 13 batters, and last season he walked 55 of them in 74.2 innings. Control has been a problem in the past and at least through four starts, it’s still a concern this season. But he’s also struck out 34 of the 81 batters he’s faced.

At the plate he’s crushed the ball so far. Through 19 games he’s hitting .415/.489/.683 with one double and seven home runs. That’s a ratio that likely won’t hold up. But power is a big part of his game – he homered 33 times last season while hitting .323/.389/.738. One of the concerns was that last season he walked just 17 times to go along with 58 strikeouts in 319 plate appearances. An 18.2% strikeout rate is quite high for an elite-level college player. The lack of walks, though, is probably more concerning. This season, though, he’s walked 11 times already and has just nine strikeouts in 94 plate appearances. How well those ratios hold up once he gets into conference play is worth keeping an eye on.

You can see his college stats here.

When we last took a look at the top players in the draft, the top pitcher was Chase Burns. The Wake Forest right-handed pitcher has done nothing but improve his stock since then, and despite somehow being outside of the top 10 of the cumulative rankings entering the year, almost assuredly is inside of them now.

Through five starts, Burns has a 2.08 ERA in 30.1 innings while striking out 56 of the 115 batters he’s faced, and he’s walked just 12 of them while giving up 16 hits. But it’s more than the numbers. The righty is throwing significantly harder this season and is working in the 96-100 MPH range. That might not even be his best pitch. His slider may be. He’ll also mix in both a curveball and a change up.

Not everything has been great for the top college guys, though. West Virginia’s JJ Wetherholt, who was at the top of the cumulative rankings entering the season, has spent much of the spring on the bench. He injured his hamstring early on and hasn’t played since February 19th.

At this point in the year, it’s almost always going to be about who is doing what in college. The high school season may just be getting started in the warmer weather states, but it might not get started for another month in some places. This year the draft is very college heavy at the top, but the high school guys that do take a step or two forward this year probably won’t get that helium push for a little bit since they likely aren’t even playing in games just yet.

 

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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36 Responses

  1. Doc

    Anybody convinced that 1B is a strong need for the Reds?
    Big power hitting OF, maybe.
    Power pitching, clearly, especially at the rate they are going this ST.

    • Doug Gray

      Never draft for *need* of the big league team. And double that especially now that the NL has the DH.

      • Doc

        You mean like taking Lowder and Floyd early in the draft last year when pitching is a big need at the major league level.

      • Doug Gray

        I mean don’t ever draft for need of the big league club. Draft the best player available and hope you have the luxury down the line of having too many good players instead of not enough of them.

      • Tom

        Doug, although the Reds repeat your advice out loud, do you believe they follow it? I do not. I think they blend their need with bpa. It’s easy to project their needs in 2-3 years. I don’t accuse them of reaching, but I think you see them eyeing needs, particularly in the 2-3rd picks. That said, it’s never a bad time to pick arms.

      • Doug Gray

        Yes, I believe they follow it. When half of the 1st round picks wind up getting a cup of coffee and nothing more, and things get worse from there, selecting someone who isn’t the BPA and thinking the odds are with you and you can fill a perceived need several years down the road (which you absolutely can’t project – 2 years ago Jonathan India was the ROY and the Reds were not going to think of replacing him, for example)…. You just aren’t doing that.

      • Tom

        They haven’t exactly been trying to draft a 1b for about 15 years. I know they have in later rounds but no way would they look at as hard at 1b during the Votto reign.

        You can’t predict health or young player performance but you can definitely and quite easily project out what it could or should look like.

        Last year, Rhett Lowder was a perfect blend of need and best player available. I suppose those things come easier inside the top 10 for most teams. All the projections and predictions get easier by a little.

        If you’re drafting in the back half of the first round and after I think that best player available is the credo, although it isn’t always as easy to sort out who the best player available is. Say you’ve got three players rated as a B+, I think you’re going to take the one that fills a need in 2 to 3 years on your depth chart. When it’s all said and done everyone within the organization claims they took the best player available.

        We also see the reds trying to play the money pool shenanigan game. I think they were trying to get Grayson Rodriguez, who was ranked quite a bit lower, to sign for less so they could use more money later. They also liked Quinn Priester the year he was drafted and wanted to do something similar. These are just rumors from top industry journalists. If other teams are doing it that way, and we know they are, the Reds are also open to that idea and have tried it. The Royals recently did something quite ridiculous in that regard if I recall.

        Hunter Greene? Bpa, and they paid to the hilt.

        Senzel? Probably a money signing.

        Lodolo and Lowder? BPA and need.

        I think it’s undeniable when college players go top 10 or 15 that they are often mapping onto a near term need and it can therefore often influence who gets picked. Take less money? Spot open in 2-3 years on the roster? These are two strong variables that talk offices off of expensive better players at positions basically settled in MLB.

        I don’t see the Reds as immune to this dynamic. I also don’t see that it is a categorically bad approach. To your point the draft is so unpredictable that if a player is within range and checks these other variables, they will get picked quite often.

      • Doug Gray

        I should be a tad more specific – they are taking the BPA with their 1st overall pick. After that, they and all other teams are going to play the “money” game if it presents itself. But I can promise you that they are never looking at their big league roster or even upper level farm system and saying “we should draft a shortstop here because we’re going to need one in 2029”. That is not happening.

        What might happen is they look at their farm system and say “we need another shortstop to fill out A-ball next year” and draft a glove-first shortstop in the 20th round. That’s about as much of a “we need to look at our needs” as you’re going to get in the draft.

        As for Nick Senzel…. He got the highest bonus in the draft. Only Mickey Moniak, who went #1, was even within $1.8M of the bonus that Senzel got…..

      • AMDG

        Hunter Greene a BPA pick?

        What kind of revisionist nonsense is this?!?

        He was highly regarded as the top prospect in the 2017 draft, and “fell” to #2 when the Twins opted to save a few bucks and draft Royce Lewis at #1.

        And the Reds not drafting a 1B had NOTHING to do with Votto. Teams generally don’t draft 1B in the first round. Consider, in the past couple of years, out of 78 first round picks, only two were 1B.

      • Tom

        AMDG, yes Hunter Greene was BPA, which means Best Player Available. That’s not a slight.

        Sure teams don’t draft 1b, just like Joey Votto was a “catcher”. Guys like Vaughn to the White Sox a few years ago have 1b/Dh/etc written all over them.

      • Tom

        Doug, I agree with high school players you don’t want to worry about your roster availability in 5 years. But college, these days you can still see these players filling projected holes inside a 1-3 year time frame. Look at the Angels hilarious all pitcher draft to save the Ohtani / Trout failure.

        BPA is often a pr myth by front offices and for good reason sometimes. Mathematically speaking, if every year that you picked, say 5 years in a row, the best player available was a college second baseman then you would be a fool to continue to take them. Or at least you would feel foolish and the world would scratch its head. I could listen to the argument that you should take them no matter what, but that’s just not what teams do.

      • Doug Gray

        1-3 years, huh?

        Let’s look at the 2021 draft’s 1st round real quick…..
        Matt McLain has 3.7 WAR.
        Gavin Williams has 1.8 WAR.
        Sal Frelick has 1.2 WAR.

        The rest of the 1st round has -1.5 WAR, though if we only include the college guys it’s -1.3 WAR. Not a single pick from the Top 14 picks in the draft has accumulated 0.5 WAR to this point. One guy has 0.4 WAR and he has already undergone shoulder surgery.

        The #1 pick in the draft has a negative WAR. The #2 pick in the draft Has an ERA of 5.32 in AA and 8.10 in Triple-A the last two seasons.

        Teams simply aren’t good enough at drafting to do what you think they do. And they know that.

      • AllTheHype

        @Tom, teams generally take the best player available at the top of the draft and 1st round in general. But sometimes there are money games that influence those picks too, such as when the Rangers drafted Rocker at #3 in ’22 so they could give a drastically overslot deal to a player who slipped to round 4. I don’t think anyone, even the Rangers, thought Rocker was the 3rd best player in that draft.

        It’s the definition of best player available that is in question. There might be a different evaluation from each team, understandably. Most teams highly value athleticism. In your example, and let’s assume that position is SS instead of 2B….. a team could continue to accumulate and draft SSs because usually they are the most athletic and can move off the position if need be and still be dynamic defensively.

        But drafting for “need” in the first round? That’s something done in NFL because those players play right away, but not in MLB where players are several years out.

      • AllTheHype

        That’s a great example Doug. And even if those 1R players were all ready to contribute this year, teams cannot predict in ’21 what their needs would be in ’24. And yet still those players are not ready, most of them.

        So draft the best player available (subject to the team’s criteria for determining that) and let the chips fall where they may a few years later.

      • Tom

        Doug, yes, the college players in the top half of round 1, the kinds of picks that actually mean the most, are by and large definitely factoring into their teams depth charts and decision making – and were by last season as you pointed out. The fact that they haven’t set the world on fire isn’t disproving that they were greatly expected to. 5 of the 8 college players picked 1-17 already have a roster spot in MLB as of last year (year 2).

        All the Hype, what I think people can see is that part of the BPA criteria is for most teams, like it or not, what their roster will need in the near term. This is not hard to determine, just look at the contract page on b-ref to begin the framework of expectations.

      • Doug Gray

        Tom, I really don’t know what else to say other than you are wrong about this.

      • Tom

        BPA is a pr term and what teams should say is “best player….for us”. I think they do sometimes say that.

        Angels 2021 all pitcher draft is the clearest proof that teams have a roster needs focus.

      • Doc

        How does one determine who is the best player available when you have a mix of pitchers and position players from which to choose?

  2. mac624

    My pick, at least right now, is Charlie Condon out of Georgia. Profiles to corner OF but can also play corner infield spots as well. Big time bat. Not sure of his defense, but certainly the bat will play. of course, this is my pick right now. Subject to change as the season goes a long.

    • Steve

      I think he is mocked at #1 overall in this particular mock draft.

    • AMDG

      1 home run every 5 1/2 AB’s isn’t a bad ratio for Condon.

  3. Tom

    It’s easy, just pick the franchise cornerstone available and call it a day.

  4. Tom

    I thought this article was going to be about Kurtz from Wake Forest. I remember India had a bad k to walk ratio his sophomore year and improved it his senior year. He seemed to work out OK but you can also sense the limit to his upside. If that’s a fair comparison, then I would hope for better from the number two overall pick. If we’re going first base, then I want the next Freddy Freeman or I guess Joey Votto.

    • mac624

      Kurtz is playing his way out of the top 10 of the draft so far. Nothing hitting bombs or for decent average yet.

      • Tom

        Kurtz is not getting much to hit, it appears. All the metrics say he’s being pitched around, pressing a bit as a result, and is due to break out.

        .228/.471/.421/.892
        26bb:14k
        .244 babip
        .193 iso – we know he has power

      • MBS

        Kurtz is the guy I’m rooting for, but those numbers do need to return to previous levels if he’s going to be the 2nd pick of the draft.

  5. AllTheHype

    Caglianone has way too many potential red flags to be considered at 2.

    But Burns striking out half of the batters faced with a reasonable BB rate is an eye catcher. Certainly if you’re taking a pitcher at 2, you’d want a guy with 3 projectible plus pitches, It’s all about how good those third (and fourth) pitches profile I think.

    • AllTheHype

      Hagen Smith not backing off any either. But the early schedule can be against some overmatched teams. See what these Burns and Smith do when they get into the meat of the conference schedule.

  6. Norwood Nate

    Don’t love either the pitching or hitting profile for the overall #2 pick. Way too many walks for a college pitcher. Up until recently striking out too much and is 1B defensively?

    The Reds can do better at #2 or it’s an incredibly weak draft.

    • Tom

      I have a sense the Reds can get an elite, perennial all star hitter in this draft.

      Some say it’s not as good as last year’s draft due to the lack of a clear #1 overall but that was before the college season started so that talk was way premature.

      • DaveCT

        The 23 draft was very, very deep due to the 2020 year and draft. A great many players were not picked or pulled out of the draft. And they became eligible last year. So, it’s a complete anomaly. This year’s draft is broadly considered to be college heavy.

  7. Tom

    Wetherholt being hurt really messes up the board. If a team valued him at #1 overall and he falls to 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 due to injury, does he become a bargain?

    Bazzana is currently going nuts:

    76 ab
    .461/.577/.934/1.512
    20bb:11k
    .474 babip
    .474 iso – not a typo

    Some scouts insisted last year he would be their #1 overall, the dig being he’s a little pull happy, but dang he’s making his case.

  8. MBS

    I assume that if they met the below qualifications in the milb they’d also be considered a 2 way player once they reach the MLB?

    “Players qualify for the two-way designation if they have met both of these conditions in either the current or previous MLB season:

    • Pitched at least 20 Major League innings
    • Played at least 20 Major League games as a position player or designated hitter, with at least three plate appearances in each game”

    It’s fun to think of the different scenarios that a player like Caglianone could open up, but I’d be surprised if he’s the 2nd pick come draft day.

  9. PTBNL

    There’s a long way to go before the draft. Many, many, many things can change between now and then. We cannot get tied to a certain player or two yet. It is fun to check on all of the possibilities though.

  10. Mauired

    I saw Caglionone pitch and hit in person. The guy has insane power. Hits rockets. He could be a MLB starter but probably a power reliever. Even then his potential as a setup man and slugging 1st baseman with is worthy of the pick. I’ve been hoping he’s the guy Reds take since the second they won the lottery.