The 2024 MLB Draft

MLB Draft 2024 Analysis: Who Do The Cincinnati Reds Take At No. 2?

MLB Draft 2024 Analysis: Who Do The Cincinnati Reds Take At No. 2?

The Cincinnati Reds have a young roster, with budding stars in Elly De La Cruz and Mat McLain. Who will they add with the No. 2 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft?

Jan 18, 2024 by Joe Harrington
MLB Draft 2024 Analysis: Who Do The Cincinnati Reds Take At No. 2?

In 2022, ESPN reporter Jeff Passan proclaimed that the Cincinnati Reds were tanking “at its absolute ugliest” after the club dropped to 3-22. 

That was a bit of “national-reporter-not-paying-attention-to-the-Reds” kind of statement. 

Yeah, the Reds cut payroll in the most painful way possible before 2022. They took a fun team with a winning record in 2021 and slashed it. And what’s worse, is because of the MLB lockout before the 2022 season, the Reds made almost all their offseason moves during the first 48 hours of Spring Training. 

Sonny Gray, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez and Amir Garrett all were traded. It’s a bit harsh, though, saying the Reds tanked, when when their best trade assets of Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Joey Votto weren’t traded. 

The team broke Spring Training with its top prospects, Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, on the roster. 

The team wasn’t trying to tank. It was just a combination of injuries to Castillo that delayed his season, young pitchers going through growing pains and poor performance from players (Votto and 2021 Rookie of the Year Jonathan India). 

This wasn’t a Baltimore Orioles or Pittsburgh Pirates situation. This was a baseball economics and roster youth movement situation. 

The Reds were just bad. And they did get better in 2022 before they traded off Castillo, Mahle and Tyler Naquin. 

They lost 100 games for just the second time in franchise history. A history that goes back more than 150 years.  

If the Reds were “tanking at its ugliest” they certainly didn’t like the outcome. The first MLB Draft lottery saw them go from No. 4 to No. 7.

And it was supposed to be so much worse in 2023. 

In January 2023, even the most optimistic Reds fan probably was thinking 70 wins. 

Greene, Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft were coming off good rookie years, but the offense the Reds were about to roll out, along with franchise legend Joey Votto, 39, coming off shoulder surgery, was going to be, well, bad. 

Most were slating the Reds to lose 100 games. 

Then they played baseball games. 

Spencer Steer (a piece from the Mahle trade) and TJ Friedl had breakout seasons. The Reds called up their top prospects, including Elly De La Cruz, only a few weeks after MLB made him the top prospect in baseball. The other prospect, Matt McClain, was even better. 

India played like an All-Star for the first two months of the season. Jake Fraley had his best season. The pitching saw Andrew Abbott and Brandon Williamson debut, while Alexis Diaz, the team’s All-Star, established himself as one of the best closers in baseball. 

The Reds went 82-80, 20 games better than 2022 and now are one of the favorites to win the National League Central. 

The Reds probably were more transparent in their tanking in 2023 than 2022, and they did get the No.2 pick, albeit after being the most fun and surprising teams in baseball with a winning record. 

Now, the question is: Who do they take at No. 2?

What The Cincinnati Reds Roster Has Before The 2024 MLB Draft 

The buzz is hard to ignore in “Reds Country.” 

It’s a total 180-degree change from January 2023. Then prospects like McLain, De La Cruz, Marte and Abbott seemed 18 months away. 

The most excitement in Spring Training was around Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who wrecked Cactus League pitching. 

But Encarnacion-Strand was delayed because the Reds signed Wil Myers. 

McLain, De La Cruz and Abbott lit the minors on fire. They roared through the system. First McLain came, then Abbott and finally, De La Cruz. 

The Reds already were an oddly competitive team entering May, but the stretch from late May to July was a scorcher, and some of the most fun games in decades were being played along the Ohio River. 

The Reds hadn’t had a player hit for the cycle since Eric Davis in the 1980s, but De La Cruz (pictured below) did it in his first two weeks with the Reds. 

August and September saw two more big prospects debut, Encarnacion-Strand and Marte. 

Encarnacion-Strand hit 13 homers in less than two months. Marte ended the season as the hottest Red on the roster, despite playing with a broken jaw. 

The true star of the surprisingly good Reds team was the bullpen. 

A collection of mostly MLB also rans and former DFA’ed pitchers, the Reds bullpen pitched the second-most innings in baseball and carried a 4.08 era, 12th in baseball. 

The closer, Alexis Diaz, became one of the best in the National League and was named to the All-Star team. Most of those pieces are back. 

The rotation soaked up most of the excitement in 2023 during Spring Training, but that was the weakest spot on the team.

Luke Weaver and Cessa’s conversions to starters were horrible. Lodolo got hurt and missed most of the season, but only after making a few terrible starts. 

But, Greene took a step forward, for the most part, and so did Ashcraft.

So, the roster is young and fun. 

In the offseason they strengthen that bullpen with solid pieces, such as Emillio Pagan, Brent Suter and maybe Nick Martinez. The rotation added Frankie Montes, and the offense added Jeimer Candelario, who has raked in Great American Ball Park. 

Cincinnati Reds Prospects And Minor League System 

Despite the graduations of several top-100 prospects, the Reds still have a deep system. But most of those prospects aren’t at the Double A or Triple A level. One could be, if Spring Training goes well. 

The No. 7 pick in the 2023 draft, Rhett Lowder (No. 41-ranked MLB prospect), didn’t pitch in the minors after he was drafted. 

Considered the second-best pitcher in the draft, and one who could go through the system quickly, Lowder was invited to big league camp by the Reds. If he does well, he could start the season in Double A, which improves his chances of debuting in 2024. 

But it’s Chase Petty who is closer to debuting for the Reds. The No.6-ranked prospect for the Reds was promoted several times and finished 2023 in Double-A.

There are young players who aren’t really prospects anymore who will start the season in Triple-A. 

Brandon Williamson, despite his strong second half, may be sent to Louisville. Lyon Richardson, Carson Spiers and Connor Phillips (No. 68-ranked prospect in baseball) all debuted in 2023 and could all start the season in Triple-A.

Offensively, the Reds top prospect is Marte, who finished the Reds season on a 12-game hitting streak. The rest of the everyday prospects likely are further away. Shortstop Edwin Arroyo is 19 and is baseball's No. 57-ranked prospect. 

The Reds reportedly had conversations with the Chicago White Sox about trading for pitcher Dylan Cease. The White Sox asked for Lowder, Petty, Arroyo and one more prospect. The Reds didn’t - or haven’t yet - made that trade. 

Who Are The Cincinnati Reds Taking With The No. 2 MLB Draft Pick?

This can be difficult, if college baseball makes it difficult. 

There are a consensus top-2 players in the draft. Both could be good fits at No.1 to Cleveland, but Nick Kurtz makes the most sense for Cleveland. JJ Wetherholt is the other top prospect, but he’s a middle infielder who may have to move to the outfield – or hope De La Cruz or Marte’s future is there. 

But in a perfect world, there’s a Paul Skenes in this year’s draft. 

Skenes didn’t get top-2 pick buzz until midway through the college season. The Reds would love to see someone do that– maybe even Lowder’s fellow Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Josh Hartle and Tennessee transfer Chase Burns. 

Two things factor into the Reds always preferring pitching with a top-10 pick: First, they are a small market and aren’t going to attract many high-level pitchers with money. Second, they play in a home run-friendly ballpark, which many of the top pitchers avoid and many of the second-tier free agents require more money to sign (see: Frankie Montes). 

But none of the pitchers seem worthy of the No. 2 pick, especially for a Reds team with a lot of signing bonus money this season. 

A player to watch is Jac Caglianone of Florida. He’s being talked about as a top-4 draft pick, and he’ll get No. 1 consideration by the Guardians, if he rakes and improves on the mound. 

If a team has the right approach and plan with him, maybe Caglianone will be a two-way player, but I’d expect most teams to make him pick. 

He hit 33 home runs in 2023, and if the Reds did take him, he certainly would work in Great American Ball Park. 

It’s definitely would be the most interesting pick the Reds could make.

But the Reds have a track record of taking the best-available player in the draft. 

Lowder was an easy pick for them 2023, as he was considered the second-best pitcher in the draft. 

Matt McLain didn’t make a ton of sense positionally for the Reds in 2021, but he by far was the best player at No. 17. As it stands now, I expect the Reds to draft either Kurtz or Wetherholt. 

How Many First Round Picks Does Cincinnati Have? 

One. But the Reds have four picks in the top 100 of the draft: No. 2, No. 52, No. 73, No. 90. 

Could Cincinnati Earn A Prospect Promotion Incentive Pick in 2025?

Yes. The Reds have multiple top-100 prospects. Lowder (No. 41) and Arroyo (No. 57) are in the current MLB pipeline top 100, and they have been invited to Reds Spring Training. 

When Is The 2024 MLB Draft?

The 2024 MLB Draft is part of MLB All-Star week and will be in Arlington, Texas, where the World Series champion Texas Rangers are hosting the All-Star Game. 

The All-Star Game is July 16. The official date of the draft has yet to be announced, but the 2023 MLB Draft began the Sunday before the All-Star Game, which was played on Tuesday.  

MLB Draft 2024 Order

The New York Mets, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres’ first picks dropped 10 spots because the clubs exceeded the second surcharge threshold of the competitive balance tax by more than $40 million. 

Here’s the order: 

  1. Cleveland Guardians
  2. Cincinnati Reds
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. Oakland A’s
  5. Chicago White Sox
  6. Kansas City Royals
  7. St. Louis Cardinals 
  8. Los Angeles Angels 
  9. Pittsburgh Pirates
  10. Washington Nationals 
  11. Detroit Tigers
  12. Boston Red Sox
  13. San Francisco Giants
  14. Chicago Cubs
  15. Seattle Mariners
  16. Miami Marlins 
  17. Milwaukee Brewers
  18. Tampa Bay Rays
  19. New York Mets
  20. Toronto Blue Jays
  21. Minnesota Twins
  22. Baltimore Orioles 
  23. Los Angeles Dodgers 
  24. Atlanta Braves 
  25. San Diego Padres 
  26. New York Yankees
  27. Philadelphia Phillies 
  28. Houston Astros 
  29. Arizona Diamondbacks 
  30. Texas Rangers
  31. Arizona Diamondbacks
  32. Baltimore Orioles 
  33. Minnesota Twins
  34. Baltimore Orioles
  35. Arizona Diamondbacks
  36. Cleveland Guardians
  37. Pittsburgh Pirates
  38. Colorado Rockies
  39. Kansas City Royals

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