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Fay: High school phenom pitcher Hunter Greene could be Reds' top pick in Major League Draft

Kid throws 102 mph
Fay: High school phenom pitcher Hunter Greene could be Reds' top pick in Major League Draft
Posted at 3:55 PM, Jun 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-02 16:05:37-04

CINCINNATI -- Reds Scouting Director Chris Buckley says the team is still pondering its top draft pick.

If the mock drafts are right, the Reds will have one of the most interesting options in draft history.

Hunter Greene, the 18-year-old high school phenom from Los Angeles, will be there when the Reds pick second overall in the the Major League Draft, which is 10 days away.

Greene is a right-handed pitcher/shortstop. He’s already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. The copy that accompanied the photo:

Baseball’s LeBron or the Babe

He’s 17.

He Mashes.

He Throws 102.

Hunter Greene is the Star Baseball Needs.

How in the name of Branch Rickey do you not pick that kid? The article spends a lot time explaining what a great person Greene is off the field.

I think if he’s there, the Reds will take Greene. More on that later.

But back to the mock drafts. Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law and mlb.com's Jonathan Mayo all have Minnesota, which has the first pick, passing on Greene. BA and Mayo have the Twins picking Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright. Law has them picking Louisville left-hander/first baseman Brendan McKay.

The Reds are considering Wright, McKay and Greene as well.

“Most of the names you’re reading are good guesses,” Buckley said. “I’ve seen McKay. I’ve seen Wright. I’ve seen Greene. I think both teams are both looking at the same guys.”

The Reds, by the way, see both McKay and Greene as pitchers long-term, although if they draft either they might play as a position player this year.

There’s generally less risk in taking a college player than high school player, particularly a pitcher. The Reds took Mike Leake from Arizona State with the eighth pick overall in 2009, and he was in the majors pitching for a contender the next season without ever pitching in the minors. The Reds took Homer Bailey out of high school with the seventh pick over in 2004. He stuck in the majors for good in 2010.

Hunter Greene watches batting practice before the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium on April 28, 2017. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The highest pick the Reds ever used on a pitcher was in 2002 when they took Chris Gruler, a high school right-hander, with the third overall pick. He never made it out of Single-A. That draft did turn out to be a winner for the Reds though -- they took Joey Votto in the second round.

High school pitchers are probably the biggest risk in the draft. But Greene is in rare company as far as talent.

“He’s a kid that’s a little bit different,” Buckley said. “His situation is like Bryce Harper. He’s been the very best player from a young age. In McKay’s case or Wright’s case that was the way they developed. They developed in college. A few years ago there were kids more ready than them coming out of high school.”

Buckley has taken seven college players (two of whom were pitchers) and four high school players (two of whom were pitchers) in the first round in his 11 years as Reds scouting director.

“It’s the best guy,” he said.

The pick is not Buckley’s alone. General Manager Dick Williams and special assistant Walt Jocketty each have a say.

“(Owner) Bob Castellini’s involved,” Buckley said. “We go over all the stuff with them. They get to hear my thoughts and the other people's thoughts. You come up with the plan.”

Castellini’s involvement is what makes me think the Reds will take Greene if he’s there. Greene’s story in Sports Illustrated is a heart-warming one. He’s been a star since before he was in his teens. But he’s well-rounded (plays violin, he launched a sock drive for the L.A. homeless). When he was 11, he spent most of two years sharing a hospital room with his sister, Libriti, while she battled leukemia.

When they tell this kid’s story to Castellini and mention that 102 mph fastball, I think the Big Man says: “take him.”

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at johnfayman@aol.com