Jackson Miller was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds with the No. 65 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.
With the 2020 Major League Baseball draft shortened from 40 rounds to 5, the Cincinnati Reds prioritized upside.
The Reds had five selections on Day 2 of the MLB Draft, which concluded Thursday: Texas A&M right-hander pitcher Christian Roa (No. 48 overall), high school catcher Jackson Miller (No. 65), Texas Tech righty Bryce Bonnin (No. 84), high school outfielder Mac Wainwright (No. 113) and Notre Dame right-hander Joe Boyle (No. 143).
“We talked about taking some chances on some guys with higher ceilings,” Reds scouting director Brad Meador said. “Especially with how good we feel with what we’re doing on player development now on both sides that we were kind of joking, we kept saying, ‘Let’s get some big engines.’
“We felt like across the board, we did that.”
More: Reds take high school outfielder Austin Hendrick with 1st-round pick
Teams have until Aug. 1 to sign their draft picks with players receiving $100,000 this year and the remainder of their signing bonus deferred over the next two years. The Reds have about $8.5 million to spend in their draft pool.
Here’s a look at the Reds’ Day 2 selections:
Christian Roa, RHP, Texas A&M
Ranked No. 64 by Baseball America, No. 89 by MLB.com, No. 34 by Fangraphs
Roa, listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, was on the same staff as No. 4 overall pick Asa Lacy. Roa had a 5.85 ERA in four starts this spring, striking out 35 and walking nine in 20 innings.
Baseball America wrote in its scouting report that Roa throws a four-pitch mix with a fastball that can touch 96 mph, a plus-changeup, an above-average slider and a solid curveball. The Reds view Roa as a starter, though he does have experience in the bullpen.
Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress, in a video posted to the program’s Twitter, said he admired the way Roa recovered from a disappointing freshman year. “Failure is not an option for that young man in anything that he does,” he said.
“There’s a quote: ‘Don’t expect results for the work you didn’t put in,’ ” Roa said. “So, that was something that early on just stuck with me. If you want to be successful with something, you really have to put the work in. There are no shortcuts in life and there are no excuses that you can make if you really want to be successful at something.”
Roa, who chatted with the Reds a couple of weeks ago through Zoom, really improved his draft stock with a strong fall and his first two starts of the 2020 season when he struck out a combined 22 hitters against Miami (Ohio) and Army.
Jackson Miller, C, JW Mitchell HS (Florida)
Ranked No. 99 by Baseball America, No. 104 by MLB.com, No. 123 by Fangraphs
Miller, a Wake Forest commit, is a former shortstop who started full-time catching this spring. He caught nine games before his season ended because of the pandemic.
His dad owns a nearby baseball facility, which is used by Major Leaguers like Pete Alonso, Marcus Stroman, Dominic Smith and Joe Hudson. Miller feels like he’s benefitted from the extra time during the pandemic to work on his own game.
“Being able to get in there and work with the pro catchers who have been through it and getting to learn from a bunch of guys who have hit at the highest level, I think it’s really benefitted me,” said Miller, a lefty hitter. “I’ve really changed my swing during the pandemic. It’s really helped me a lot.”
Miller, 6-foot, 195 pounds, said the Reds were a team that talked to his advisors a lot, so he knew it was a likely landing spot in the draft. The Reds like his offensive ceiling, especially for a catcher.
He played a youth tournament once near Cincinnati, and he attended a game at Great American Ball Park.
“There is a Skyline Chili in Clearwater,” Miller said. “Actually, my friend that’s a Reds fan, he and his dad are from Cincinnati. When he came down here, he was in love with Skyline Chili, so we used to go there a lot. I’m not a huge fan of Skyline Chili, though. I know that might upset some people.”
Bryce Bonnin, RHP, Texas Tech
Ranked No. 102 by Baseball America, No. 121 by MLB.com, No. 207 by Fangraphs
The Reds were familiar with Bonnin when he was in high school. He was a 26th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2017 who dropped because of signability concerns. Bonnin, 21, had a 7.36 ERA across four starts this spring with 27 strikeouts and six walks in 14 2/3 innings.
Despite mixed in-game results, the Reds are betting on his arm. The 6-1 pitcher can touch 97 mph with his fastball and he throws an above-average 87 mph slider.
“He has really good stuff, two plus pitches at times,” Meador said. “He just needs to pitch. We feel we can develop him.”
Bonnin, who said he’s added 15 pounds from working out during the pandemic, started his collegiate career at Arkansas. He said he was cut after his freshman season following a shoulder injury.
“I had a shoulder injury that Arkansas didn’t think I would recover from,” Bonnin said. “Luckily, Tech saw that I probably could and I was able to land there, rehab that fall my sophomore year, and by my sophomore spring, I was back to 100%. It was just one of those things that I had to overcome.”
Mac Wainwright, OF, St. Edward HS (Ohio)
Unranked by Baseball America and MLB.com, No. 152 by Fangraphs
An Ohio State commit, Wainwright is young for the draft class at 17 years old. He was sidelined for most of last summer because of a stress fracture in his tibia, which had him in a boot for 12 weeks.
Wainwright was on the Reds’ roster for the East Coast Pro Showcase, a teammate of first-round pick Austin Hendrick, and played on a team coached by Reds area scout Andy Stack in the fall.
“It’s actually pretty impressive how much of a relationship we built,” Wainwright said.
A receiver on the football team, Wainwright received some offers from MAC schools. He has a large frame at 6-1, 215 pounds, which is highlighted by his powerful swing and strong arm.
“A guy who we feel good about the makeup and know what we’re getting, that’s going to put the work in,” Meador said. “We think we can hit big on him.”
Joe Boyle, RHP, Notre Dame
Ranked No. 101 by Baseball America, No. 165 by MLB.com, No. 186 by Fangraphs
The first thing people will notice about Boyle is his size: 6-7, 240. Then it’s his fastball, which sits in the upper 90s and has reached 102 mph. He throws a solid slider, but he does have some command issues out of the bullpen.
In 36 career innings at Notre Dame, he struck out 57 and walked 48 with a 6.00 ERA.
“We’ve seen him a bunch,” Meador said. “The best days are ahead of him. We just want to turn him over to our pitching development and see what they can come up with.”
The Reds were impressed with Boyle’s performance in the Cape Cod League last summer. Boyle, a native of Goshen, Kentucky, had a 1.93 ERA in 10 appearances, striking out 28 and walking 12 in 14 innings.
Mac Wainwright, the Cincinnati Reds’ fourth-round draft pick, said he wants to be a role model for young Black baseball players.