Looking closer at the history of Cincinnati Reds first-round draft picks

Since the MLB draft began in 1965, the Cincinnati Reds have had their share of hits and misses.

With Matt McLain becoming the 44th Reds first-round pick to make the major leagues, we thought it would be a good time to examine the group as a whole.

Here are 10 things to know:

1. Barry Larkin is the most successful Reds’ first-round draftee.

And it’s not close.

Aside from being the only Hall of Famer on the list, the No. 4 overall pick in the 1985 draft has a 70.2 career WAR (*wins above replacement). That is nearly triple the next two on the list, Gary Nolan (25.9) and Todd Frazier (25.2).

Larkin leads the group in career batting average (.295) and ranks third in home runs with 198. He is second in OPS (.781) behind Jesse Winker (.815).

Rounding out the top five in WAR are Yasmani Grandal, Jay Bruce and Bernie Carbo, who was the team’s original No. 1 pick.

2. The Reds have used 42 first-round picks on position players and 31 on pitchers.

Overall, 43 at least made it to the majors, including 26 position players (61.9 percent) and 18 pitchers (58 percent).

3. Jonathan India was the last position player to be called up. He debuted in 2021.

The No. 5 pick in the 2018 draft, India has a career WAR of 4.8. That puts him right in the middle of the 25 Reds first-round hitters to make it to The Show (before McLain) according to Baseball Reference.

4. The last pitcher to be called up is Nick Lodolo.

The seventh overall pick in 2019, Lodolo is also the most recent pitcher the Reds have taken in round one.

He made his debut last season.

5. The best pitcher to be a No. 1 draft pick by the Reds is also the first.

Gary Nolan was the No. 13 overall pick in the 1966 draft. He posted a career record of 110-70 with a 3.08 ERA.

6. Three pitchers stand above the rest.

Nolan had the best ERA and the most wins, edging Don Gullett in both categories. Gullett, the No. 14 pick in 1969, won 109 games and had an ERA of 3.11.

The only other Reds first-rounder to win at least 100 games is Mike Leake (No. 8 in 2009), who last pitched in the majors in 2019 and is 105-98 with a 4.05 ERA.

Homer Bailey (No. 7 in 2004) is next on the wins list with 81.

7. Five pitchers who made the majors were worse than average MLB players.

A handful of hurlers who were good enough to get to The Show had forgettable times at that level as they finished their careers with WARs in the negative, meaning an average MLB player would have fared better in their career: Wayne Simpson (1967), Pat Pacillo (1984), Scott Scudder (1986), C.J. Nitkowski (1994) and Ryan Wagner (2003).

8. Seven position players posted negatives WARs, but two of them are still early in their careers.

The lowest WAR among Reds hitters to be first-round draft picks currently belongs to Nick Senzel. The No. 2 overall pick in 2016 began the week at -1.2, but he could still turn that around as soon as this season.

Jeter Downs (2017) has only played 15 MLB games, so he also still has a long way to go.

Others in the negative are Mike Miley (1971), Chad Mottola (1992), Pat Watkins (1993), Brandon Larson (1997) and Alex Blandino (2014).

(Miley went to LSU instead of signing with the Reds and was taken again in first round in 1974 by the Angels.)

9. Eleven hitters never made the majors (not counting the five drafted since 2020 besides McLain, who are still in the minor leagues).

The most recent is Jeff Gelalich, a supplemental pick (57th overall) in 2012. Ironically, he like McLain went to UCLA, but Gelalich was an outfielder.

The last non-supplemental pick position player to fail to make it to the majors was David Espinosa, a high school shortstop from Florida who was the 23rd pick in the 2000 draft.

He was part of a deadline-deal trade in Tigers in 2002 as the Reds acquired starting pitcher Brian Moehler to fortify for an ultimately unsuccessful playoff push.

10. Since 2000, the Reds have used four first-round picks on pitchers who haven’t made the majors.

Those players are Chris Gruler (2002), Kyle Lotzkar (’07), Nick Travieso (’12) and Nick Howard (’14). Howard is still pitching in the Braves’ system at advanced Single-A.

*Per MLB.com, WAR measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by using a statistical formula to estimate how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at his same position.

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