06/07/2004 1:43 PM ET
Reds pick Homer Bailey No. 7
Cincinnati selects high school right-hander first
By Todd lorenz / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Since being hired as the Reds general manager on Oct. 27, 2003, Dan O'Brien has made it no secret that he plans to strengthen Cincinnati's farm system with starting pitching.
The organization took another step in that process on Monday afternoon when they selected right-hander David "Homer" Bailey with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
"You always like to get a pitcher like this," said Reds director of amateur scouting Terry Reynolds. "We have been talking about him since the beginning of the meetings, so we were really pleased to have him there."
His given name is David, but everyone calls him Homer. It's probably not the best moniker for a hard-throwing, high school senior who features a fastball in the mid-90's.
"It's my great-grandfather's name, and it's just stuck with me," he said. "It has nothing to do with baseball."
As a 6'4", 185-pound pitcher, he probably wouldn't have been so highly sought after if it did.
"We like his physical abilities, first of all," said Reynolds. "His fastball is 92-96 mph. He has an outstanding down curveball, excellent makeup and has been a premium performer in the state of Texas since his freshman year."
During that freshman season, in 2001, Bailey locked horns with Ryan Wagner, Cincinnati's top pick from last season, in a Class 3-A regional final.
"I won the game," Bailey said. "Two years later, he's a first-round draft pick. A year after that, I'm a first-round pick with the same team."
A couple of days from now, he'll be attempting to finish his high school career the same way he started it -- with a state title.
"We're playing the state semi-final on Wednesday and hopefully the state championship on Thursday," Bailey said. "The team we're playing Wednesday is not as strong, so we're confident that we can get by them with our second or third starter and save myself for the championship game."
If they get there, Bailey's team has to be a bigger favorite than the Los Angeles Lakers, based on Bailey's numbers this season.
Entering the game, Bailey boasts a 14-0 record with a 0.63 ERA and a pair of saves. More impressively, he's fanned 187 hitters over 85 2/3 innings -- an average of 19.6 Ks per nine innings -- while walking 15 and hitting 17.
"He keeps them off that plate, which is good," said Reynolds.
So are his numbers, but how much emphasis can you put on striking out high school kids?
The Reds are pretty confident that Bailey won't have too much trouble -- at least from a mental standpoint -- against professional hitters.
La Grange HS
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6-4 W: 185
Born: 1986-05-03 Class: HS
MEDIUM-LONG FRAME. GOOD BODY. LONG, SLENDER, BUILD. HIGH WAISTED. LONG ARMS. LARGE HANDS. LOOSE, EFFORTLESS ARM. COMFORT ZONE 93-95 W/ LATE SINK. BALL EXPLODES OUT OF HAND. 11/5 CB W/ TIGHT ROTATION, SHARP K ZONE BITE WHEN OUT FRONT. EXCELLENT MOUND PRESENCE. YOUNG RHP W/ EXTREMELY HIGH CEILING. EFFORTLESS POWER ARM W/ PLUS PITCHABILITY.
"Even as a freshman, he wasn't afraid to go out and compete against the older guys," Reynolds said.
As to when the recently turned 18-year-old will get to face some older competition, it depends on how quickly the Reds can sign him. The right-hander has a scholarship offer to the University of Texas, but the organization has been given every indication that the Longhorns will have to find themselves another arm.
"I think the Reds understand me, and know that all I'm asking for is fairness money-wise," Bailey said. "My goal is to play professional baseball and I think they know that."
"We're told by he and his family that he's ready to go," Reynolds said. "So, hopefully, negotiations will be timely and he'll be out there in a hurry.
"He's been up front right from the beginning of the process that his goal is to be a Major League pitcher and if that if he was selected in the first round, that he wanted to sign."
Once he does, don't expect him to make the same rapid rise to the Majors that Wagner did last season. The Reds will likely start him out with their Rookie League club in Sarasota.
"A first-round pick doesn't really guarantee you anything except for a little notoriety to begin with," Reynolds said. "Then you've got to go out and compete with the guys that are out there. He's got to do it from there on."
"You start a player out at where you believe he should be and if he overmatches, you move him up that ladder," O'Brien said.
Todd Lorenz is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.