06/07/2004 8:19 PM ET
Szymanski a top Reds pick
Princeton athlete a surprise in day's second round
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Obviously the Reds were overjoyed to find right-hander Homer Bailey available when their first pick came around in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, but they were just plain surprised when B.J. Szymanski was still around when their turn came up in the second round.
The Princeton University center fielder is still a little raw on the diamond, but that's mostly because he spent so much time excelling on the gridiron.
"He's a 6'5", 210-pound switch hitter and a guy that's somewhat crude in baseball," said Reds director of amateur scouting Terry Reynolds. "He's a football and baseball player that recently dedicated himself to baseball full-time."
Szymanski had 44 receptions for 823 yards and four touchdowns for the Princeton football team last fall, and the Reds believe that the same skills that made him a successful receiver will benefit him on the baseball field.
"He's one of those players that has a chance to be a five-tool guy," Reynolds said. "Obviously that's what attracted us to him. He had a football-type body, he can run and he's athletic so we were somewhat surprised that he was still there.
"We had him at a workout in Texas a few years ago, before he even started playing baseball at Princeton, and our guys liked him in the workout. We kind of tracked him after that."
On Monday they tracked him down, making him the first of 10 position players they took in the 18-round first day.
Overall the Reds took eight pitchers (three left-handers), two center fielders, two shortstops, two catchers, two second baseman, a third baseman and a right fielder.
Despite a desire to build the system through pitching, Cincinnati spent three of its next four picks on position players after landing Bailey and Szymanski.
They grabbed right-hander Rafael Gonzalez out of New York's George Washington High School with the fourth pick, while taking catchers Craig Tatum and Lonny Roa in the third and sixth rounds, respectively. They also added Rice shortstop Paul Janish in the fifth.
"The position board wasn't as nice as we'd like it to be," Reynolds said. "So we thought if we were going to get a catcher or a shortstop, we should do it early on. That was kind of the plan, to get those guys up the middle and then fill in with more pitchers later on since there's more depth there."
In the seventh and eighth rounds, the Reds added a pair of left-handers. They went north of the border to draft Phil Valiquette out of Montreal's Edouard Montpetit High School before grabbing Gregory Goetz from Bellevue Community College in Washington.
The Reds decided to go the four-year college route after that. Only high school right-hander Terrell Young interrupted the string, with Cincinnati's 10th pick, after the Reds decided to take second baseman Trevor Lawhorn out of East Carolina University in the ninth round.
Right-hander Jason Urquidez (Arizona State), outfielder Cody Strait (University of Evansville), second baseman Drew Anderson (Ohio State University), right-hander Jared Sanders (Oregon State University), third baseman J.D. Reininger (University of Texas) and outfielder Travis Kaats (Grand Canyon University) finished the run of college players.
"I think you always try to put a mix together," Reynolds said when asked about the college vs. high school debate. "To go with one or the other can be difficult, so you try to blend it -- get some good college guys, get some good high school guys."
In the 17th round, they went with the latter, taking shortstop Milton Loo out of Molokai High School in Hawaii. Overall, the Reds took six high school players, 11 out of four-year colleges.
The Reds finished the draft's first day with their only junior college pick, left-hander Charles O'Neal out of Chipola Junior College in Roberta, Ga. O'Neal is a likely prospect for the draft-and-watch route.
"Generally, it's done with junior college players because then you can retain his rights right on through the next draft," Reynolds explained. "As soon as a player enters a four-year school, you lose those rights. So [draft-and-watch] is basically for junior college guys and high schoolers that are going to junior college."
As for the rest of the draft, Reynolds has a plan.
"We've got teams at different levels, so you need younger guys at one level and some older guys at higher levels," he said. "If you don't blend it, then you have problems filling some of your rosters. As you'll see tomorrow, it'll be mostly college guys that we'll pick to fill the rosters and then some jr. college guys or late high school guys that we'll draft and follow if they're gong to junior college."
Todd Lorenz is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.