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Reds draft preview
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2004 First-Year Player Draft
06/03/2004 10:39 AM ET
Reds draft preview
Reds keeping quiet about draft plans
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Ryan Wagner pitched in 17 games with a 1.66 ERA for the Reds last year after being drafted in the first round. (Al Behrman/AP)
CINCINNATI -- While the Reds aren't willing to tip their hand as to who they might take with the seventh overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft on June 7, Cincinnati fans can rest assured that they're putting a lot of thought into the pick.

First-year general manager Dan O'Brien and his scouting staff have been working diligently over the past few months scouting players in preparation for strengthening the farm system they've inherited.

"It's been a two-pronged approach," O'Brien said. "I've been closely following the scouting reports we've been getting from our scouts on various prospects and since February, and as time has permitted, I've tried to see some of the better athletes in this year's draft to get a feel for what kind of athletes are out there."

Now that he has, the entire brain trust is busy discussing them.

"The week of the 15th of May, we had regional meetings with the scouts from the West Coast and central, then met with the East Coast scouts in Cincinnati," said Reds director of amateur scouting Terry Reynolds. "We began our draft meeting with all the scouts here in Cincinnati on Monday. They'll continue with regularity, so we're well under way."

Along with the other 29 Major League organizations, the Reds place an amazing amount of emphasis on a process that lasts all of two days. Because of market size, they don't have the funds to secure big-name free agents every winter, so it's a process they consider more critical than most.

"Over the course of 12 months, the two days of the draft are two of the most, if not the most, important days for our organization," O'Brien said.

So the question remains. What will they do with their picks?

"Terry, myself and our entire staff have visited on several occasions," O'Brien said. "We've agreed that our philosophy and approach will be simple. We're going to take the best player available when our spot to draft comes up."

Considering the way this year's top amateurs are being ranked right now, it wouldn't be shocking if that player ends up being a pitcher.

"I think we're likely to take the best guy available," Reynolds said. "However, in this draft there's a preponderance of pitching, so a lot of teams will probably go with a pitching-first approach."

If Cincinnati decides on an alternative route come draft day, look for the Reds' new regime to begin building up the middle.

"With the way drafts tend to unfold, in the higher rounds you simply take the best player available," O'Brien said. "As it progresses, and you get to the lower end of the draft, you run into more players with equal ability. Then you can begin to look at filling needs and positions of strength.

 Past five No. 1 picks
  Year   Player
  2003   Ryan Wagner, RHP
  2002   Chris Gruler, RHP
  2001   Jeremy Sowers, RHP
  2000   David Espinosa, SS
  1999   Ty Howington, LHP

"If you look at most championship clubs they have strength up the middle, meaning pitcher, catcher, second base, shortstop and center field. Those are always the key positions and if one of the players with equal abilities falls into one of those categories we'll tend to lean in that direction."

One direction the Reds probably won't be leaning is toward college over high school players, although they know that might be the safest play.

"I think college players are a bit safer," Reynolds said. "You've had three or four more years to evaluate them, so they're more developed and mature from playing more games. Saying it's a safer way to go is accurate, but that's not to say that's how we're going to draft."

In reality, the Reds will be looking at both the near and distant future.

"If you look objectively and assess any successful draft there will be a good balance," O'Brien explained. "There will be a mix of high school, junior college and four-year college athletes.

"Generally college players are closer to helping out at the Major League level because they're more polished, but you don't want to overlook younger, talented players who might be cruder and not as refined."

Todd Lorenz is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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