RHP Nick Howard is Reds top pick

With the 19th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, the Reds took right-handed pitcher Nick Howard from the Univ. of Virginia.

Howard who has been a two-way player for Virginia as a closer and third base, could potentially be developed as a starting pitcher.

In 27 games as a pitcher, Howard posted a 2.15 ERA and 19 saves in 27 games and 29 1/3 innings. He hails from Olney, Maryland. He is listed as 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds.

According to MLBPipeline.com, Howard is the 31st ranked overall prospect. Here is a snippet from the scouting report:

“Howard settled in as the Cavaliers’ closer in 2014. A team that thinks he might have the profile to go back to starting might take him in the early rounds.

As a starter, both at Virginia and in the Cape Cod League, Howard would throw his fastball in the 90-93 mph range, occasionally touching 94. In short relief, he’s been up to 95-97 and touching 98 mph. His mid-80s slider has tilt and bite when it’s good, but it can get slurvy at times.

He doesn’t use his changeup much, and it’s the development of that third pitch, along with refined fastball command — he has a tendency to be up in the zone — that will determine if he can start at the next level. Howard is very athletic, and there’s the chance he can take the leap forward that many two-way players do when they give up hitting.”

UPDATE: Here is what MLB.com reporter/Draft guru Jonathan Mayo said on MLB Network tonight about Howard, who he has watched pitch:

“This is a guy who started off this spring and wasn’t even being mentioned in the first round picture,” Mayo said. “As we got closer and saw him more, he kept on moving up and up. I think this is guy that if you put him in the bullpen right now, he might help them with the pennant race this year.

“I don’t think the Cincinnati Reds take him at No. 19 if they don’t think he can start. His change-up is behind because he hasn’t needed it. He hasn’t pitched a lot. He used it a little bit more when he started. As a closer, you put it in your back pocket and his fastball and breaking ball has been more than enough to be successful in the ACC. He can go back to developing it. Most people think maybe it can be average. But the other two are above-average pitches. I think he has a really good chance to be a starting pitcher.”

*In the 2011 Draft, the Reds took a power right-hander in Robert Stephenson 27th overall and followed up in 2012 by taking another one in Nick Travieso with the 14th pick. With the 38th pick last season in the compensation round another righty that brings heat was taken in Michael Lorenzen.

More to come later …

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