Reds Pop A Homer
June 8, 2004
CINCINNATI--The Reds' new regime showed with its first draft pick that it wasn't going to be haunted by the problems of the previous administration.
The Reds selected Homer Bailey, a righthander from La Grange (Texas) High. The pick was somewhat surprising, given the trend in recent drafts has been to avoid high school pitchers, and the Reds' lack of luck when they bucked the trend.
But the Reds said they couldn't pass on Bailey's talent. "In a perfect world, you'd like to take someone with the experience and maturity of a college player," Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said. "But you have to go with the player with the best ability. Homer Bailey fits that criteria."
Bailey is the fourth high school pitcher the Reds have taken since 1999. Ty Howington (1999) and Chris Gruler (2002) are coming back from surgery. Jeremy Sowers (2001) did not sign and went to Vanderbilt instead. Sowers went to the Indians in this year's draft, one pick ahead of Bailey, who is committed to Texas.
"To be honest, that's not a big factor," Bailey said. "The Reds understand all I'm asking for is fairness money-wise. My goal is to pitch professionally."
Bailey, 18, has a tremendous high school record. He was 14-0, 0.49 this year. In 86 innings, he struck out 187, walked 15 and allowed 30 hits.
Bailey's given name is David. He takes the nickname Homer from the name of his great-grandfather. He has a little connection with the Reds. As a freshman at LaGrange, he pitched against Yoakum High in a regional final game. Ryan Wagner, who became the Reds' first-round pick last year after pitching at the University of Houston, started for Yoakum. Bailey won the game.
"Two years later, he's a first-round draft pick," Bailey said. "A year after that, I'm a first-round pick with the same team."
At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, he has a pitcher's frame, though he needs to fill out a bit more. The Reds also think he has that something extra.
"He's very competitive," O'Brien said. "He has performed at a high level against good competition for a long time."
• The Reds went with a Princeton product in the second round again, taking outfielder B.J. Szymanski, who also was a football-baseball star in college. Last year they took Princeton righthander Thomas Pauly in the second. "We think he can be an excellent player," O'Brien said of Szymanski.
• Cincinnati took an intriguing player in the fourth round in righthander Rafael Gonzalez. Gonzalez attended George Washington High in the Bronx but returned to the Dominican Republic last year and was signed by the Yankees for $200,000. Major League Baseball voided his contract because he's an American citizen, and he returned to the Bronx. He did not play for George Washington this spring because he was ineligible.