Ben Lively has never wowed scouts with his raw stuff, but the right-hander has quietly put together a solid college career at the University of Central Florida and got selected as the 135th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft by the Reds.
"I was pumped," Lively said. "I had a couple teams that were on the lines, and my advisor told me I was going to be picked in about two seconds. It popped up, and I was so excited."
Lively isn't afraid to attack hitters with his four-pitch arsenal, even though he doesn't feature a plus pitch.
His fastball sits in the low-90s and his slider is his best secondary offering. Listed at 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Lively has ideal size for a righty. He commands all four of his pitches well and his delivery creates some deception.
As a junior this spring, Lively went 7-5 with a team-best 2.04 ERA over 15 starts at UCF, striking out 101 batters in 106 innings. It was a solid follow-up to Lively's impressive sophomore campaign, during which he went 9-2 with a 3.00 ERA and tallied 84 whiffs in just 81 innings.
Lively has also performed well in a few high-profile matchups this season, beating Jacksonville's Chris Anderson and Marshall's Aaron Blair.
Moving forward, Lively said he has one main focus as he prepares for the next level.
"Just get a little bit stronger," Lively said. "I threw a lot more strikes this year than I have in the past, so I feel good about that. I just want to keep getting stronger."
Reds go with strong-armed Armstrong in Round 3
The red letter C that Mark Armstrong wore on his hat while playing high school baseball at Clarence High School, just outside of Buffalo, N.Y., might have been a piece of foreshadowing.
With their third-round selection in the First Year Player Draft, the Reds, who wear the exact same letter C on their caps, took the strong, athletic right-hander as the 104th pick.
While his present stuff is good, it isn't as enticing as his upside of having three at least Major League-average offerings. Armstrong's fastball sits around 90 mph, and he mixes in a hard, downward curveball and changeup.
Scouts think he has the potential to improve thanks to clean mechanics and his 6-fooot-3, 200-pound frame. Armstrong played football and hockey in addition to baseball and doesn't have as much game experience as his southern counterparts.
"He's a big, physical guy with good stuff," said Reds senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley. "He's a northeast guy, so he's not quite really who he is yet. He was a three-sport athlete, so we're obviously excited about how much he can grow."
Armstrong still earns high marks for his pitching ability.
He led his high school team to a section championship with a dominant complete-game performance. Armstrong gave up only three hits over seven innings, and had 10 strikeouts while only walking one batter.
He is committed to Pittsburgh, but Buckley said he feels good about the Reds' ability to sign Armstrong.
Armstrong's selection was the first of six pitchers taken by the Reds on the second day of the Draft. Cincinnati went with a college arm in the fourth round, taking Ben Lively out of the University of Central Florida. After picking Mauldin High School (S.C.) shortstop Cory Thompson in the fifth round, the Reds went with three straight right-handed pitchers: Zack Weiss from UCLA in round six, Tyler Mahle out of Westminster High School (Calif.) in round seven and CSU Bakersfield senior Scott Brattvet in round eight.
In the ninth round, the Reds picked former football player Chad Jones, whose NFL career ended because of a car accident a month after the New York Giants drafted him in 2010. Cincinnati rounded out day two of the Draft by selecting another right-handed pitcher, Daniel Wright from Arkansas State.
In the Pipeline
The Reds went with a slew of pitchers on Day 2 of the Draft. Although there's talent on the mound throughout the organization, stocking up on arms in the Draft is not an uncommon practice.
Of Cincinnati's top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, half are pitchers. Right-hander Robert Stephenson leads the way as the No. 2 prospect in the organization, followed by Tony Cingrani, Daniel Corcino and Nicholas Travieso.
Buckley said there's various reasons for drafting a plethora of pitchers, including the fact that the position has the highest attrition rate.
"Every year, the most players that get signed are actually pitchers," Buckley said. "On each [Major and Minor League] pitching staff, we have to have 10 pitchers, so every team does it."
With versatile Thompson, Reds get two-way player
Scouts appear split on whether high schooler Cory Thompson is a better fit on the mound or in the infield, though it didn't keep the Mauldin, S.C., native from being selected in the First-Year Player Draft by the Reds in the fifth round.
When he toes the rubber, Thompson can reach the low 90s with his fastball. He also boasts a good curveball and changeup. His somewhat diminutive stature -- he stands 6 feet tall and weighs 185 pounds -- could bring about questions regarding his durability atop the hill.
Thompson is, however, an excellent athlete, which helps him both as a pitcher and as a shortstop. He has good hands on defense and possesses a strong arm.
Thompson will have a choice to make: He is committed to the University of South Carolina, where he could continue his career as a two-way player.
Reds senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley said based on conversations with each of the three high school players drafted on Friday, he feels good about the organization's chances of signing them to professional deals.
Cincinnati also drafted a two-way player, Michael Lorenzen out of Cal State Fullerton, in Compensation Round A on the first day of the Draft.
"Obviously, [Thompson] is not as far along as [Lorenzen] because he's a high school player," Buckley said. "We see him as a shortstop. We think he has the tools to play there. We do also realize he can pitch, but we like him at short."
Reds pick Weiss for his potential out of 'pen
Zack Weiss, the Reds' sixth-round pick, may have to hone his command and his control a bit if he hopes to succeed at the next level, but he certainly proved himself capable by thriving in a tough Pac-12 Conference.
Weiss -- the third right-hander taken by Cincinnati in the first four rounds on Day 2 of the Draft -- was a starter-turned-reliever in college. In 2012, Weiss struggled in 13 starts before moving to the bullpen. He ended the year with a 4.28 ERA in 17 total appearances.
As the Bruins' setup man in 2013, the 6-foot-3 senior has excelled. In 40 appearances, he went 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA. Weiss allowed 33 hits and 12 walks while striking out 27 in 38 innings.
The Reds, however, see him better in his old role.
"We think he can start," said senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley. "What a lot of the colleges do is take their best pitchers and put them in the bullpen, because if they're you're Friday starter, they might only pitch one game a week. Other scouts that have seen him think he can start, too."
Heading into UCLA's Super Regional against Cal State Fullerton, Weiss is riding a stretch of 12 appearances (11 2/3 innings) in which he's given up just an unearned run. He did not pitch on Friday night in UCLA's 5-3 win over Fullerton.
Weiss works with a fastball in the low 90s to go with a solid slider, curveball and changeup.
Righty Mahle chosen in seventh round by Reds
Tyler Mahle might not look like a Major League pitcher now, but the Reds' seventh-rounder and 225th overall pick has the potential to be one.
The right-handed pitcher out of Westminster (Calif.) High School weighs in at under 180 pounds, but his 6-foot-2 frame allows for room to grow. That's what has the Reds and senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley excited about the young prospect.
"What you try and do when you take a high school pitcher is get that guy with good mechanics that you can work with," Buckley said. "We pick guys that have good deliveries."
Right now, Mahle's fastball will sit in the high 80s, though some reports have him topping out at 92 mph on occasion. He should see an uptick in velocity as he fills out. His curveball and changeup need a lot of work, but both pitches have the chance to be average or better.
Mahle has smooth mechanics and a repeatable delivery, leading many to believe that he will have good command in the future. Mahle also has a great feel for pitching and is very aggressive on the mound.
He is committed to play at UCSB, where his brother, Greg, plays, but Buckley said after talks with all three high school players taken on Friday, he thinks there's a good chance the Reds will be able to sign Mahle.
College righty Brattvet's future may be in relief
Drafted in the eighth round (255th overall) by the Reds, right-hander Scott Brattvet is relatively new to starting, beginning as a reliever at the junior college level before transferring to CSU Bakersfield and moving into the rotation in 2012.
And that's where the Reds want him to stay.
"He's a starter," senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley said. "We like him, and he throws three pitches for strikes."
In his first season as a regular starter in 2012, Brattvet went 6-5 with a 4.75 ERA that season. He posted three complete games in 14 starts and struck out 66 in 91 innings.
This season, he settled in as the Saturday starter by going 9-1 with a 2.55 ERA over 15 starts.
Although the Reds want him in the rotation, Brattvet said he would be open to to do whatever the club asks of him.
"I thought I might be a reliever because if I come out of the bullpen, I could increase the velocity on my fastball a little bit," Brattvet said. "But I'm just going to see how it goes."
His fastball sits in the low-90s and can reach the mid-90s at times. He combines it with a good slider. The one factor that could push Brattvet to the bullpen is that his command is often lacking. He walked 42 batters in 2013, which led his team by 11.
For now, though, Brattvet isn't as worried about where he might end up as much as he's just enjoying the moment.
"It was a surreal feeling," Brattvet said of being drafted. "It's like a dream come true. I was sitting there with my dad, and it was just awesome to hear my name."
Ex-NFL prospect Jones taken in ninth round
If it hadn't been for a devastating one-car accident three years ago, Chad Jones likely would be playing in the NFL. Instead, the left-handed pitcher was selected by the Reds in the ninth round of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday.
In 2007, Jones was drafted in the 13th round by the Astros, but decided to go to LSU where he could start on the diamond and on the football field. He was drafted twice in 2010, once by the Brewers and also by the NFL's New York Giants as a safety in the defensive backfield. Jones chose football, but before he could ever play a down, he broke his left leg and ankle in a car accident, which led to him being cut by the Giants.
Without football, Jones turned again to baseball.
"I would say about two months ago, he started to work out," said Reds senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley.
In his junior year at LSU, Jones appeared in nine games as a pitcher. He allowed four hits and posted a 2.70 ERA while striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings. Jones also batted .343 with six RBIs.
Buckley said Jerry Flowers, who lives in Baton Rouge, La., took the lead on scouting Jones, and the organization believes he can get back what made him a big-time prospect years ago.
"Absolutely," Buckley said. "We all scouted Chad through football and baseball at LSU. Unfortunately for him, he had the bad injury. This kid had tremendous potential, and he hadn't even scratched the surface because he only played baseball when he wasn't on the football field."
WDSU News in New Orleans reported at the end of May that Jones was throwing for MLB scouts and that the 25-year-old lefty's fastball was clocked between 88-91 mph.
"Once it was clear that I wasn't going to be able to get on the field, I turned back to my second love, which I knew would take off for me," Jones told WDSU News. "I never felt like it was a rush to get back to baseball, because I knew I still had it in me to throw, even hit, if that was the case."
Workhorse hurler Wright rounds out Day 2
The Reds rounded out Day 2 of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday by selecting right-handed pitcher Daniel Wright from Arkansas State in the 10th round.
Wright -- the seventh pitcher taken by Cincinnati -- is coming off the best season of his college career. He led Arkansas State starters with a 6-5 record and 3.18 ERA in 17 appearances (15 starts). Wright also was tops on the team with 110 1/3 innings, allowing 92 hits and 26 walks while striking out 96 batters.
Last month, Wright was named Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year, which he sealed with an impressive close to the 2013 season. Wright threw complete games in his last three starts, tossing perfect frames in 11 of his final 26 innings.
With his reputation as a workhorse, senior director of amateur scouting Chris Buckley said the Reds liked Wright's versatility.
"We just saw a guy that can probably fill a couple different roles," Buckley said. "We think he can start and he can pitch out of the bullpen."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.