Prospect Garrett thriving since choosing baseball

Two-sport star happy with decision to put down basketball, commit to pitching

Prospect Garrett thriving since choosing baseball

CINCINNATI -- For a few years, Amir Garrett tried to be a college basketball player and a professional baseball player -- at the same time. Garrett found he wasn't being fair to himself in either sport because he wasn't fully committed to one or the other.

That changed in 2014, when Garrett decided to focus on baseball full time. At the time, he didn't know what would happen. Looking back, the Reds' left-handed pitching prospect is happy with his choice.

"I made my decision and it's paying off," Garrett said.

Garrett, 22, was 7-8 with a 3.65 ERA in 27 starts for Class A Dayton last season. Over 133 1/3 innings, he allowed 115 hits and 51 walks while striking out 127. Opposing hitters hit .231 against him. It was an improvement from his 2013 season, when he had a 5.15 ERA in 13 games split between Rookie level Billings and Dayton.

A 22nd-round Draft pick by the Reds in 2011, Garrett lacked the deep baseball experience because he was also a highly touted basketball player. He was a 6-foot-5 guard/forward at St. John's University in New York for two seasons before he transferred to Cal-State Northridge in 2013, but he did not play in a game for Northridge.

"Once I just started pitching more and learning how to pitch, I'm like, 'Man, this is fun. I can do this. I can be a pitcher,'" said Garrett, who has a fastball velocity range of 90-94 mph. "I was having success during the season and said, 'Maybe I should give my full focus to baseball.' I never focused on one sport, so I could never get to my full potential. I had a full year and said, 'I'm all right. I can pitch.' So I decided to put the basketball down and see where this goes."

The Reds added Garrett to their 40-man roster after the season, and he will be in big league camp for Spring Training for the first time. He is likely to begin the 2015 season at Class A Advanced Daytona.

"I'm very proud of the season Amir had," Reds player development director Jeff Graupe said. "Coming in with the right attitude at Spring Training, really for the first time, he had a full season to practice. He had been so used to competing every day -- whether it be basketball or baseball -- and jumping in midway and having to compete and never be able to take a breath and be on equal footing with his peers. I think coming in, preparing for a season, it was remarkable how he got better as the season went on."

Garrett had a 4.57 ERA in 13 first-half starts with Dayton, but a 2.86 ERA in the second half over his final 14 starts. Ranked as the organization's No. 19 prospect by MLB.com, the Reds project him to be a starting pitcher.

"When you combine his physical attributes with his ability and mental makeup, he's got a chance to be a very special kid for us," Graupe said.

A California native that lives in Las Vegas during the offseason, Garrett looks forward to doing more this coming season.

"It's just getting innings, getting my feet wet and keep pitching," Garrett said. "I know I can pitch, but it's about experience in certain situations where you just have to be out there."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.