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Reds choose switch-hitting catcher Grandal

Reds choose switch-hitting catcher Grandal

CINCINNATI -- An elite college catcher that was still on the board for the Reds when the 12th overall pick was on the clock?

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This was something they could not refuse.

The Reds pounced and used their first-round selection to take catcher Yasmani Grandal out of the University of Miami.

"It's such a hard position to find," Reds scouting director Chris Buckley said after the pick was made. "There are so few everyday catchers across the Minor Leagues, or even in the Major Leagues, that we just didn't think we could pass him up."

A switch-hitter, Grandal entered Monday's NCAA Regional final game vs. Texas A&M batting .412 in 59 games with 14 home runs, 56 RBIs and a .537 on-base percentage.

"All week, we didn't think he would make it down to us. He's very polished," Buckley said. "He's a plus thrower. He threw out 40 percent of runners this year at the University of Miami. He's well above [average] defensive player, a switch-hitter with power from both sides."

The last time the Reds used their first-round pick on a catcher was in 2007 when high school player Devin Mesoraco was taken 15th overall. Mesoraco is currently at Double-A Carolina.

Grandal, who will turn 21 in July, is the second Miami Hurricanes product the Reds have taken in the first round in the last three years. In 2008, Cincinnati used the seventh pick to take first baseman Yonder Alonso.

Like Alonso, Grandal will be represented by agent Greg Genske. The deadline to sign all Draft picks is midnight ET on Aug. 16.

"We're real hopeful," Buckley said about signing Grandal.

Also similar to Alonso, Grandal emigrated from Cuba at a young age with his parents. He arrived in the United States as a 10-year-old and grew up in the Miami area. Alonso was a defector as a boy when he arrived with his parents.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Grandal and his family -- including his mother, stepfather and maternal grandparents -- won a national lottery that allowed them to enter the U.S. as legal residents.

"It was a constant battle," Grandal's mother, Maria Gomez, told the Palm Beach Post. "At the end of the day, you went to bed thinking, 'How are we going to get by tomorrow?' That was life on a daily basis. Leaving was about giving Yasmani opportunities."

The Reds could have quite a Cuban contingent in their clubhouse in the coming years. Besides Alonso, the Reds also have defector and lefty pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who was signed as a free agent in January. Chapman is currently Alonso's teammate at Triple-A Louisville.

Among the accolades already on Grandal's resume is his being the 2010 ACC Player of the Year and a semifinalist for USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award.

Out of high school, Grandal was a 27th-round selection by the Red Sox, but elected not to sign and attended college.

It's been quite an ascent for Grandal, who was once considered undersized as a youth and a light hitter when he later first set foot on the Coral Gables, Fla., campus. As a freshman, he batted .234, and he was a .299 hitter with 16 homers his sophomore season. As a junior, he came into his own.

"I think it's just maturity, growing up, understanding the game more," Grandal told MLB.com late last month. "Coming into this year, I needed to step into a role. The only way for me to take over that role was to do better than I'd done. I said to myself, 'I'm going to try to help the team to win by doing as much as I can on the field.' That's helped a lot, being more mature at the plate, recognizing more pitches. That's helped me out the most."

Grandal was playing with Miami on Monday and was not available for comment. He is expected to speak with the media sometime Tuesday.

The Reds will resume their selections in the second round, No. 62 overall, on Tuesday. Coverage for rounds 2-30 will be streamed live on MLB.com, beginning at noon ET.

Mark Sheldon 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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