The Rule 5 draft is a month away, taking place on the final day of the Winter Meetings in the second week of December. But teams have to make their decisions on adding players to the 40-man roster to keep them from being eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft on November 20th. That’s next week. Today we’re going to take a look at the prospects that play in the outfield that the Cincinnati Reds should be considering adding to the 40-man roster rather than take a risk that another organization could select them. Yesterday we took a look at the infielders who could be considered.
Who is eligible this year? The short answer is any player drafted or signed in 2015 or earlier, and all college draft picks from 2016. There’s always a loophole or two – such as a player on their 2nd contract being eligible – this can sometimes happen if a player has their original contract voided and they re-sign. It’s not a common occurrence, but it does indeed happen. As far as I know, that isn’t the case for anyone this year for the Reds.
This feels like the easy choice for the Cincinnati Reds among the outfielders this year. Eligible for the 2016 draft, but unknown to more than a few teams to be eligible, Friedl went undrafted. After joining Team USA that summer and going on an absolute tear, more teams began to realize what happened and that he was eligible to sign as an undrafted free agent. The Reds had the most pool+overage money left and used all of it to get Friedl to sign.
In the four years since he’s hit .277/.369/.412 while climbing the ladder to Double-A. His season in 2019 was spent with Chattanooga where he hit .235/.347/.385 for the Lookouts. It was his worst season as a professional, and it came to an end at the beginning of July after an ankle injury required surgery. Diving a bit deeper into the stats we can see that his BABIP likely held him back during the time when he was healthy and on the field. His .277 mark was easily the lowest of his career (by comparison it was .348 in 2018). His walk rate, strikeout rate, and power were all average or better – but the low BABIP drug down his slash line a little bit.
While there have been times in his career where he’s played in the corner outfield, he’s a natural center fielder who has plus speed and can handle the position quite well. Friedl gets on base, has good gap power and there might be a little more home run power in his bat than he’s shown to this point in his career, too. On the bases he brings value both as a base stealer, and simply as a runner moving over on hits. His game is well rounded and he’s spent time in the upper minor leagues already. This should be an easy choice for the Reds.
This is one choice where things are a little bit more interesting. Narciso Crook was drafted out of Gloucester County Junior College in 2013 as a 17-year-old. He struggled a bit in his first few seasons at the plate, but you could see the pieces there – he had size and strength, he could run, there was some raw power in there, he could play defense. In 2018 the offense began coming around. Between three levels he hit .266/.344/.415, topping out in Double-A.
In 2019 he began the year back in Double-A, this time with Chattanooga, but was quickly in Triple-A with Louisville. Between his two stops in 2019 he hit .277/.332/.474. That included 22 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs, and 10 steals in 108 games played. And he did that while playing all three outfield spots. He’s probably not an every day center fielder from the defensive perspective, but he’s more than capable of handling the position if and when needed. A team that could be looking for an extra outfielder with a little bit of upside could see the tools and Triple-A production in 2019 from Crook and take a chance that he can continue to develop in the Major Leagues – especially with a 26th roster spot to use.
Author’s note: Over the last few years it’s felt like I’ve always been the “highest guy” when it comes to Andy Sugilio. That didn’t change this year when I talked with evaluators during and following the season.
In 2019 Andy Sugilio spent the entire year in Advanced-A Dayton where he hit .294/.331/.360. The .690 OPS he put up was actually better than the league average in the Florida State League by 24 points. Teams don’t usually select position players in the Rule 5 draft from A-ball. But this is also the first year that they will have a 26th roster spot, making it a little bit easier, potentially, to carry a player you want to develop at the Major League level while not being forced to use them in situations that don’t cater to that plan.
And right now, that’s where a player like Andy Sugilio falls at. He has tools to work with. There’s plenty more power potential in his bat than the eight total home runs he’s hit in the last two seasons. And he’s not likely ready to hit much big league pitching today, either – there’s a reason he was still in A-ball this year. But there’s some upside here. He’s one of the fastest, if not the fastest player in the Reds farm system. He’s a plus-plus runner and he can play all three outfield spots. That alone could make him useful in the Major Leagues tomorrow if a team wanted to use him as a defender and pinch runner.
At the plate there’s plenty of development left. Despite having power potential, he’s going to have to really change what he’s doing at the plate to get to it. His ground ball rates the last four seasons are 65%, 59%, 56%, and 61%. No one is going to hit for power when they are hitting so many ground balls. His walk rate has also been quite low in his career, and has been below 5% in each of the last two seasons.
The defense and baserunning could certainly draw a team in – it could be rather useful in the Majors. And the upside with the bat may help, but from where it’s at today, to where it needs to be could leave a team thinking that at least this year, it’s the development gap is too large.
Much like Andy Sugilio, there’s some upside with Mariel Bautista at the plate and in the field. The 22-year-old spent all of his season in Low-A Dayton with the Dragons with the exception of a short injury rehab stint with the AZL Reds. Bautista isn’t quite as fast, but he’s still an above-average to plus runner. And he’s capable of playing center, left, or right field.
At the plate there’s more upside with Mariel Bautista. Prior to 2019 he had hit .333, .320, and .330 from 2016-2018. But things were a bit different in 2019. His strikeout rate jumped up a bit and his BABIP dropped off a ton. More advanced pitchers were able to get him out on the outer third of the plate with good breaking stuff. It was a lost season of sorts that didn’t go as planned.
Still, there’s plus raw power in his bat, with an average to above-average hit tool, and plus speed to go along with the ability to play center field. It would be a risk for a team to select him given just how far away he was from the Major Leagues in 2019. He’s not ready to hit big league pitching right now. But this could be an upside play where a team uses that extra roster spot and picks and chooses where to use a player like Bautista at the plate – and could use him in the field and on the bases later in games to take advantage of the defense and speed now, while developing him at the plate in non-game situations with the hopes that he can head back to the minors in 2021 to keep developing for the future.