The Cincinnati Reds have added four players to the 40-man roster tonight, in advance of the 8pm deadline to finalize the rosters for protecting players from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Cincinnati selected the contracts of catcher Tyler Stephenson, right-handed starter Tony Santillan, right-handed starter Tejay Antone, and right-handed reliever Ryan Hendrix.
Tyler Stephenson is currently rated as the Reds third best prospect. Tony Santillan joins him in the top five at number five. And Ryan Hendrix cracks the list on the sixteenth spot. It’s Tejay Antone who isn’t rated in the top 25 list, but was a player that warranted plenty of conversation about whether or not to protect him. The Reds decided that he was worth adding. He can provide depth for the rotation for now, and could possibly be an interesting groundball machine out of the bullpen if they want to look at that road down the line.
Those four players puts the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster at 39 players. Teams don’t have to have a full roster if they choose not to. But that’s where things get a bit strange – there’s an open spot on the roster and TJ Friedl is currently left unprotected. As I type this sentence there are still 35 minutes until the deadline to make transactions hits, so he could still be added. But the fact that he wasn’t on the original list doesn’t give much indication that he’ll be added by then – that’s not how the Reds have operated in the past. I guess we’ll see.
For now, though, let’s talk about why the confusion is here. The Reds starting center fielder, Nick Senzel, is battling his way back from shoulder surgery this offseason. He’s supposed to be ready to go when the season begins. But he’s also a guy fully capable of playing on the infield. TJ Friedl is a center fielder, and a pretty good one. He did struggle at the plate a little bit in 2019 as he battled with an ankle injury that ultimately required surgery and cost him the final two months of the season. But even in a down year that was plagued by an injury his OPS+ in the Double-A Southern League was 117. That means his OPS was 17% better than the league average. While Jose Siri is also on the 40-man roster, Friedl very well could be ready to play every day in the big leagues sooner due to a stronger approach at the plate. That could have provided some insurance, if nothing else, for the Reds.
When looking at his tools, he’s at least fringe-average across the board. Power is really the only tool that’s fringe-average, though. His arm is average, his hitting is average to slightly above-average, and his defense is above-average. Oh, and he’s got plus speed. He is recovering from ankle surgery, but that shouldn’t stop any team from selecting him.
If the team had no roster spots available, this would make a little bit more sense. But the spot is there and available. That leaves at least this writer a bit confused.
Update at 830PM
We’ll have more on this later, but the Reds have acquired right-handed pitcher Jose De Leon from Tampa Bay. He’s now on the 40-man roster, which would be one reason that Cincinnati didn’t choose to protect TJ Friedl by adding him to the roster.