Yesterday we took a look at two pitchers, who bring very different things to the table, that the Cincinnati Reds could consider drafting in the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Thursday will see the draft bring to an end The Winter Meetings.
The Rule 5 Draft should be a little bit different this year than any other year. Teams are expecting to have 26-man rosters in the 2020 season. Having that additional roster spot makes it easier to keep a player on the roster all season long who may not be someone you can or are willing to use with high frequency. When a player must stick on the roster all year due to the rules of being a Rule 5 selection, being able to really pick and choose where to use them can be a huge advantage versus the past.
Baseball America has a list going of potential Rule 5 options and it was updated earlier today. It now includes two Cincinnati Reds prospects on the list. A few players jumped out to me from their list that could be interesting fits for the Reds.
What kind of players would stick out to the Reds? Well, at least for right now it would seem that someone who can play in the outfield or who can play shortstop would be near the top of their list. In particular, someone who can handle center field to back up Nick Senzel – could be quite useful.
With that said, the first prospect that jumped out isn’t exactly a center fielder. Ka’ai Tom has spent a majority of his time as a professional in the corners. But he did play some center field in Double-A and Triple-A this year (and has in the past, too). Between the two stops he played in 41 games in center – and if 2019 told us anything after the Reds played Jesse Winker in center field – they aren’t too concerned when it comes to playing guys in center in the right situation.
Where Ka’ai Tom sticks out is at the plate. The 25-year-old split his season in Double-A and Triple-A this year where he hit .290/.380/.532 with 27 doubles, 10 triples, and 23 home runs. While his slugging percentage was better in Triple-A with the baseball that seemed to defy gravity, he slugged .512 in Double-A, too, showing that the power was indeed more than just the baseball.
For a team looking at outfielders who can help offensively in free agency, having a guy like Ka’ai Tom on the bench would seem like a good option, too. The ability to play all three outfield spots, provide some pop, and potential to get on base – that’s a guy any bench could use.
Another outfielder of interest could be Buddy Reed. He’s a former 2nd round pick (2016). He spent the entire season in Double-A Amarillo. He struggled at the plate, hitting just .229/.313/.392. But the reason he’s interesting is that he’s a plus defender in center field, has some pop, and plenty of speed to burn. As the 26th player on the roster, what he brings as a bench player could have value. An outstanding backup defender in the outfield, a speedster off of the bench, and a chance against the right kind of pitcher to provide some pop is the definition of a 5th outfielder.
Shortstop Jose Fermin would definitely be a player that would be more of a “draft and stash” kind of guy. The highest level he’s played at is Low-A. The 20-year-old spent the full season with Lake County in 2019 where he hit .293/.374/.379 with 42 walks and just 40 strikeouts. It’s possible that he could be a guy a team could actually use during 2020, though. He’s a true shortstop, so he could back up around the infield if needed. And at the plate, while it’s an enormous jump from the Midwest League to the Major Leagues, he’s got a good clue of what the strikezone looks like and can read spin. The bat probably won’t be too useful in 2020, but he is a guy who made tons of contact in the minors and could possibly provide that same thing in the majors. He’s also got some speed, which could be used on the bases off of the bench. At his age, and experience level, he’d be a guy who if he stuck around all he would be sent back to the minors to continue to develop in 2021.
The last guy we’re going to specifically look at today is Wander Javier. Much like Jose Fermin, he would be a “draft and stash” kind of player. The 20-year-old signed for $4M as an international free agent in 2015. His first two seasons saw him hit well, though he only played in a total of 50 games through his age 18 season. He then missed all of the 2018 season after tearing his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. When he returned in 2019 he played in Low-A with Cedar Rapids and the results were less than stellar. And that’s putting it nicely. As a 20-year-old he hit .178/.277/.322 in 81 games.
The scouting report is what you’d be buying here. That and the opportunity to add a former top end prospect for $100,000 and keeping him on the 26-man roster for a season. After the 2018 season he was the #2 prospect in the Twins organization according to Baseball America. Fangraphs rated him #8 in their updated 2019 rankings. In terms of raw tools and potential, he has everything you want to see from a true difference maker at shortstop. But there’s a long way to go between that upside and where he was at in 2019, when he struggled to make contact – striking out 34% of the time in Low-A. For the 2020 season he could possibly help on defense, backing up around the infield, and providing some speed on the bases. It’s unlikely he’d be able to offer much at the plate without making drastic improvements from where he was at last season. But at just 20-years-old he could be sent back to the minors in 2021 at age 22 to continue to develop.
Your mileage may vary, and it’s probably going to. But those were the four guys from the current list at Baseball America that stood out as more interesting to me than the others. Go check it out. See if anyone sticks out to you that could be interesting. Tomorrow we’ll be back to look at a few players from the Reds organization would could be selected.