Tomorrow will see the Winter Meetings come to an end with the Rule 5 Draft. We’ve taken a look at some options on the mound that the Cincinnati Reds could look at selecting. And we’ve taken a look a few more options in the field that the Reds could possibly take a chance on. Today we’re going to take the opposite look and talk about players who could be selected FROM Cincinnati by other teams.
When the Reds made their moves to protect players from the Rule 5 draft three weeks ago, one guy that was left unprotected stood out the most to me: TJ Friedl. The case for him is easy from where I stand. With a 26-man roster you get a player who can provide a decent at-bat off of the bench and plenty of speed as a pinch runner if you need him to. In the field he can play center field or in the corners. And there’s upside there to be a potential future starting center fielder if his bat develops just a little bit more. He’s more than useful in several areas right now, and could be a starter on the team in a year or two.
Beyond TJ Friedl, things feel a bit less certain. But that doesn’t mean there’s no one that couldn’t, or won’t draw interest. Perhaps the most speculated on player is Ibandel Isabel. The first baseman has two things that jump off of the page at you: His insane power and his insanely high strikeout rate.
Over the last three seasons he’s hit 90 home runs in 323 games played. He led two of the leagues he played in in homers, and finished in second in the other. Last season he played in the Southern League, where the second place finisher in home runs hit 21. Isabel hit 20 home runs….. that went at least 400 feet. He led the league with 26 home runs despite playing in just 91 games. 44.1% of the fly balls that he hit in 2019 went over the fence for home runs. The next best in the league was just over 21%. The gap between his rate and second best in the league was larger between the guy in second place and literally the guy who hit zero home runs on the season.
But along with that incredible power comes tons of strikeouts. In 2017 he struck out 35% of the time he stepped to the plate. In 2018 that rate jumped up to 36%. With the jump to Double-A in 2019 his strikeout rate went up again – this time to 42%. Only one player in the last two seasons has managed to get 200 plate appearances and top a 40% strikeout rate – Keon Broxton, who hit .167/.242/.275 with a 46% strikeout rate while seeing time with Baltimore and Seattle. The right team could talk themselves into maybe envisioning a Joey Gallo-like hitter with big home run numbers and big strikeouts – but Isabel has never walked as frequently as Gallo, which makes things a bit tougher to make work.
Baseball America noted that there could be some interest in Alfredo Rodriguez. The shortstop signed with Reds in 2016 for $7M, though they paid a little more since they faced penalties for going over their allotment for the year. Since signing he’s hit .252/.302/.310. He’ll also turn 26-years-old next season in June. He’s coming off of the best season of his career, where he hit .286/.325/.347 in Double-A in 104 games. But he went to Triple-A for the final month and hit .169/.261/.221. His complete lack of power is concerning – he’s hit five home runs in 313 career games – including just one last season. But if you need a quality defensive shortstop, or backup infielder – he could possibly be your guy.
Outfielder Narciso Crook is an interesting option for a 26th man on a roster. He was 23-years-old last season and spent most of his time in Triple-A, though there was about a month of time in Double-A, too. Between the two stops he hit .277/.332/.474 with 40 extra-base hits in 378 plate appearances. He also stole 10 bases. The selling point is that he can cover you at all three spots in the outfield as a back up – though he’s probably a bit stretched in center if you play him there every day. Still, he’s got the ability to cover three spots and provide some speed off the bench. It’s probably unlikely he goes, but it only takes one scout to believe and convince their team to take a player.
On the mound there are more than a few guys who show something or another that could have a team at least a little interested. A long shot, for sure given that he didn’t exactly have success in Low-A this year, but Jhon De Jesus has plenty of things working for him. He’s a big 6′ 4″ right-handed starter who can touch 98 MPH and has a potentially above-average slider. He also has a high spin rate on both of those pitches, too. There’s risk that he wouldn’t stick given where he’s at in his development, but the upside could possible entice a team – particularly with a 26-man roster to work with in 2020.
Relievers Connor Bennett, Dauri Moreta, and Diomar Lopez all dominated in A-ball out of the bullpen in 2019. The latter two throw 92-95 and touch higher, and showed off outstanding control during the year in Daytona. Bennett split time in Dayton and Daytona, where he posted a 2.21 ERA on the season while striking out 88 batters in 57.0 innings. His fastball isn’t quite as hard as the others, topping out around 95 – but he’s got a good slider to mix in there, too.
A few longer shot relievers to keep an eye on would be Alexis Diaz and Aneurys Zabala. Diaz, who can touch 98 with a good slider, but had struggles in Low-A this past season. Zabala can hit triple digits, topping out at 102 MPH – but he’s struggled with control for his entire career, and his second pitch has always been inconsistent.
For a fuller, more comprehensive list, you can check out the entire series that I ran a month ago when looking at who the Reds could ultimately protect from the draft.