Yesterday we wrote about how Cincinnati Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams noted that the organization would have some prospects on the taxi squad portion of the roster this year. “The group that will be at the alternate site will include a few of our prospects, I guess you could say a few of the players that are further off that we would like to see get development, but we are philosophical decision is to support the team to win this year,” said Williams.
After an offseason that saw the organization hit free agency in a way that many fans had only been able to have fever dreams about for the last two decades, it makes sense that the Reds would go about their 60-man roster with the idea that the taxi squad should be far more about winning in 2020 than future development. But, there’s still something to be said about that future development, too, because at some point those guys are going to be the ones that are hopefully going to help the organization win.
Yesterday I did a little speculation on a few of the guys who perhaps weren’t pegged for the Double-A/Triple-A team, nor on the 40-man roster, who could be “development” types rather than “win in 2020” types. But let’s try to take a look at the whole scope of non-40 man guys who could be on the taxi squad.
The first step is trying to figure out how many spots could be available there. That’s a little difficult, but we can try. Let’s assume that all players on the 40-man roster get placed onto the 60-man roster in one way or another (whether it’s the initial 30-man roster or the taxi squad). No one is currently out for the year, so to begin that leaves us 20 spots to fill.
When spring training came to a halt, there were still 48 total players in Goodyear. Among that group was 14 players that were not on the 40-man roster. Let’s look at those players:
- R.J. Alaniz
- Jesse Biddle
- Vladimir Gutierrez
- Nate Jones
- Alex Powers
- Brooks Raley
- Sal Romano
- Tyler Thornburg
- Christian Colon (INF)
- Derek Dietrich (UT)
- Matt Davidson (INF)
- Jose Garcia (SS)
- Francisco Pena (C)
- Alfredo Rodriguez (INF)
If the team were going to keep all of these guys around, that would put the full roster at 54 players. Is it possible that some of these guys don’t get added to the final 60-man roster that is due to Major League Baseball on Sunday? Yes, it’s possible. Francisco Pena, for example, could potentially be a guy on the outside looking in given that the Reds will have four catchers on the 40-man roster with Tucker Barnhart, Curt Casali, Kyle Farmer, and Tyler Stephenson – in a 60-game season, do you need five catchers? Well, maybe you do. It’s a risk a team may be willing to take, though – they can make a move down the line if needed.
Perhaps some of the older veteran guys could could be left off of the roster, but if there’s a thought process that this is a “go for it all in 2020” roster, maybe not. Let’s go ahead and get crazy, say that 10 of these players make the roster. That would lead to 50 spots taken out of the 60.
Working with 10 open roster spots, beyond the 40-man and the above list of 14 players, which minor league players could fit into the remaining spots? Some of it could come down to roster construction, but without knowing how that’s going to play out, it does make it a bit tougher to truly guess who will be coming to Cincinnati based on that.
When we’re looking at non-40-man roster guys in the Top 25 Prospects who are potentially “Double-A/Triple-A” guys this year, there’s more than a few beyond the list above. Nick Lodolo, Jonathan India, Stuart Fairchild, TJ Friedl, Jameson Hannah, and Packy Naughton all fall into that category. Jameson Hannah feels like the odd man out in this group given how many outfielders are already around, while also not having that Double-A experience that Fairchild and Friedl have.
When we get into the non-Double-A and Triple-A group there’s a few guys that stick out for “development” reasons. And then there’s a guy who could be a bit of both, Hunter Greene. Coming off of Tommy John surgery the team was going to ease him back into games this summer, piggy backing him with another starter once he was ready to go according to Vice President of Player Development for the Reds Shawn Pender back in spring training (1.0). At the time the plan was to ease him back in, either at Dayton or Daytona.
At this point there’s little doubt that he’s ready to go, hitting 102 MPH last week in a bullpen session. While he’s only pitched a little over half of a season in Low-A, he’s exactly the kind of guy who could, come September and October, be an absolute difference maker if things go right.
I had mentioned Michel Triana, the 7-figure international signing from last summer, yesterday. He last played in organized games in 2018 while still in Cuba when he was 18-years-old. The Reds did have him in spring training this year on the minor league side, but already 20-years-old and having missed plenty of developmental time, the slugger could make a ton of sense to be brought in to get live at-bats to get him developmental time.
Jose Adames is another guy that I have mentioned as a potential taxi squad guy. He hasn’t pitched in a game that counted in the standings at any level since 2016 with the long exception of a handful of rehab games in Billings during the last week of the season in 2019. He’s battled through multiple arm injuries since then, but much like Hunter Greene, he’s shown he’s ready to hit the mound running this year. While he was not in big league camp, the Reds brought him over for a game early on and the right-handed pitcher hit 100 MPH. The 27-year-old has a very live arm, and while he has never pitched in Double-A, he’s the kind of guy you may take a chance on and see what develops.
We mentioned earlier that Jameson Hannah may be on the outside looking in because of the amount of outfield depth. That could also be said for a guy like Narciso Crook, who had a good year in 2019 between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. But if the Reds are going to add another outfielder he could make some sense as a guy who can cover all three spots (center in a pinch), has a little bit of speed, and a little bit of pop, and has found some success in the upper minors.
Speaking of guys with a little bit of pop, Ibandel Isabel has some of that. There are clearly some swing-and-miss issues in his game, but the power is absolutely real. With the Reds bringing in plenty of new developmental guys, perhaps it would make sense to have him come in and see if they can work with Isabel to cut down on the strikeouts that have kept him from truly tapping into his massive amounts of power (which says a lot given just how much power he actually has hit for).
Going further down the system into A-ball, maybe you think about some development for a Michael Siani, Rece Hinds, Tyler Callihan, Noah Davis. What about the 2020 draft picks? Austin Hendrick certainly isn’t going to be helping out the big league club this year, nor is Mac Wainwright or Jackson Miller – they’re high schoolers who just aren’t there yet. But what about the three college pitchers? Christian Roa seems a bit more “ready” than Bryce Bonnin or Joe Boyle, but all three of them undoubtedly have big league caliber stuff. They, like Hunter Greene, could fall into both the category of development and potential “help later in 2020 in a possible bullpen role if things work out”.
There are a lot of options and ways that the Reds could go about building their 60-man roster. How they will actually do that isn’t entirely clear just yet, though we have some hints thanks to the words of Dick Williams. We’ll find out soon enough how the organization goes about the non-40-man additions.