There was a real lack of true “here for development” players on the initial roster for the Cincinnati Reds 60-man player pool that was released on Sunday afternoon. There were plenty of prospects on the roster, but all of them were guys who seemed likely to be in Double-A or Triple-A in a normal season and would have been in line for a call up in a 2020 season due to performance or injury. Some organizations have included top prospects who have almost no shot at all of being on the big league field this year, but are on the 60-man roster in order to get time on the field – including a 17-year-old for Oakland, and several high school draft picks from the 2020 draft for a few organizations.
When asked about Austin Hendrick, the Reds 19-year-old 1st round pick out of high school less than a month ago, Cincinnati’s General Manager Nick Krall said this:
“Austin is more of a ways away. A high school kid who hasn’t even started his season yet. He’s got to get back in baseball shape first before you even think something like that. That wasn’t a consideration, but we did think about all prospects and how can we maximize the development of guys.”
Both sides of the coin make sense for the high school draft picks. Getting a guy some reps on the field certainly is going to help. But having them get in work on their own, so to speak, for the next two months isn’t exactly going to set them back, either. For a guy like Hendrick, who didn’t get to play much this spring before his season was shut down, compared to a guy who maybe played in a southern state that did get in a little more action before the season was shut down, he could be a little behind – but in the long run, it’s not likely to change much.
“With that said, Hunter’s (Greene) coming back from Tommy John. He’s pretty much finished his rehab, building up. He’s a a guy we’re trying to figure out how to maximize this year for him,” said Krall. “We want to figure out how to continue to progress him forward. He wasn’t a consideration now, but again, we’ve got three spots open – you can always add people at a later date if and when someone is ready to be put on a 60-man roster.”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The lack of Hunter Greene on the roster was the biggest surprise to me. While he is indeed coming back from Tommy John surgery, he’s back. The plan this season, according to Senior Vice President of Player Development Shawn Pender back in spring training was to likely get Greene into games at either Dayton or Daytona around the start of June and have him work in tandem with another starter on basically a piggy back kind of situation. Seeing Greene hitting 102 MPH in a bullpen session two weeks ago really cemented the idea that he was ready to go, too. I’d have bet a lot of money he’d be on the roster. I’d have lost it, too.
For the Reds and for Hunter Greene, it would seem to make sense that he’s with the organization for both developmental reasons and from the sense that it’s pretty clear he’s got a difference making arm. While you probably don’t want to send him out there to start games right now for a few reasons, postseason rosters at times get big time prospect pitchers added as bullpen options. David Price and Aroldis Chapman both leap to mind as guys who took that route. Having Hunter Greene come out firing 102 MPH fastballs in the playoffs certainly doesn’t sound like the worst idea around. Of course, the team could choose to add him to the roster between now and then, too.
The minor league season has not officially been cancelled yet, though a determination is expected to be announced soon. But the writing is on the wall and no one truly expects a season to happen. What does that mean for the players who won’t be participating on the 60-man roster?
“It’s speculative right now. We’ve been trying to do remote workouts. Our pitching guys have done zoom workouts with different prospects – the hitting guys as well. Our development staff gets them on zoom, whether is 1-on-1 or 10-on-1, to continue to try and progress them forward,” said Krall. “We’d love to be able to get them at-bats if we can, or innings for next year. That’s obviously going to help their development moving to next year. I’m not sure what’s going to happen this offseason, whether there’s a Fall League or an instruction league – we haven’t gotten word there. That would be one place to do something if we could.”
There’s been speculation that there could be some expanded Arizona Fall League kind of situation that could involved far more than the typical 6-8 players per organization. Without a minor league season, the rumors were that there could be a full team roster, maybe even a roster and a half (where two teams each supply 15 additional players for a joint team) that begins a bit earlier than normal. The idea would have also included a similar league in Florida run out of the spring training facilities there. All of that is unofficial, and just in the talking stages at this point.
The Reds have eight of their Top 25 Prospects on the roster. On top of that, there’s also Mark Payton, who was acquired after the list was released, as well as Tejay Antone, who showed up to spring training throwing significantly harder than he had in the past and likely would have been included on the list had it been updated since then (an update is coming once all draft picks are signed).
As noted, just about everyone on the roster would have been slated for the upper minors. There’s going to be development had for these guys. Perhaps the biggest prospect in terms of importance with this in mind may be Jose Garcia. With Freddy Galvis being a free agent following the 2020 season, and Garcia the top prospect at the position in the minors – and barring any unforeseen developments, the only player in the organization beyond Galvis that has the look of a potential every day shortstop who could play there in 2021, getting him time on the field is huge. Depending on how things go, what happens between now and October with regards to Jose Garcia could really have an effect on how the team approaches free agency or the trade market.
If Jose Garcia were to show strong development in 2020 after never having played higher than Advanced-A ball previously, the team could feel confident in handing over the job to the 21-year-old Cuban prospect. But it may also show that perhaps he’s still a little bit out from being ready to take over a full time big league job at such a young age, and that could leave the team looking for a short term option in 2021.
With that said, with starting pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Trevor Bauer set to become free agents, having innings to go around for other starting pitchers on the taxi squad are quite important, too. For guys that were going to be in the upper minors like Nick Lodolo, Tejay Antone, Tony Santillan, and Jose De Leon – they could show that they’re ready to take over a spot in the rotation next season if the team doesn’t re-sign those players.
While Cincinnati isn’t going “full on development prospects only” with some of their roster spots (at least as of now), there are some very important players on the roster who may or may not see big league time this year who will be getting development time that from an organizational standpoint is vitally important.
Other Reds minor league news and notes
As was reported yesterday, Reds #13 prospect Vladimir Gutierrez was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for stanozolol – a synthetic steroid – during spring training. Normally these suspensions begin during the regular season. If a player tests positive between seasons, their suspension doesn’t begin until the start of the regular season of the last team they played for. Without a minor league season, how and when suspensions like this are going to be handled are still being determined.
If Major League Baseball chooses to stick with the same rules rather than adjust it due to the circumstances of no minor league games being played, it’s possible that Gutierrez, who was notified of the suspension in March of 2020, could wind up not seeing the mound again due to the suspension until late June of 2021 when the Reds Triple-A team would have played their 80th game and he’s no longer suspended.
Blake Trahan was invited to the Reds “Summer Camp” to be on the 60-man roster. The infielder, however, decided to retire.