The rumors of the Cincinnati Reds being in the market for a shortstop this offseason have been fairly heavy. While they haven’t been linked directly to any specific shortstop, everyone believes they are looking at both the free agent market that includes Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, and Andrelton Simmons, as well as the trade market – having been linked with the Colorado Rockies in talks for Trevor Story.
While it’s almost assuredly not going to lead to finding a starting shortstop for 2021, the upcoming Rule 5 Draft could be a place where the team could find a backup option for 2021 and potentially something more a bit down the line. Of course, the Rule 5 Draft this year is a lot different than just about any other year ever. It comes after a year in which there was not a season for a majority of the players to have shown off the improvements that they made during the year, and many teams are looking at information – both scouting and statistical data – from over a year ago.
Most of the players that are on the radar, so to speak, are also players who were eligible and unselected in the Rule 5 Draft last year. But not all of them fall into that category. Los Angeles Dodgers middle infielder Omar Estévez is first-time eligible and could potentially fit an area of need for the organization. Estévez signed with the Dodgers for a $6,000,000 bonus out of Cuba in November of 2015 as a 17-year-old. He moved his way up through the chain for Los Angeles from 2016-2019, reaching Double-A where he hit .291/.352/.431 for Tulsa in 83 games.
He’s spent time at both shortstop and second base in his career – seeing more action at second base in 2019 than at shortstop. The scouting reports all suggest he’s a below-average defender at short, and only a so-so second baseman. With Cincinnati needing a shortstop for 2021, this could be a bit of a stretch for that position. Of course with more data than ever on where hitters are likely to hit the ball, perhaps Estévez could be a usable defender at shortstop today with that kind of help.
At the plate he’s improved nearly every step of the way up the Dodgers system. Pushed aggressively early on, he struggled at times. He reportedly made some swing changes in 2018 around midseason, and the results changed rather dramatically. In the final 67 games he hit .309/.373/.513 with 29 walks and 62 strikeouts. He only hit .242/.292/.392 in the first 61 games of 2018 with 16 walks and 76 strikeouts. While his power numbers didn’t quite carry forward into 2019 at the Double-A level, his strikeout and walk rates both remained at their improved rates from the second half of the previous season.
Omar Estévez has some upper level experience and some success (his OPS+ was 118 in the Double-A Texas League in 2019). And there’s a chance that perhaps he could provide some positional flexibility. This role, of course, may already be covered by Kyle Farmer, who can triple things up as an emergency catcher – but his bat isn’t anything to write home about, either. While Estévez doesn’t have a future star-caliber bat, it may provide an upgrade if not now, in the near future over what Farmer brings.
The Rule 5 Draft will take place on Thursday as the (virtual) winter meetings come to an end. The rules are still the same as they’ve been for a while – to select a player it will cost a team $100,000 and the player must remain on the big league roster for the full season or otherwise be offered back to the team they were selected from for $50,000.