The Rule 5 draft is a week and a half away. It will take place on December 7th in San Diego to close out the Winter Meetings. Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must remain on the 26-man roster for the entire 2023 season or be offered back to the original team that they were drafted from.
The Cincinnati Reds current outfield situation is a bit of a giant question mark. On the 40-man roster they have Stuart Fairchild, Jake Fraley, TJ Friedl, Nick Senzel, Michael Siani, and Nick Solak. There’s not a player who has established themselves as an every day player among the group. Anyone selected in the Rule 5 draft would also fall into that category, but could at least be competition with those six players for a spot on the roster.
MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, Sam Dykstra, and Jonathan Mayo looked at the top unprotected prospect from each organization on Friday. We’re going to take a look at those outfielders and see if any of them make sense for the Reds.
He was rated as the #23 prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization at the midseason point by Baseball America. The soon-to-be 23-year-old spent his entire 2022 season in High-A Bowling Green where he hit .255/.368/.499. He showed off good power, hitting 28 doubles, a triple, and 24 home runs in 119 games. There’s more power in the tank for him, too.
There’s questions about just how much average he’ll be able to hit for in the long run. He understands the zone enough that he can draw walks, but still struggles to recognize breaking stuff enough that he is going to strike out a lot. There are also questions about just how much defense he can play. He’s slow and doesn’t have much experience in the outfield – he’s a former catcher/first baseman. There’s plenty of arm to play in right field, but his range leaves him quite limited.
The 22-year-old was rated as the Chicago White Sox #27 prospect at the midseason point by Baseball America. He spent most of his season in High-A Winston-Salem where he hit .281/.333/.443 before spending the final month in Double-A Birmingham where he hit .299/.333/.443. Between the two stops he racked up 39 doubles and 15 home runs. Winston-Salem is one of the tougher places to hit home runs in the minors, which may help explain the big time doubles numbers.
There’s big time power potential here. But there’s also a guy here who struck out just 92 times in 553 plate appearances in 2022, too. That’s a 16.6% strikeout rate for a guy with plus raw power. That could be a real intriguing combination if things work out. With that said, that mostly came in High-A and that’s a pretty far cry from the big leagues. Defensively he’s got a big arm, but he’s considered a below-average defender.
One of the oldest players that may be selected, Jake Mangum wil be 27-years-old by the time the 2023 season begins. Ranked by Baseball America as the New York Mets #28 prospect midseason, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. He got out to a slow start in April, hitting just .200. But he went on a tear, hitting .367 in the first three weeks of May and was promoted to Triple-A. He hit .333 there in his first 11 games, but then missed the next two months before heading to Florida for a rehab assignment. When he returned he hit .310 in 27 games before the season came to an end.
Mangum has hit for average in each of his two full seasons. But he has also been very old for the levels he’s played at, spending much of his age 25 and 26 seasons in Double-A. There’s not much power in his game as he’s hit just 13 home runs in 156 games over the last two years (he didn’t hit a home run in 53 games in his pro debut as a 23-year-old in rookie ball and only had five home runs in 262 games at Mississippi State). He is a very good defender in center and has good speed that he can use on the bases.
Unranked by Baseball America in the Marlins system (and he’s never made their top 30 at BA), the 25-year-old Johnston had a good year in Double-A Pensacola where he hit .292/.360/.450 with 31 extra-base hits in 85 games. The Marlins sent him to Triple-A for the final month of the year and he struggled with Jacksonville. In 29 games he hit just .155/.293/.330. On the surface that’s very, very poor. If you wanted to dig a little deeper he walked nearly as often as he struck out while there and nine of his 15 hits went for extra bases.
Defensively he’s played first base and left field in each of the last two seasons, with most of that time coming at first base. He’s very slow and isn’t likely to provide much value at all on the bases.
Ranked as the 17th prospect in the Dodgers organization at the midseason point, the 21-year-old spent his season in A-ball at two different stops before heading off to the Arizona Fall League. After hitting .277/.391/.518 for Rancho Cucamonga in the first six weeks of the season the Dodgers promoted him to High-A Great Lakes. He spent the final 95 games of the season there, hitting .240/.322/.467. Between the two stops he hit 25 home runs to go along with 22 doubles and 6 triples. But he also had 169 strikeouts and 57 walks in 123 games. In Arizona he hit .275/.326/.463 in 89 plate appearances.
With plus raw power, Ramos has room to grow with his power even though he’s already showing good power in games. He’s got average or better tools across the board, but he’s got no upper minor league experience and while he’s still just 21-years-old, that doesn’t matter as much if he’s got to stick on a big league roster. Defensively he is a good corner outfielder with a plus arm.
Unranked by Baseball America midseason (but ranked 9th by MLB Pipeline), Korry Howell will be Rule 5 eligible for the second consecutive season. He was 23-years-old during the season in 2022 and spent all of it in Double-A San Antonio, but it wasn’t a long season for Howell. After hitting just .091 in the first week of the season, Howell quickly turned things around. From April 20th through June 24th he hit .282/.405/.524. Unfortunately June 24th was also the final day of his season as a wrist injury led to him missing the remainder of the season.
Howell has played a bit of everywhere on defense, getting action at shortstop, second base, and all three spots in the outfield last year. Defense, and his versatility at multiple spots, is a big area of value. He runs very well and he’s been able to use that speed. How much he can and will hit has been the biggest question following him around since he was drafted, but he’s gotten better over the years.
Baseball America’s #13 prospect for the Giants at the midseason mark, Pomares spent his season as a 21-year-old in High-A Eugene. In 95 games there he hit .254/.330/.438 with 20 doubles and 14 home runs. There’s a lot of power in his game, but his approach is still raw and he struggles to make contact.
Defensively he’s made some improvements, but he’s a below-average defender with a fringe-average arm. The arm is enough to play right field if needed, but profiles better in left. The bat is the selling card due to the upside, but he’s never played in Double-A or Triple-A and would be making a big jump to the big leagues.
When it comes to players eligible for the Rule 5 draft no one is going to jump out as a “for sure” kind of player. If they were then the team would have protected them and they wouldn’t have been available. What you want to look for is what kind of role a guy could possibly fill rather than expecting to pick up someone who can play a big role on your team.
Korry Howell, Troy Johnston, and Jake Mangum seem like the three guys here that are most likely to stick to a big league roster. You don’t have to squint too hard to see how each could fill a role on the Reds. But you do have to squint pretty hard to see any of them finding a role as more than a bench/utility role.
There’s plenty of upside with some of the players on the list, but the chances that any of them are ready to stick to a big league roster right now are small. Sometimes you take a chance on a guy like that and the light just clicks, but it’s a rarity. The odds seem better for pitchers to make the jump from A-ball than position guys.