The Cincinnati Reds have a trio of starting pitchers to look forward to taking the mound in 2023 with Nick Lodolo, Hunter Greene, and Graham Ashcraft. In the bullpen there will be Alexis Diaz and a bunch of question marks (though several with plenty of potential coming back from injury). There’s plenty of room for the Reds to add a pitcher (or three) and there could be some opportunity in the upcoming Rule 5 draft. 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.

There are going to be a ton of arms available, and plenty worth discussing. For today’s purposes, though, I’m going to just pick and choose some that seem like the best fits from the lists from MLB Pipeline and Baseball America that looked at some of the options.

Elvis Alvarado

There have been some struggles along the way for Elvis Alvarado. His ERA’s in his first three seasons on the mound (he was an outfielder when he signed) were 6.59 (13.2 innings), 4.40 (28.2 innings), and 6.60 (45.0 innings). That changed in 2022 as he started throwing strikes with far more consistency. Splitting time between Single-A Lakeland, High-A West Michigan, and Double-A Erie the right-handed reliever posted a 2.72 ERA in 59.2 innings where he allowed just three home runs, walked just 18 batters, and had 63 strikeouts.

His fastball works in the mid-to-upper 90’s and he’s hit 100 MPH with the pitch. He’s also got a cutter/slider that works in the upper 80’s. With that kind of velocity and a newfound ability to throw plenty of strikes he should garner plenty of attention from teams with a spot or two open on their 40-man roster.

Grant Anderson

Drafted in the 21st round by the Seattle Mariners in 2018 out of McNeese State, Grant Anderson moved his way up the Seattle, and later Texas Rangers farm system, making it to Double-A in 2021 where he struggled. The Rangers sent him back there to begin 2022 and he was very good this time around, posting a 2.80 ERA in 54.2 innings with 16 walks and 75 strikeouts. That got him a promotion to Triple-A for the final month of the season. He began his Triple-A career by allowing five runs in 2.0 innings. After that he allowed just four runs in 10.2 innings with four walks and 12 strikeouts (3.38 ERA). He’s been pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason and has allowed three hits in 11.2 innings with no earned runs, no walks, and he’s struck out 15 batters.

Anderson throws a 2-seamer with good running action in the low-to-mid 90’s. He’ll mix in a plus slider in the low 80’s. He’s missed a lot of bats, striking out 91 with just 21 walks in 67.1 innings this past season in the upper minors. The combination of stuff and performance is likely to have teams taking a deeper look at him as a potential selection.

Danis Correa

Splitting his season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, Danis Correa saw both success and struggles. While with Tennssee he posted a 2.93 ERA in 40.0 innings while giving up just two home runs, striking out 40 batters, and walking 22. When he went up to Iowa he struggled some as he posted a 5.40 ERA in 16.2 innings while giving up three home runs, walking 10, and striking out 24. His numbers in Triple-A were good until his final two outings where he allowed four earned runs and walked five batters in 2.2 innings.

His season was bookended by a few bad outings. In his first four games (after missing the first three weeks of the season) he posted a 7.71 ERA. Between May 8th and September 17th he posted a 2.49 ERA and held opposing batters to a .195/.292/.290 line and allowed just seven extra-base hits in 47.0 innings.

Correa has premium velocity, throwing in the upper 90’s and hitting 100 MPH. He mixes in an above-average breaking ball in the low 80’s and a good change up in the mid-to-upper 80’s. Mix the stuff in with good ground ball rates (52% in 2022) and the fact that he’ll be 23-years-old next year and there’s a lot to like in his profile.

Nic Enright

A 20th round pick by Cleveland out of Virginia Tech in 2019, Nic Enright saw action as both a starter and reliever in his time in college, but he’s made just one start as a professional out of his 97 appearances. Since being drafted the right-handed reliever has a 2.80 ERA in 141.2 innings, has allowed just 100 hits, walked 35 batters, and he’s picked up 201 strikeouts. The numbers have been outstanding. This past season mirrored much of his career as he posted a 2.88 ERA while splitting time in Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus (where he performed better than he did in Double-A).

There’s not big velocity for Enright, who throws his fastball in the low 90’s but it’s got good movement to it. He also has an above-average slider that works in the low 80’s. He’s got excellent control and he misses tons of bats. His numbers have been outstanding. The one thing working against him, particulary from a standpoint of the Reds being interested in selecting him, is that he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher. Over the last two seasons his ground ball rate has been 26%. Only four pitchers were that low in the big leagues last season among the 409 pitchers that threw at least 40 innings. The ERA’s for those four pitchers were 2.25, 2.54, 3.06, and 5.36 – so you can have plenty of success by giving up tons of fly balls, but in Cincinnati it’s always going to be a concern until you prove you can do that while also keeping the ball out of the stands.

Ryan Fernandez

Drafted in the 23rd round out of Hillborough Community College, Boston Red Sox relief prospect Ryan Fernandez has had a good minor league career, posting a 3.06 ERA in four minor league seasons. In 2022 he wasn’t quite as good as he had been in the past. . He began his season in High-A and struggled in the first two months as he posted a 6.48 ERA. But in June he didn’t allow a run in nine games and struck out 19 batters with just one hit in 10.1 innings. That got him promoted to Double-A where a pair of 3-run outings ballooned his ERA to 4.97 as he walked two batters with 16 strikeouts in 12.2 innings.

He only pitched in one game after July ended, hitting the injured list with a sore elbow at the start of August and went back on the injured list after his only appearance during the month and didn’t return to the mound. When healthy he sits in the mid-90’s and touches 99 MPH with his fastball. He also mixes in a cutter in the low 90’s, a slider in the mid-to-upper 80’s, and a change up. Fernandez is also a high spin rate guy. His elbow issues could be why he was left unprotected, but he seems to have plenty of stuff and after walking 11 batters with 56 strikeouts in 39.2 innings last season he seems like a guy that teams should take a long look at.

Nolan Hoffman

A bit different from your typical reliever these days, Hoffman is a sidearm/low arm angle guy who throws in the upper 80’s, topping out around 92 MPH. He will also throw a low-to-mid 70’s curveball.

He missed nearly three months from June through August before returning to the mound. In his 23.1 innings with Double-A Bowie he posted a 4.24 ERA with seven walks and 22 strikeouts. He then headed out to the Arizona Fall League where he posted a 3.65 ERA with two walks and 17 strikeouts in 12.1 innings. Between those two stops he allowed one home run, two doubles, and a triple. Hoffman has always been a big time ground ball pitcher and that was no different in 2022 as he posted a 65% ground ball rate (MLB average is 42%). He’s been over 60% at every stop in his career where he’s thrown at least 5.0 innings.

As a pitcher who throws strikes, gets a ton of ground balls, and keeps the ball in the ballpark he could be an interesting look for some teams.

Kevin Kelly

Cleveland’s farm system is deep and that led to Kevin Kelly being left unprotected despite posting a 2.04 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. The 24-year-old threw 57.1 innings and allowed just one home run, walked 22, and he struck out 75 batters during the season. He posted a 60% ground ball rate and has been over 50% at every stop of his minor league career.

His 2-seamer works in the low 90’s and gets plenty of ground balls and shows plenty of movement. He also has a breaking ball in the upper 70’s. The stuff is more solid than outstanding, but he gets a ton of ground balls, keeps the ball in the park, throws a lot of strikes, and he’s shown he can be very successful in the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Anthony Maldonado

After having a bit of an injury-plagued season in 2021 where he missed two-and-a-half months, Anthony Maldonado put together a strong 2022 where he was healthy and split time between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Jacksonville. During his 27 games in Double-A he posted a 3.67 ERA with 15 walks and 58 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He was better than that in Triple-A where he posted a 1.74 ERA in 20.2 innings with just one home run allowed, five walks, and he struck out 28 batters. He posted a 1.13 ERA over the final two months of the season (24.0 innings) while holding opposing hitters to a .433 OPS.

One interesting thing with Maldonado is that in A-ball and Double-A his ground ball rate was just 26%, but in Triple-A that rate jumped to 42%. The sample size there was smaller than the others, but he made 15 appearances with Jacksonville…..

He’s got a fastball that works in the 92-95 MPH range and will touch a tad higher at times. He also mixes in a a good slider in the low-to-mid 80’s and a cutter. The stuff is there to be a big leaguer and he’s also a guy who has put up good numbers in the minor leagues and has thrown strikes everywhere he’s been.

McKinley Moore

Drafted by the White Sox in the 14th round of the 2019 draft, McKinley Moore was traded to the Phillies this past spring. He spend his entire season in Double-A Reading where he posted a 4.35 ERA with just three home runs allowed, 26 walks, and 71 strikeouts. On the surface the numbers don’t look great. But he had a BABIP against that was .382 and that seems unlikely to continue with a big league defense behind him. He’s generally been a ground ball pitcher, too – though in 2022 he was at 48%, which is still above-average, but not as high as had been in the past.

He walked a lot of batters through mid-June. But from mid-June through the end of the season he had an 8.9% walk rate in 16 games while striking out 33% of the hitters he faced in that span. His fastball has been up to 100 MPH and he sits in the mid-to-upper 90’s while throwing a high-80’s slider.

For a team that thinks his improvement in throwing strikes in the second half is a real improvement this seems like a guy that should be picked early.

Andrew Politi

Older than most guys teams tend to take, Andrew Politi will be 27 next June. The right-hander rebounded from a tough 2021 season by dominating in Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. Between the two stops he posted a 2.34 ERA in 50 games that covered 69.1 innings. He allowed just 45 hits, walked 22 batters, and picked up 83 strikeouts along the way.

In today’s game his fastball doesn’t stand out, but it works in the 92-95 MPH range and will touch a bit higher at times with solid movement. He also throws a slider and a curveball to give batters two different breaking ball looks. His ability to throw strikes and pick up plenty of strikeouts and show tons of success in the upper levels of the minors in 2022 could get him a look from the right team in the Rule 5.

About The Author

Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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22 Responses

  1. RedFuture

    Kevin Kelly looks like an excellent choice, I hope he’s still there when the Reds pick!

  2. LDS

    Kelly and maybe Enright sound like they are worth a shot. Enright, maybe not. I guess it depends on what the status of the various pitchers coming off the IL actually is. As you state in the opener, beyond the 1st 4 lie a lot of question marks – some of them huge.

    • Colorado Red

      Looks like he had TJ surgery, and missed the last two years.
      Risky, but could be a good pick up.

    • Doug Gray

      I could have added another 10 guys, probably. But at some point – and I decided it was 10 guys and 2000 words – I had to cut things off.

  3. Colorado Red

    What about Victor Vodnik?
    Out of ATL, looked good a AAA last year.
    ERA under 3 in Milb.
    Looks like a good reliver.

    • Kerrick

      That’s the pitcher I liked the best. Followed by Erik Miller

  4. Colorado Red

    other options, Thad Ward, did real well in AA, or Elvis Alvarado.
    They are both long shots, but one of the two could help the pen.

  5. Optimist

    Still think they may pick a catcher, but it is easiest to keep a Rule 5 reliever on the roster all season. Also, seems to be more younger talent here than some of the other positions. If they take a pitcher, it has to be the last option in the pen rather than one of three or four cheap/potential/hope-for-a-breakout season types. Seen enough of that.

  6. Stock

    I would like the Reds to make 3 Rule 5 possessions. The Reds should obtain their backup catcher next week. They should get an offensive player and a pitcher.

    I think the #1 target should be Antonio Gomez who is a catcher. A second option at catcher is Drew Millas.

    I like Heriberto Hernandez and Jeremiah Jackson as a second offensive player.

    I am with Andrew above and prefer Ethan Hankins to any of the above players. I take Victor Vodnik 2nd (see Colorado Red above) From the list above I like Nic Enright. Grant Anderson, Elvis Alvarado and Kevin Kelley would be good options too.

  7. Doc

    Given their BP strength the last two years, the Reds could probably stock their BP with 4 or 5 of these guys and weed them out without being worse than they have been! What is the current Rule 5 deal, $100k to draft, $50k to send them back if team accepts them back, or to minors if team does not accept them back?

    Hypothetically speaking, if the Reds drafted 5 of the above pitchers and started the year with all of them on the BP roster as required, and if they all turned out to be duds and were offered back, what is the maximum financial exposure, ie cost, to the Reds? It seems that it would be at or less than what they have paid for individual FA duds over the past several years.

    On the other hand, again hypothetically, what if they drafted 5, started the year with all of them on the roster, and one of them had a breakout season ala Diaz, while the other 4 were offered back to their previous teams, what would be the effective cost of that one breakout? Any that were declined to be taken back could then be optioned to the minors, right? If so, what if there were one breakout, and one or two who could be kept and optioned within the Reds organization with some future value?

    I don’t know enough about the economics of rule 5, but for as bad as this BP has been, this could be a year to roll the rule 5 dice. Five draftees might be a bit many even for my hypothetical, but it illustrates my question/point. Stock up and weed out. If you could keep Barrero and Aquino on the roster all year, why not several arms with potential?

    • Stock

      If healthy, the bullpen should be a strength next year. There is not room for 5 of these pitchers unless several players are traded and/or injured. The Reds would be expected to take 13 pitchers north next April.

      Five locks that will/may start: Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Luis Cessa and Justin Dunn
      Five locks: Alexis Diaz, TeJay Antone, Tony Santillan, Lucas Sims and Fernando Cruz.
      Probable: Buck Farmer and Reiver Sanmartin

      This leaves one spot for Ian Gibaut, Joel Kuhnel, Vladimir Gutierrez and whomever else.

      • MK

        I think your two probables are locks, especially since Farmer signed a guaranteed contract and Sanmartin is the only lefty in the group.

        Is Rule 5 draft order by 2022 record or by the draft lottery for amateur draft?

      • Stock

        I agree with you MK. I also forgot about Connor Overton. He belongs in the group with Kuhnel and Gutierrez. The more I look at it I don’t know if any of the players in Doug’s list are an upgrade over Overton, Kuhnel, Gutierrez and/or Ricky Karcher. I would pass on all of them.

        I like four players. Antonio Gomez who is a catcher. I like Heriberto Hernandez and Jeremiah Jackson as a second offensive player. Finally I like Ethan Hankins at SP.

    • Optimist

      I think you’ve stated the $ costs involved – namely 100k draft fee, a $50k refund if the return is accepted, and league minimum salary while on the roster. The additional +/- to consider are, of course the win/loss effect – how would this bullpen compare with the past few years, and the value of one or more draftees having a positive effect (trade value, longer term value).

      Normally, it’s unusual if a team takes and keeps one Rule 5 pick through a season. But, this is an abnormal situation – no draft last year, and it’s the Reds considering 2023. Still, it will be a surprise if they take more than 1.

  8. Matt

    I like Luis Devers from the Cubs system. Topped out at A+ last year, but he doesn’t really walk dudes, keeps the ball in the park, and had a >50% GB rate. Oh, and in 11 A+ games (8 starts) he had a 1.05 ERA

    • Matt

      To add to this, I hope the Reds make 2 selections – Malcom Nunez from Pittsburgh in Rd1, and then Devers in Rd 2. They’d need to create a roster spot between now and then, but I don’t think anyone besides maybe Joel himself would worry too much about a Joel Kuhnel DFA. I’d take the upside of Nunez/Devers over the known quantity of Kuhnel.

      • Tom

        It’s just me but each one of these relievers looks better than half of the players on our staff. After 4 years of putrid bullpen performance, it will be somewhat of a dereliction to not draft at least one arm.