We’re going to wrap up the Rule 5 previews by looking at the infielders – and this will include the catchers. Earlier this week we covered the pitchers and the outfielders. While it seems that the infield is a little more set than the outfield with Joey Votto, Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson, Luke Maile, and however shortstop shakes out with Kevin Newman/Jose Barrero – there may not be as much room for someone to step in and compete for a starting job right away.

The Rule 5 draft 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 will be more players worth looking at than I’m going to cover here. But this is probably a good place to start. You can see some of the players that both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America have on their lists for perhaps a more complete look.

Andres Chaparro

If you are looking for a hitter in the Rule 5 draft then Andres Chaparro might be the guy. In Double-A this season with Somerset he hit .289/.369/.594 with a solid walk rate and a better than average strikeout rate. The 23-year-old had 16 doubles and 19 home runs in just 71 games played. After returning from the injured list in early August he hit .329/.411/.658 over the final 39 games of the season, closing out the season in a huge way.

Defensively there are some questions about how much third base he can play and if he’s more of a first baseman, but he’s capable of covering third base if you need him to at this point in his career.

With a little bit of defensive versatility and good production at the Double-A level, Chaparro could be an interesting option for teams to look at who are looking for some upside on offense to add to their roster.

Blaine Crim

Cincinnati may or may not need a first baseman to begin the season depending on how Joey Votto recovers from his shoulder surgery. But even if they don’t necessarily need one, adding a right-handed hitting first baseman who can also be the designated hitter on some days could be a good idea and Blaine Crim could help fill that role. In 2022 he hit .293/.357/.485 with 27 doubles and 24 home runs – mostly in Double-A with a late season call up to Triple-A. He walked 51 times and had just 95 strikeouts in 588 plate appearances, showing a good understanding of the strikezone.

As a right-handed hitter he absolutely crushed lefties, hitting .390/.458/.634 with 18 walks and 21 strikeouts on the season against them. He also finished out the season on a tear, hitting .337/.399/.558 over the final 49 games of the year. While he is limited defensively there’s a lot to like in his profile at the plate.

Greg Cullen

After missing the first few weeks of the season the Orioles started Greg Cullen in A-ball before moving him up from Single-A, to High-A, to Double-A, to Triple-A all within a span of five weeks. He struggled in that time to get going, hitting just .179/.319/.268 between the four levels. He didn’t play for nearly two weeks from the end of May until June 7th, but he got back on the field on the 7th and spent the rest of the year between Double-A and Triple-A and hit .306/.430/.478 with 32 walks and 37 strikeouts in 195 plate appearances. Cullen walks nearly as often as he strikes out and he’s done that for his entire professional career.

There’s not a lot of power in his game. And defensively he’s not exactly known as a good fielder at either second or third base. But a team that’s looking for a potential utility guy who can give you a good plate appearance when you need it then taking a look at Cullen could be worth it.

Cam Devanney

After a 2021 season where Cam Devanney struggled mightily in Double-A (.531 OPS) he made changes to his swing and the results were night-and-day. Spending time in Double-A and Triple-A in 2022 he hit .264/.342/.492 on the season with 32 doubles, a triple, and 23 home runs to go along with 48 walks and 110 strikeouts in his 515 plate appearances.

He will be 26-years-old next season, so he’s not the youngest player eligible in the draft, and you could argue that he was old and should have performed well in 2022 at Double-A where he spent much of his season. But while he was a bit older than your typical prospect at the level, he performed. And he was able to do so while playing shortstop or third base most nights. He’s a good defender and can play defense at both spots at a big league caliber level. He’s also gotten experience at second base to go along with a little big of time in left field and first base.

Ryan Noda

If there’s one thing that we know the Cincinnati Reds like to do it’s bring guys back home, right? Well Ryan Noda isn’t exactly a native, but he did go to the University of Cincinnati before he was selected by the Blue Jays in the 2017 draft. Since then he was traded to the Dodgers and since then he’s hit 54 home runs in 248 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

This past season he hit .259/.396/.474 with 23 doubles, a triple, and 25 home runs in 135 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City. His splits were pretty even as he posted an .872 OPS against right-handed pitcher and an .861 OPS against left-handed pitching. He does strike out often (28% strikeout rate), but he also walks a lot (16% walk rate). Noda isn’t young – he will turn 27 at the end of March. What he is, though, is big league ready. He’s played some corner outfield, but most of his time has been at first base. With the designated hitter now in the National League, a player like Noda may be a little bit more valuable.

Malcom Nunez

One of the youngest players eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year, Malcom Nunez is just 21-years-old. The corner infielder from Cuba saw action for two Double-A teams (midseason trade) and spent about a week in Triple-A. Between the three stops he hit .262/.367/.466 with 16 doubles, 23 home runs, had 69 walks, and he struck out 103 times in 493 plate appearances. He’s got plus raw power, a seemingly good approach at the plate, has been young for the levels he’s played at, and he’s had success in the upper minors.

The lone negative on his scouting report is that he’s probably just a first baseman. He’s got experience at first base and third base, but he is most likely a a third baseman on a sort of emergency basis rather than someone you can play there with regularity.

After a slow start to the season – he hit just .189/.340/.315 in April and May – Nunez turned things up from the start of June through the end of the season, hitting .294/.380/.533 with 20 home runs in 79 games. Is that enough to entice teams to look at him despite what is likely a first base only profile?

Ronny Simon

An undersized infielder listed at 5′ 9″ and 150 lbs. (whether this part is still accurate or just a reflection of not being updated in a while is unknown), Ronny Simon put together a good season between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery where he hit 19 doubles, 5 triples, and had 22 home runs. He also stole 34 bases. He followed that up by going to the Arizona Fall League and hitting .325/.402/.550 with 9 extra-base hits.

During the season Ronny Simon didn’t walk much, but his walk rate went up a little bit in his 39 games after reaching Double-A and his strikeout rate dropped significantly – it went from 24% in High-A to 16% in Double-A. In the Arizona Fall League his walk rate nearly doubled his regular season walk rate. His strikeout rate was 22% for Mesa in his 92 plate appearances.

Defensively Simon played second and third base in the minor leagues in 2022, and he’s had some past experience at shortstop and very limited action in the outfield from his time playing in the Dominican Summer League back in 2018 and 2019. But during his time in the Arizona Fall League 15 of his 21 games were at shortstop. Reports suggest he’s not an every day shortstop, but with the ability to cover you there every so often helps boost his value.

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10 Responses

  1. Matt

    Malcom Nunez is the guy I’ve singled out that I hope the Reds select. They may need a first baseman to start the year. He could certainly find playing time to start the year, with the infield options being Steer, Barrero, Newman, India, a recovering Votto, an often injured Moose, and Matt Reynolds.

  2. Dan

    Did Tanner Morris almost make your list? I like him… really good OBP numbers in the minors. I will concede, though, that he’s done nothing above double-A ball… But I just really like his high-OBP, line drive approach.

  3. MBS

    Blaine Crim is my guy if we go corner infielder. I’m going to assume that we’re either going to have Votto or Moustakas as our primary 1B. Having a guy who can platoon with them would be very useful. If Crim works out, it will give McGarry and CES added competition to take over 1B once Votto is gone.

  4. Tom

    Chaparro, Nunez and Crim in that order sound like great options. I’m not sold on McGarry or CES, and they’re not quite ready yet anyway.

    If this isn’t a year for a Rule 5 pick, then there isn’t one.

    And now with the DH in the National League, a 1b/3b type is a great pick when available.

  5. Tom

    Why don’t the Reds sign Nimmo, Walker, Jansen, Ottavino, and Robertson to push payroll back to 130 this year and try to compete? Looks like prices are down this year to me. Those 5 quality veterans would cost 63 million next year. Deals could be backloaded to make room for Moose’s contract until 2024 when he’s probably cut. If payroll is around 75 now, that’s about a 130-135 million dollar payroll with all
    deals being very short term except 30 year old Nimmo getting a 5 year deal as the longest (we need an outfield stalwart).

    If it flops, you can definitely trade some of these players at the deadline and very little is lost, while fan sentiment instantly improves. Try to win now for Votto’s last 1-2 years. In 2025, that is when the current excitement around our farm system will be in fruition. Making this sort of nimble move right now that no one sees coming is what a great front office would do.

    India 2b
    Votto / Nunez or Crim or McGarry 1b
    Nimmo RF – 5 year deal
    Moose / Steer / CES 3b
    Stephenson C
    Newman / EDLC SS
    Friedl / Senzel CF
    Solak LF

    That lineup will score an average amount of runs.

    Walker – 4 year deal

    Average rotation with possible above average upside.

    Jansen – 2 year deal
    Ottavino – 2 year deal
    Robertson – 2 year deal

    That bullpen could actually be above average.

    The Reds are just waiting around for their pitching staff to lose them another 100 games unless they fill in with FA at some point. Even next year (2024) there isn’t a pitching cavalry coming unless they sign FAs next offseason. That’s why I’m thinking they should just go now while the market is really focused on 30-35+ million dollar annual contracts for 7-10 players at the top of the market.

    Just getting a wild card should be the goal. The Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals are all down and in transition. The Pirates are not good and are not spending. They could possibly vie for the NL Central if they moved in FA this year.

  6. Bdh

    Find someone to take Moustakas (pay a good chunk and bring back a somewhat bad pitching contract for the back of the rotation in return) and draft Chaparro to possibly take his spot as the corner infielder / DH option off the bench.

  7. Optimist

    Still think they take a catcher, though none are in this summary. Hope it wouldn’t even be a 3rd catcher, since they need to protect TySteve – Looking for 80 starts from him, 30-40 from Maile, and the rest from the rest – means they might be able to carry a Rule 5 catcher as plan B for a while, especially one of the younger ones who may be prospect worthy in MiLB next year.

    Basically had 4 Rule-5 type catchers playing last year, after TySteve/Romine/Garcia.

  8. MK

    Don’t think any of these guys are better than what is already in the system Encarnacion-Strand would have better numbers than the corner guys listed and McGarry although not right handed is pretty good too. Definitely don’t need a utility man or middle infielder. So, I pass on all these.

  9. MK

    These guys are not better than what is already in the system Encarnacion-Strand would have better numbers than the corner guys listed and McGarry although not right handed is pretty good too. Definitely don’t need a utility man or middle infielder. So, I pass on all these.