2017 Reds / Regularly Scheduled Rain Delay

Regularly Scheduled Rain Delay: Expansion Draft Evaluations

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The recent NHL expansion draft has had me thinking: the MLB has been pretty static for awhile, we could use a couple of new teams. What if Rob Manfred decided to add another team in Las Vegas too, and perhaps Nashville while we’re at it? Both teams could pluck three players from each current franchise, giving them a seed of 90 professional baseball players from which to build a team.

Naturally, the same rules as the NHL expansion draft would apply — current teams can protect a set number of players, trades can be put in place to protect others, so on and so forth. But 90 players still is more than enough talent to field three levels of professional baseball. The rest could come from free agent signings and future actual MLB drafts.

In this potential future world, let’s say each current franchise is allowed to protect 12 total players — three infielders, two outfielders, one catcher, three pitchers, and three prospects. Teams must designate utility men as counting either toward an infield or outfield role, and players must have not exceeded rookie eligibility to be considered a prospect.

Who would the Reds keep around?

STOCK CHARACTERS

Because this is entirely hypothetical, I won’t consider the potential stratagems of who would be available on other teams and the nuances of roster construction. Instead, from the perspective of a Las Vegas or Nashville GM, I will simply choose the six best available players that the Reds leave unprotected to abscond with. But first, an overblown but well-reasoned delve into those protected players is necessary.

Three Infielders

Joey Votto (1B), Eugenio Suarez (3B), Nick Senzel (3B)

Using one slots here on Nick Senzel frees up the latter three prospect spots for further pitching protection. Also, truth be told, the Reds don’t have a single infielder on the Major League roster worth protecting outside of Joey Votto. If a team wants Zack Cozart or Jose Peraza, good for them, but there would almost certainly be better options at short and second elsewhere around the league. Protecting Eugenio Suarez is more of a “why not” and a “Senzel is a good year away” decision. If available, Suarez would most likely be nabbed given his production, but protecting Dilson Herrera or Alex Blandino or even recent-signee Jose Garcia feels like an unnecessary precaution.

Two Outfielders

Jesse Winker, Billy Hamilton

Oh buddy, this is where it gets hard. Jesse Winker is a given here, the man has torn up AAA this year to the tune of a 127 wRC+. The other spot becomes a bit more difficult. There are arguments for both Scott Schebler and Adam Duvall, but I’d rather an expansion team take a shot on them continuing their production and freeing up a spot for Winker. On the flip side, there are arguments to protect more prospects such as Taylor Trammell or T.J. Friedl (and trust me I really wanted to protect Friedl here), but both of them are too far off for it to make sense. Billy Hamilton is not a great centerfielder, but he provides excellent value for the Reds and would be an incredibly savvy pick for Las Vegas or Nashville to scoop up. Protecting him and Winker keeps the future intact without sacrificing too much of the present.

One Catcher

Tyler Stephenson

I don’t foresee Devin Mesoraco’s career lasting all too much longer, or at the very least, him being an above average catcher for the Reds. If an expansion team wants to roll the dice on him, so be it, but Stephenson is the far more attractive future option.

Three Pitchers

Brandon Finnegan (SP), Raisel Iglesias (RP), Amir Garrett (SP)

Anthony DeSclafani, Cody Reed, and Michael Lorenzen all would be acceptable selections here as well, especially with Garrett’s recent struggles and admittedly low ceiling. However, Disco’s injury worries me about his long term more than Finnegan’s does, and I prefer Garrett to Reed tenfold. Also, you can never take Lorenzen over Iglesias. These picks effectively sacrifice either Homer Bailey or Anthony DeSclafani depending on an opposing team’s strategy, but the Reds have a pitching logjam as is and need to get the future eating some innings rather than waiting on the main course to arrive.

Three Prospects

Luis Castillo (SP), Tyler Mahle (SP), Sal Romano (SP)

Again, I really wanted to keep T.J. Friedl around here (Is my love for him irrational? Maybe.), but pitching takes precedence 11 times out of 10. With a guaranteed rotation of Finnegan, Garrett, Castillo, Romano, Mahle and potentially keeping Disco, Reed, Robert Stephenson, and Rookie Davis in the mix, the Reds pitching staff starts to look a lot better than its current iteration. That said, this ideal world depends on Bronson Arroyo hanging it up and Scott Feldman packing his bags, but both of those will happen eventually. Right?

Also, I’m excluding Hunter Greene from this narrative because he is yet unsigned, but should he sign soon, he would absolutely take Romano’s place in the above.

Who do the Reds end up losing?

Going with the system of Las Vegas and Nashville alternating picks, the Reds lose:

Las Vegas — Anthony DeSclafani, Robert Stephenson, Adam Duvall

Nashville — Homer Bailey, Zack Cozart, Michael Lorenzen

Feel free to sub in Cody Reed for Robert Stephenson, but otherwise I’m pretty confident these are the guys the Reds would end up forfeiting. My protection plan keeps most of the future secure, but yields a lot of talent from the current Major League roster. Jose Peraza would also probably get some looks as would Scott Schebler, but with the other options on the table, I feel pretty confident the Reds would be able to hang onto them, whether they wanted to or not.

Who would you protect and who would you see going as a result? It’s not as if everyone (or anyone) agrees with me as is:

KANGAROO COURT FEES

Repeating my schadenfreude from last week, this week’s fines will not be issued to baseball players, but basketball players instead. With the NBA draft last night, I have come to realize that I now resent the NBA in a way that I previously only reserved for the NFL. Of late, basketball is the only thing that can occupy the minds of sportswriters and commentators, with Steph Curry this and Lavar Ball that consuming every minute and every word. I enjoy watching basketball unlike football, but this has reached preposterous levels. I simply don’t need to read 15 articles about Lonzo Ball’s draft stock. Or about what Kevin Durant’s move out west means for the league at large. Maybe sportswriters just need to learn how to pitch an original idea.

Fine: No website, television station, or magazine even remotely connected to sports is allowed to recap the NBA draft using the words Warriors, Ball (either as a proper or common noun), or LeBron. Only one instance of the words “The Process,” Porzingis, or 3-1 lead are allowed. Free use of “please, someone tell Stephen A. Smith to be quiet.”

SCOUTING REPORT

Fantasy Baseball: Out of the blue, an opposing team proposed trading Whit Merrifield and Robert Gsellman for Yonder Alonso. I accepted immediately. I know the real Yonder. This isn’t for real. It can’t be.

Authorial Views: Closing in on 30,000 views for the year which is only just under a sixth of Chad’s views. You could say this race is getting serious.

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8 thoughts on “Regularly Scheduled Rain Delay: Expansion Draft Evaluations

  1. I hate to nitpick your imaginary exercise, but this really overstates how hard the Reds would be hurt by an expansion draft. No way the existing clubs would agree to lose six players off their big league roster.

    Prior drafts have automatically excluded (1) pending free agents (Cozart) and (2) anyone drafted within the last couple of years (Senzel, Trammell). The bigger thing is that after every round, you get to protect another X players (last time it was 3).

    The other big difference is that they only gave teams 35 guys last time — there are 3 rounds, but not every team loses a guy in every round.

    Teams typically lose one guy in the 15-25 range of their overall depth chart, then another in the 30-40 range, and maybe one more. Last time around, the Reds lost their fourth OF (Mike Frank) and a fringey reliever (Felix Rodriguez). (Although they did make deals to protect a couple other guys they liked better.)

    • Agreed. This is way too aggressive to ever happen, but still sort of fun.

      I’d protect:

      IF – Votto, Suarez, Senzel (if the rules allow protecting a non-MLB guy outside the “prospect” section)

      OF – Winker, Schebler (I think Hamilton has already peaked. Speed/Defense decline with age. And Billy won’t ever be able to hit)

      C – Devin Mesoraco (if he stays healthy this year, since Stephenson is likely to never sniff MLB. TINSTAACP)

      P – Finnegan, Iglesias, Garrett (spot on) (Disco’s health would probably protect him from being picked. No one wants to pick a guy with TJ looming in the future maybe.)

      Prospects – Trammel (tons of upside), Ariel Hernandez, TBD. If Castillo keeps doing well this year, maybe him. Vladimir Gutierrez might make my list, too. I think this decision would ultimately hinge on whoever finishes the year strong.

    • Oh I know it would never actually work this way, but this is a lot more fun to imagine than the actuality

  2. A future baseball expansion draft would likely be limited to 40 man rosters and Rule 5 eligibles. The recent NHL draft excluded “first and second year professionals”. Given the differences in the draft rights signing period and development systems between NHL and MLB, a baseball minor league player typically wouldn’t become a “professional” player prior to reaching AA level and then would be ineligible for an expansion draft for 2 more years. Thus my thinking 40 man roster or Rule 5 eligible would be the criteria to be subject to being drafted.

    Another part of the NHL expansion draft I’d like to see in a future MLB expansion draft is that protection and choices were driven by player position. On the protection side there were additional criteria relating to contract status and recent NHL playing time. In baseball, I think this works out pretty straightforwardly, there are pitchers, catchers, and fielders (everybody else) so far as position designation.

    A third element of the NHL draft which might come into play in future MLB drafts is that each existing team knew going in they would lose one, and only one, player to the draft which meant in turn the new team was required to chose one player from each team. Players moving in side deals did not count toward this requirement. Obviously if two teams were choosing the number of players would have to go up to 2.

  3. Jim,

    Wow. Excellent comments projecting MLB expansion vis a vis NHL expansion.

    No way the owners are going to let newbys come in and pluck each existing team’s version of Nick Senzel. They have to pay their expansion fee, set up their scouting departments and find their own.

  4. Who to project is subjective, though Hamilton over either Schebler or Duvall and Garrett over Lorenzen doesn’t seem like the choices most MLB GMs would make.

    Unless the Reds ship players or picks to sweeten the deal, or eat some of the money, it’s very unlikely an expansion team takes on Homer’s $21 million next year and $23 million in 2019.

    No reason to pay any player that much, when you will be bad anyway, and will be drawing fans in any event because of the honeymoon period.

    • I hadn’t considered Bailey’s contract aspect but you’re completely right on that front

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