The NHL just had an expansion draft, adding the Vegas Golden Knights to the league. Prior to the draft, the other NHL teams were required to protect players to ensure they would remain with their current organization. Based on the positions of the players they wanted to protect, each team could keep 9-11 players safe.
That’s literally all I know about it.
But on Twitter, @flippingbats posed the question of who teams might protect in a similar situation in baseball. With the Reds young talent, that’s a difficult question to answer. The Reds would need to consider contracts, age, potential, and proven skill at the Major League level.
It would also take quite a bit of projection, and the team could defend many different combinations. I’d like to take on this task while changing the rules slightly and allow others to chime in. For this exercise, you can protect ten players in the entire Reds organization – five pitchers and five position players. Draft picks from 2017 are automatically protected, so no need to list Hunter Greene. This post will cover the position players, and a subsequent post will discuss the pitchers.
I’ll go through my list, and you can debate its merits and provide your own protected players.
Guys Considered That Didn’t Make the List
When the Reds traded for Schebler, I really thought he was a part-time guy with no real carrying tool. Well, Schebler’s carrying tool is that he hits balls extremely hard. In fact, almost 40% of the time, he hits the ball “hard” according to Fangraphs. That’s the highest percentage on the Reds team. His BABIP of .257 is way too low even for a flyball hitter, so I think the average rises some as well as his OBP. He’s around average to a tick above defensively. At 26, he could even get a little better.
But, I only have five spots, and Schebler just misses the cut this time. If he showed some signs of improving his plate discipline or he could play centerfield regularly, I’d probably protect him, but neither of those things are true.
Long is a second basemen who has yet to turn 22. From 2015 to the midpoint of 2017, he dominated Low and High A ball. His lowest OPS at those levels was .828, and he topped out at .922 in Daytona in 2017 before a promotion to AA. Thus far, he has failed to hit at all in 80ish plate appearances in Pensacola, but his .184 BABIP suggests he has either acquired the hitting skill of Lupus from Bad News Bears, or he’s been really unlucky. For context, Bartolo Colon has a career .183 BABIP.
Long has surprising power for a guy on the smaller side. He hit 15 bombs last year and has already deposited 15 more in 2017. He also walks a good amount. However, the strikeout numbers are a tad high, and the start in AA is concerning in a small sample. He’s so young, though, that I’m not worried long term. He just missed out on my top five.
TySteve was the Reds’ first-round pick in 2015 and after a lost 2016 due to injury, he has regained some of his prospect shine. In fact, Stephenson has improved his strikeout rate by 13% and jumped his walk rate from 7.8% to 12.6%. That’s incredibly impressive. At low A Dayton, he is slashing .278/.374/.414.
Stephenson’s calling card around draft time was his power, which hasn’t shown up in full force yet, but likely will as the 20-year-old matures. He also just landed on the disabled list, which is concerning after last year’s problems.
The fact that he’s a catcher makes me want to protect him because it’s such an important position, and I prefer him to Chris Okey. But Stephenson has only performed well in roughly 350 plate appearances, and until I see a little more, other guys are ahead of him.
Nick Senzel is an easy choice. Baseball America rates The Reds first-round pick from 2016 as the 9th best prospect in all of baseball. He was recently promoted to AA and between both stops has hit .310/.377/.472 with 31 doubles. Senzel looks every bit of the polished hitter he was projected to be, and he seems to be a pretty good athlete as well. Senzel has ten stolen bases in 2017 after swiping 15 bags last year. I don’t know what else to say: he looks like a stud that will hit his way to the Reds within the next year.
I’m a sucker for exceptional athletes because I think they can adjust better than others. Trammell certainly falls into that category. In 2016, he was the Georgia class A offensive player of the year in football where he scored 38 touchdowns as a running back. Trammell preferred baseball to the lesser sport, and The Reds took him 35th overall in 2016, and he’s done nothing but hit ever since. As a 19-year-old in low A Dayton, Trammell is slashing .287/.361/.461 with seven home runs.
Prospect analyst John Sickels suggests that Trammell’s speed could be “devastating” on the bases, and so far this year, he has 27 stolen bases and nine triples. NINE! I don’t care what league he’s playing in, nine triples in just over half a season is insane. A potential centerfielder with blazing speed, power projection, and good plate discipline (11% BB%)? I’m sold already.
Votto will turn 34 in September and yet, he’s on pace for around a 7 WAR season. That’s astounding to think about. Votto can’t keep this up forever…I don’t think. The Reds will eventually pay him truckloads of money while his skills decline, and yet, unless he falls off a cliff, he will be productive for the majority of his contract. His growth as a clubhouse leader and batting guru will help him add value to the team as he ages. No way I’m letting a guy with over 50 career fWAR leave for nothing when he’s still wildly productive.
Also, the guy dressed up as a donkey on live T.V. to support a teammate. I don’t know how much that contributes to his WAR total, but it was awesome.
Winker continues to knock on the Reds door with a .305/.386/.391 slash line in AAA. That’s impressive in itself, but Winker went on a doubles binge in June by knocking six two baggers in six games. Hopefully, it’s a sign that he is recapturing some of the power that left him when he went to AAA. While the rest of Winker’s profile is shaky, his bat makes him a pretty safe bet to at least be an average regular with All Star potential. Guys with his plate discipline and hit tool don’t come around often, and I think he hits for more power than he’s shown in AAA.
Winker has looked really comfortable in his few plate appearances in the Majors, and his start against the Nationals was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary series. I don’t know where he’s going to play, but I’m not worried about having too many good players. Also, he’s about three years younger than Schebler and five years younger than Adam Duvall.
In 2017, Suarez has improved significantly on defense, but his offensive numbers are also encouraging. His 12% walk rate is better than the previous two seasons, and the power continues to increase (.186 ISO). Our own Ashley Davis wrote about Suarez’s improved defense, and he rates in the top 5 among all third basemen in defensive runs saved. We easily forget that he’s STILL JUST 25. For the corpse of Alfredo Simon, the Reds received a key part of their future. Hat tip to Walt Jocketty.
Suarez has struggled to hit in June and July, but that improved plate discipline and superb defense has allowed him to remain somewhat effective throughout his slump. He’ll start hitting again, and I expect incremental improvements over the next few years as well. Suarez is a keeper.
This exercise was really tough for me, though not as tough as the pitchers (coming tomorrow!), and I could easily buy other combinations. One thing I learned through this process was that the cupboard is far from bare, my friends. Outside of Votto, everybody I considered was 26 or younger, and five of them have either spent limited time or no time in the Majors. The Reds have several other interesting youngsters (Jose Peraza, Dilson Herrera, TJ Friedl, Jose Garcia, etc.) who could contribute positively at some point.
I know I didn’t outline expansive expansion rules that might help you better decide who to protect, but that would be overkill for this post. Let me know who you would protect. Basically, I want to know what position players you believe in going forward to the next winning team.