A Minors Obsession

Catching up on a wild week in the minors

Usually there’s only so many times during the offseason in which it’s minor league related news that dominate the headlines. There’s only two times in which it’s a scheduled event – the 40-man roster addition deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, and then a few weeks later the actual Rule 5 Draft. That deadline was on Monday and the Cincinnati Reds added six players. The organization added infielders Alex Blandino and Shed Long, along with outfielder Jose Siri. They also added three right handed pitchers in Jose Lopez and Jesus Reyes, both starters, and reliever Zack Weiss. I wrote a whole bunch of words about each of those prospects here if you are interested in reading it.

Among that group I would rank them in this order, in terms of likelihood we see them impact the Cincinnati Reds during the 2018 season: Alex Blandino, Jose Lopez, Zack Weiss, Jesus Reyes, Shed Long, and Jose Siri. All of the players except Jose Siri, spent at least a third of their season in Double-A during 2017. While I would expect Shed Long and Jose Reyes to begin their seasons in Double-A again next season, the first five players on that list are all a good half-season away from being at the doorstep of the Major Leagues, or possibly closer. For Jose Siri, it’s going to very likely be more time. He spent the entire 2017 season in Dayton and he’ll begin the 2018 season in Daytona. It would take an absolutely incredible rise for him to reach the Major Leagues in 2018 outside of a September call up.

While those players won’t be eligible for the Rule 5 draft, there are a whole lot of players across baseball that are. I don’t believe any Reds players are in grave danger of being selected this season, though if there were players with a remote chance of being taken they would include pitchers Jose Adames and Wyatt Strahan, along with position players Gavin LaValley and Nick Longhi. The organization has one roster spot open, which means they could make a selection of their own. They could use a pick to help fill out a few areas of need if the right player is there for the taking. The Rule 5 draft will take place on December 14th at 9am.

That, however, was nowhere near as important as what happened to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday afternoon and evening. If you’ve been living under a rock you may have missed it. But, here’s the short version of it: Former Braves GM John Coppolella, who was fired when Major League Baseball began their investigation into cheating, has been placed on the permanently ineligible list. Special Assistant Gordon Blakeley is facing a 1-year suspension. The Braves also saw 12 of their minor league players declared free agents, including six players that they signed for over $1M last season. They also face penalties moving forward when it comes to signing players on the international market as well as the amateur draft.

So, how did we get here? Well, basically, the Atlanta Braves, as directed by people within the front office, were paying additional money to amateur players to sign with them, but not reporting it. That led to them being eligible to sign players in the future that they otherwise would have been ineligible to sign – which is why so many players were declared free agents. They should have never been able to sign with the Braves to begin with. If you’d like more details on all of the players, more information on the things that the Atlanta organization did, or the official statement from Major League Baseball, Baseball America has a detailed explanation.

There is so much to unwrap in this entire situation. Where things get most interesting is what this means for the future in this market. First, while we’ve seen one other team punished for similar violations (the Red Sox after 2015), Major League Baseball went the full on nuclear route in terms of punishment this time around. Teams that were doing this, and it’s a dirty secret that isn’t quite so secret that some aspects of this wasn’t entirely uncommon, are going to really think twice about doing so now if there is a potential to face a lifetime ban from the game.

More than a few people have speculated that this is going to lead to an international draft taking over after the current collective bargaining agreement is up in 2021. That can be both good and bad. For a team like the Cincinnati Reds, that could be good in that it could help them remain more competitive. For the game of baseball, though, it may be very bad. It would limit the amount of money, even more than there is limitations now, going to amateur players. When that happens you tend to see lesser players in the long run. When Puerto Rico was added to the amateur draft the amount of players coming from that country disappeared compared to when they were open to sign with any team for whatever a team was willing to pay. There’s a real concern we will see that happen around the world.

12 thoughts on “Catching up on a wild week in the minors

  1. As fine of a player that I think Siri is now, and could become, I’m confused as to why they placed him on the 40-man, especially since he is so far away from MLB. When teams select someone in the Rule 5 draft, those players have to play in that teams 25 man MLB roster. There is no way Siri will be able to do that, right?
    Please explain this decision for me Doug. Thanks

    • Some teams could have hid Siri on their 25 man rosters much like the Phillies did with OF Tyler Goeddel in 2016 and sort of like the Reds did with C Stuart Turner last year. He could have been a 5th OF, pinch hitter, pinch runner, last inning defense. It would be a big risk however.
      Speaking of Goeddel, will he be at AAA Louisville for 2018? Is he eligible to be selected in the Rule V draft? He was a good waiver pick up last year. He could be a nice breakout player next year. Nice bat, nice plate discipline. Many forget about him.

    • Don’t look past the advantage the DH rule gives AL teams in rule 5 situations. Hiding a player at the end of the bench is much easier for them due having the DH.

      In either league, since only 90 days of active service time are needed to clear rule 5 status, a relative youngster like Siri could even be run through a couple of DL/ rehab cycles to get him a month to 6 weeks of playing time in the minors during the season.

    • He is so talented that he may have gone #1 overall. He would be very, very easy to keep on the 25-man roster all year. He’s an elite center fielder defensively and you can use him as a pinch runner at will. He’d be very, very useful to a team as a 5th outfielder, right now. He probably wouldn’t hit much at all right now, but if you pick your spots with him against the right pitchers – he could be not terrible today, too. Then after the season the team would just send him to AA. It was an easy, easy call to protect him.

      • Sounds like Billy Hamilton with power and without delusions of bunting or switch hitting.

        Study and learn the breaking pitch and we have our CF of the future.

        Agreed Doug, no brainer.

        Thanks for this series and for Reds Minor Leagues, a must stop each day

      • Sounds like Siri is a good high A/ AA split season from being better than Billy Hamilton. Could Siri be playing in GABP summer of 2019?

  2. I’m a little surprised the Reds didn’t protect Gavin Lavalley. I know he’s blocked at first by that Votto guy, but his hitting suggests to me that he will likely have value in trade as a prospect somewhere soon. Doug, do you think the Reds didn’t protect him because they just don’t think he has that much value, or because they don’t think he’s close enough to major league ready that they have to worry about another team taking (and keeping) him?

    • I don’t know that much about Lavalley, but his stats don’t seem to be that impressive for a 1B. I assume the Reds feel there are multiple better hitters in the system that could be moved to 1B if Votto needed replacing.

    • I didn’t expect them to protect him (in fact, I went 6 for 6 on who they would protect – humble brag). Teams pick guys with big upsides, or guys they can use today. Gavin LaValley doesn’t fit either side of that coin. I think he’s a big leaguer eventually, but it’s really hard to hide someone on your 25-man roster who at this point has shown no ability to hit at AA and is only a first baseman. The Reds like him, as they should, but there’s only a very, very small risk that he gets selected by someone else because of his limited defensive position and where his bat is at right now.

  3. If the Braves also lost 2017 2nd round pick (#41 overall), OF Drew Waters, he would be one the Reds should go after. Waters would be a great addition for the Reds. He’ll be 19 next season. I don’t know since he was in the draft and not an IFA, if he would be a free agent or have to go back into next year’s draft?

    • It looks like the Braves won’t lose Waters, but will lose a 3rd round pick in next year’s draft for this infraction. Too bad. He is a keeper.
      Perusing the list, of course there is Maitan. But the C Abrahan Gutierrez, 2B/SS Yunior Severino, and OF Juan Carlos Negret look like good ones the Reds might possibly have a chance. Most of them are just so raw.

  4. Doug, is it correct that the guys cut loose from the Braves are still subject to the international free agency rules versus being totally unfettered FA’s

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