The Cincinnati Reds announced their initial list of non-roster spring training invitees and among the 16 players that were listed, four of them were among the Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects.
Among the Reds Top 25 Prospects, ten of them will be in big league camp. Tyler Stephenson, Tony Santillan, Jose Siri, Joel Kuhnel, and Ryan Hendrix are already on the 40-man roster and that makes their inclusion to spring training with the big league club automatic. But the Reds extended invites to #2 prospect and 2019 1st round pick Nick Lodolo, #4 overall prospect Jose Garcia, #6 overall prospect Jonathan India, #7 overall prospect Stuart Fairchild, and #14 overall prospect Vladimir Gutierrez, too.
Among the players that aren’t in the Reds Top 25 that got invites – some are still prospects, while others are veterans who are looking to impress in camp and get back to the Major Leagues. Pitchers R.J. Alaniz, David Carpenter, Brooks Raley, and Tyler Thornburg all got invites and have big league experience. Alex Powers, a reliever that’s dominated in the Reds farm system over the last few seasons but hasn’t been called up to the Majors, is also going to be getting a chance to win a spot in the spring. Catchers Chris Okey and Francisco Pena will be arriving early with the pitchers as they also were extended non-roster invites to big league camp.
The infield group will include Christian Colon – who hit over .300 in Triple-A Louisville in 2019 and went 3-6 in a September call up for Cincinnati last year. He’ll be joined by slugger Matt Davidson and shortstop prospect Alfredo Rodriguez who spent most of his time in Double-A last season.
The outfield invite list is small. Stuart Fairchild, who is the teams #7 prospect will be joined by Boog Powell. That’s it. It’s not too surprising, though, given the amount of outfielders fighting for jobs that are on the 40-man roster right now.
Among the prospects, unless there’s an injury or two, it’s tough to see any of them working their way onto the big league roster at the outset of camp. There just aren’t many spots open for the taking. If there is a spot open, though, it’s probably in the bullpen. Maybe Vladimir Gutierrez or Alex Powers could fight it out for such a spot – though I’d be surprised if the team didn’t want to keep giving Gutierrez a chance to start in Triple-A.
Alex Powers doesn’t jump out for his raw stuff, but all he’s done over the last two seasons is embarrass hitters in Double-A and Triple-A. Take a look at the work he’s done in the Reds system since the start of 2018:
Hitters simply struggle to pick up the ball well out of his hand. With a fastball that works in the low 90’s, it’s not the velocity that is beating hitters. But over and over they struggle to do much damage against him.
Brooks Raley just signed this past week with the Reds. He had spent the previous five seasons pitching in Korea. The left-handed pitcher has some experience in the Majors, but it came back in the 2012 and 2013 seasons and was only 38.1 innings with the Cubs. Raley was solid while in Korea, with some seasons better than others. Here’s how he performed in the five seasons he spent in the Korean Baseball Organization:
It’s unlikely he’ll be getting much of an opportunity to pitch for a spot in the rotation without injuries happening. But it could be interesting to see what his stuff could look like out of the bullpen, where there may be an opening. As a starter in Korea he was throwing in the 87-91 MPH range with his fastball, while mixing in a good 12-6 curveball in the mid-to-upper 70’s.
In past years there was likely more opportunity for non-roster invitees. The roster, even at an expanded 26 players in 2020, feels like there’s much less room for non-roster guys to break through. There are jobs out there – back up infielders, back up outfielders, bullpen spots – but those jobs are likely to go to the depth on the 40-man roster. You never know how things play out in the spring, but it just feels like there’s a very small chance this season for someone to make the roster than there has been in the past.
Over at RedsMinorLeagues.com I wrote a bit more about some of the prospects. So head over to this link if you want to see a bit more about those guys.