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

Scott Schebler

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.

Shed Long

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.

Tyler Stephenson

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.

My Picks

Nick Senzel

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.

Taylor Trammell

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.

Joey Votto

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.

Jesse Winker

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.

Eugenio Suarez

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.

Final Thoughts

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.



8 Responses

  1. Scott Carter

    I for one enjoyed the article and look forward toward your article on pitchers. I enjoyed Wesley’s article as well. Good to hear your opinions and under the rules you set forth, I have to agree those are the five I would protect. Would really like to keep Ty Stephenson but I would not want to take off any of the five you gave us. If you were allowed to add players on protected lis after one round, he would be first I would protect. Friedl would probably be second. I like Schebler and I know he hits the ball hard but power guys with low batting averages, I think can be found. Now if he figured out away to get on base more like up around 330 then my opinion might change.

    • Jack

      Last night Suarez was putting his bat on his shoulder like Cozart and seem to be doing decent. Time will tell though. I would like to see Schebler do the same. His bat is all herky jerky up there and sometimes I swear he isn’t ready when the pitch is coming. I honestly think if he put it on his shoulder and calmed down he could hit 300. I remember when he first came up he had an upper cut and the pirate announcers said he will never make it with thst swing. He has evened it out and hitting more line drives. He has improved a lot in a year.

    • Gonzo Reds

      Looking at having the best players at each position when the next great Reds team is back again pounding the Cubs back towards the cellar where their fans genetically belong… I can’t keep Senzel and Suarez both in my top 5. True, Suarez could move to another position but not knowing how that would be received or work out I’d just keep Senzel. I don’t see Barny or Meso at C on my future team so I’d give Stephenson that spot. But then again Johnny Bench was my favorite player growing up and I’ve been waiting for the next person to sit on Johnny Bench’s bench every since.

  2. Jack

    I would protect Siri before Votto. He seems to be finding his game right now. Future star CF? Votto is my fave but 34. You can see it on his face at first that he is struggling with this rebuild. I hope it comes quick for him but at his age and contract I don’t think he is worth protecting.I hated to see Pete and Tony in other uniforms growing up . Thinking of Joey in another uniform makes me throw up.

    • Nick Carrington

      I can’t jump on the Siri bandwagon yet. His plate discipline, while improved, is still bad (5.7BB%, 23.2 K%). We see those kinds of things get exposed at higher levels pretty frequently (Aristides Aquino is a good example), and until Siri proves he can swing at better pitches consistently, I wouldn’t protect him in this scenario.

      He’s also 22 in low A (turns 22 in 3 days). I know he has outstanding tools, but I’m more cautious on him than some.

  3. Matthew Habel

    I like this idea a lot and think that I pretty much agree with you. Tough call on Votto given the age and contract. If Shed Long had maintained his A level numbers I would probably give him the nod, but he hasnt so I guess that is valid.

    I am interested to see your pitchers because I feel like that is where it gets more challenging.

  4. Ryan

    This is a fun exercise. I like your list of 5 position players. Although I might be inclined to protect Schebler over Trammel. I think the upside is higher with Trammel, but there’s more risk for a guy in low A ball. If Trammel can’t stick in center then he further loses value. I do think Schebler has some upside left and is a safer bet. Also, would expansion teams likely take guys in A ball?


    I agree with Senzel and Trammell and Suarez who I think could end up being a star. If this fake draft includes them taking all of Votto’s contract I’ll take Shed Long in his place. I would also protect Adam Duvall. No way I protect Winker over the players you kept. He’s a fourth outfielder in the Major Leagues. 2 home runs, 0 stolen bases, 37 RBI in a half season are not the numbers of a corner outfielder. He is also rated as having an under average throwing arm. I think he’s been overrated for a couple years, which says more about are minor leagues than the player. I see him at best a Hal Morris type, serviceable but not an all-star.