The Winter Meetings are now officially over. The Rule 5 Draft wrapped up just before 1pm ET and was the final event to take place – sending everyone back to their homes. The Reds were busy in the Rule 5 draft, and you can read about that below. Perhaps the biggest news as it relates to the Cincinnati Reds, though, came from Jon Morosi of MLB Network early in the morning when he reported that the Reds were still showing interest in free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos.
For a team that is looking to add offense, Castellanos is probably the best hitter remaining on the free agent market. From 2016-2018 he posted a 120 OPS+ for the Detroit Tigers. In the first half of 2019 that was just a mark of 105 for the Tigers. But after being traded at the deadline to the Chicago Cubs, he went nuts, hitting .321/.356/.646 – good for a 151 OPS+, finishing the year with a Major League best 58 doubles, three triples, and 27 homers.
He’s been an extra-base hit machine over the last three seasons, with tons of non-homers making up a good chunk of that. Great American Ballpark probably helps turn a few of those extra-base hits into homers. There are certainly concerns about his defense – but if you are looking to upgrade the offense in free agency, he’s probably the best option.
The Reds select Mark Payton in the Rule 5 Draft
Mark Payton has a breakout year and a half in 2019 for Oakland. The short left-handed hitter (he’s listed at just 5′ 8″ and 190 lbs) began the year with 32 career home runs. He then went out and hit a ridiculous .334/.400/.653 with 30 doubles, three triples, and 30 home runs for Triple-A Las Vegas in 447 plate appearances.
Now, it’s worth noting that Las Vegas hit .298/.371/.531 as a team in 2019. The ballpark, the league, and the juiced baseball played hilariously in Triple-A this past season. With that said, Mark Payton’s 1.053 OPS was good for an OPS+ of 149, so he was significantly better than the league average. Of course he was also a 27-year-old.
The outfielder did make some changes to his game, though. As noted in the breakdown over at RedsMinorLeagues.com – his fly ball rate dramatically increased in 2019 and the he reaped all of the benefits for making that change.
While there are absolutely reasons to wonder exactly how the bat will play given the kind of hitter Payton was prior to 2019, the change in approach certainly gives some hope that at least some of the breakout was real. He’s always had a good understanding of the strikezone, walking more than 10% of the time for his career, and making contact at a good rate. Defensively he can cover you in center field if you really need him to, but he’s stretched there as an every day kind of player. Then again, the Reds also played Jesse Winker in center field at times in 2019, so….. But in a realistic scenario, Payton is more of a corner outfield defender.
Dan Szymborki posted the ZiPS projections for the players selected in the Major League version of the Rule 5 Draft over at Fangraphs just now. Mark Payton is projected to hit .255/.315/.449 and provide the most WAR of any of the 11 players selected today.
The Reds also saw some action in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. They picked up two players for the farm system. They also lost two players out of the farm system. You can read more about that at this link if you’re interested.