The Cincinnati Reds have until 4pm ET today to submit their 60-man player pool roster to Major League Baseball. With how the 2020 season has (or in this case, hasn’t played out), things are going to be a bit different this year. With no minor league season taking place (it technically hasn’t been cancelled yet, but that’s merely a formality at this point it would seem), teams don’t have players that will be there to be called up from the minors. So this season they are basically just going to have a taxi squad/practice roster that will essentially just hold daily practices and be prepared to fill in for the big league club if and when players are needed for injury, performance, or COVID-19 related needs.
Update: The Roster Has Been Released
When the regular season begins on either July 23rd or July 24th for the Cincinnati Reds (some teams will play on the 23rd, while most will begin on the 24th – we should see a schedule this week), the active roster will be 30 players. The remaining 30 players will then be sent to Mason, Ohio where they will get ready at the campus of Prasco Laboratories that has two fields – Prasco Park and Legacy Field. After two weeks of play, the active roster will be trimmed down to 28 players, with the two that are “cut” being sent to the taxi squad in Mason. Two weeks after that the active roster will again be trimmed by two players, down to 26, with the two cuts also heading to Mason.
Not every player on the teams 40-man roster has to be included on the 60-man player pool roster. Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams said earlier this week, though, that the team was expecting their roster to be set up to compete for 2020. “The group that will be at the alternate site will include a few of our prospects, I guess you could say a few of the players that are further off that we would like to see get development, but we are philosophical decision is to support the team to win this year,” said Williams.
When we look at the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster, unlike some years in the past, no one on the roster is considered “far away” from the Major Leagues. Everyone on it was likely to at least be in Double-A to begin this season. I would expect that all 40 make the 60-man player pool. That leaves 20 spots open for the taking. When spring training came to a sudden halt, these 14 players were still in camp as non-roster invitees:
- R.J. Alaniz
- Jesse Biddle
- Vladimir Gutierrez
- Nate Jones
- Alex Powers
- Brooks Raley
- Sal Romano
- Tyler Thornburg
- Christian Colon (INF)
- Derek Dietrich (UT)
- Matt Davidson (INF)
- Jose Garcia (SS)
- Francisco Pena (C)
- Alfredo Rodriguez (INF)
It will be interesting to see if the Reds choose to keep all of these players around, or if they decide to forego a few of them in order to make a few additions for development purposes of adding some minor leaguers that otherwise won’t see any field action this year. Some teams are choosing to go that route, including the Oakland Athletics who are bringing in a 17-year-old international signing from last summer who has never played in a professional game before.
There are a few lower level prospects who could probably use time on the field a little bit more than others – guys that haven’t played much at all recently. Rece Hinds was drafted in June of 2019, and then played in 3 games before hitting the injured list for the rest of the year. As a minor leaguer he hasn’t played at all this year, either. Michel Triana signed as an international free agent last July, and he last played in an organized game in 2018 before he defected from Cuba. They are 19 and 20-years-old, respectively. They almost certainly wouldn’t fit the bill of helping the big league club this year, but are the types who could find their way onto the taxi squad simply to get much needed reps for development.
Top prospects like left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo, right-handed pitcher Hunter Greene, and left-handed pitcher Packy Naughton could be added on as pitching depth. Infielder Jonathan India and outfielder Stuart Fairchild could be brought in as depth in case of an injury need, or simply continued development to the point that they are ready to take a job.
One name to keep an eye on is Jose Adames. The right-handed pitcher has had an incredibly tough journey. He last pitched in a non-rehab game in 2016 when he was in the Miami Marlins organization. That offseason the Reds picked him up in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. He was a guy with a big arm, but some control concerns who hadn’t made it out of A-ball. He was also coming off of Tommy John surgery and would miss all of the 2017 regular season. Adames pitched in instructional league in 2017 with the Reds and was hitting 99 MPH.
Unfortunately he would miss all of 2018 and nearly all of 2019, too, needing another Tommy John surgery. But in late 2019 he was ready to get on the mound again. With a week left in the season, Jose Adames pitched in 1 rehab game with the Arizona League Reds, and then in 3 games with the Billings Mustangs. He came out firing fastballs in the upper 90’s each time, and struck out 8 of the 16 hitters he faced. Not invited to big league camp, but in early minor league camp with the Reds, Cincinnati brought him over for a big league game on February 24th and the now 27-year-old hit triple digits in his first outing. He’s a free agent following 2020 unless he’s added to the 40-man roster, and with an arm like he’s shown since his return, don’t be surprised if he’s among the 60-man player pool in a “let’s see what we’ve got here” situation.
Where things could also get interesting is with some of the “veteran” types of guys who fall into the “utility” or “6th inning reliever” kind of roles. With teams trying to figure out how to save money any way that they can, choosing to go with a guy making league minimum over a guy like say, Derek Dietrich, could be a thing we see. Maybe the Reds don’t take that route in a true “we’re going for it in 2020” situation – but we’ll see how that plays out. There are quite a few guys that fall into that category on the non-roster invite list who may be on the outside looking in.
Being deep on both your active and taxi squad rosters could be bigger than usual in a season like 2020. It’s almost impossible to keep at least some number of players from having to sit out after testing positive for COVID-19. We’ve seen teams already having multiple positive tests and they haven’t even really started to have team workouts yet. In other sports, particularly college football, we’ve seen big numbers of positive tests come out from teams. It’s going to happen. And when it does, that depth will be important. Perhaps that outweighs saving some money here and there by choosing to keep a guy like Derek Dietrich or Jesse Biddle over going with a minor leaguer making the minimum on the taxi squad.
Each team is going to go about supplying their roster with different kinds of options. How the Reds go about theirs may be a lot different than how a team not expecting to contend, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, may go about it. We likely won’t have to wait too long to see how it goes. Rosters are due today. It’s likely that we’ll see them today, too – though perhaps not because in 2020 things haven’t exactly gone as expected in nearly any walk of life, have they?