Every year teams around Major League Baseball have to finalize their 40-man roster about two weeks in advance of the winter meetings with regards to adding eligible minor league players to the 40-man roster so that they can’t be selected in the Rule 5 draft. That date has been pushed up by a week this year and teams will need to have their prospects added to the roster by November 15th this year.

Over the last decade the Cincinnati Reds have added somewhere between one and eight players in November to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. How many players will be added in the next week isn’t yet known, but there are more than a dozen possibilities that we will discuss this week. Today we are going to look at the outfielders who are Rule 5 eligible who the organization likely discussed as they prepare to makes their decisions. Yesterday we took a look at the infielders and there were quite a few more options to look at there (which makes sense given that there are more positions there than in the outfield).

Unlike yesterday with the infield group, there are no “easy choices” that are all but guaranteed additions to the roster. But there are a few guys worth talking about.

The “Let’s talk about ’em” Group

TJ Hopkins

Selected out of South Carolina in the 9th round of the 2019 draft, TJ Hopkins didn’t jump out statistically in Billings in his debut. In 2021 the Reds jumped him all the way up to Double-A, skipping over both Low and High-A in the process. He missed time late in the year with a back injury, but held his own hitting .269/.341/.436 in 77 games played.

This past season the team sent him back to Chattanooga and he hit a little bit better – this time as a 25-year-old – posting a .260/.337/.464 line in 101 games before being promoted up to Triple-A Louisville. With the Bats he hit .255/.320/.436 in 25 games. Between the two stops he picked up 26 doubles, 2 triples, 21 home runs, stole 8 bases and hit a combined .259/.333/.458. You can see all of his stats here.

Defensively he’s mostly played in the corners, but has limited experience as a pro in center where he can play in a pinch.

Making the call

Cincinnati’s outfield situation as it stands today is full of question marks. There’s not a single player on the 40-man roster that should be heading into spring training with anything remotely close to an expectation that they aren’t competing for a spot on the 26-man roster. The profile for Hopkins probably is more that of a 4th outfielder than as a starter, but right now that’s the profile that can get a whole lot of playing time in Cincinnati where everyone seems to profile as a 4th/5th/6th outfielder. This could be a coin flip situation. A team out there looking for a utility guy who can play some outfield, provide a little bit of pop and speed off of the bench could certainly be interested in a guy like Hopkins who has found some success in the upper minor leagues. It may come down to just how much room the Reds want to create on the 40-man heading into the winter.

Isiah Gilliam

A free agent signing before the 2022 season began, Isiah Gilliam made his presence known during the 2022 campaign. The switch hitting 25-year-old began his season in Double-A Chattanooga and hit .288/.376/.515 in 62 games. That got him promoted to Triple-A Louisville where he finished out his season. IN the 53 games with the Bats he hit .253/.339/.468. In total he clubbed 18 home runs, added 24 doubles, had 4 triples, and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts. That production came with plenty of strikeouts – he had a 32% strikeout rate on the season to go along with an 11% walk rate.

Of course as a switch hitter you should probably take a look at the splits and in Gilliam’s case they are worth noting. As a right-handed hitter he hit .288/.389/.523 (with a 13% walk rate and a 34% strikeout rate). When he stepped into the box as a lefty he hit just .239/.290/.407. In 2021 his splits were pretty even.

Defensively Gilliam has mostly played corner outfield in his career, but he does have some experience at first base, too – including a few games this past year.

Making the call

Isiah Gilliam has plenty of power and he’s got a little bit of speed. A switch hitter, he can provide some value there but it may also depend on what your scouts say about how real his 2022 splits were (when he faced the most advanced pitching he’d seen in his professional career). Gilliam is likely going to rack up plenty of strikeouts along the way – it’s something that’s followed him from level to level throughout his career.

There could be teams looking for a bench option that can bring some power, speed, and a little bit of defensive versatility to their team. Gilliam may be able to provide that. But it’s also fair to think that teams could look at the strikeout rate, the splits, and the lack of being able to play up the middle on the field as a reason to pass on him and look somewhere else. This choice feels a little bit more like it leans towards keeping him off of the 40-man, but the right situation could push it in the other direction.

31 Responses

  1. David

    In my humble opinion, both should be on the 40 man. They are certainly old enough and physically mature enough for SOME team to Rule 5 draft and put on their roster.

    Although Hopkins and Gilliam are not slam-dunk can’t miss prospects, they do have real talent and could probably play for someone right now (and ….could that be the Reds?). At this point, would you rather see either (or both) on the roster or keep Aristides Aquino, who we have seen a lot of and…..?
    Well, that’s an opinion.

  2. Melvin

    It doesn’t seem like these guys would be valuable enough to be protected. Fourth or fifth outfielders are not lacking on this current team as was pointed out.

  3. CFD3000

    This one is much tougher than the infielders because of the lack of depth. With EDLC and Marte at the top of the Reds prospects list, plus Barrero and India, and then Matt McLain, Edwin Arroyo, Cam Collier, Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand there’s a lot of young depth on the infield. Not so much in the outfield. On the one hand neither Gilliam nor Hopkins jumps out as a future solid starter. On the other, somebody has to play the outfield! I don’t protect either guy, but if there’s space I wouldn’t be upset if the Reds chose to add either or both to the 40 man roster. Outfield is a clear problem for the next few years. A couple of guys are going to have to step up for the Reds to succeed. Fairchild, Aquino, Fraley, Freel, or even Senzel? I’m not a huge fan of converting infielders to play outfield (see Senzel, Nick) but that may be necessary in the next year or two. Or the Reds could always go sign some solid free agents. Not holding my breath there!

  4. Chris Holbert

    Both of these guys are 25 and only one has sniffed AAA. With those splits and their age, I would doubt even either would stick on a MLB roster for the entire year and the Reds may have them back after spring training. Saying that I understand the OF is a total dumpster fire and the Reds may throw it all on the wall and see what sticks.

  5. LDS

    Really highlights the dire state of the Reds OF. Leave them off and gamble. But, the Reds really need to spend a bit this off season

  6. Jim Walker

    I am on board that a major factor with Gilliam is whether his RH hitting split is real and sustainable. If it is, he could be Fraley’s platoon partner as things stand now, with Fairchild in CF and Freidl in the other corner spot until they come up with someone better.

    • SultanofSwaff

      Agreed. If a free agent acquisition is not on the table (ridiculous to say that given how profitable they are, but I digress!), then finding complementary platoon partners should be a priority. Fraley is obvious, but Friedl only had a .716 OPS vs. righties, so what do you do there–Siani? . Fairchild was pretty even—with his .800 OPS in 110 PAs I’d give him the LF job the first month and play it by ear from there.

      Senzel and Aquino do not factor into my thought process at all lol. Move on!

      • Jim Walker

        Yes, Fraley OPS+ was 118 and Fairchild’s 116. In the Reds OF mess, they both need to be maximized. Since Fraley’s splits were so severe, he needs a platoon partner but that guy shouldn’t be Fairchild if they want to maximize.

        Or put another way, Fairchild shouldn’t sit to clear the spot for Fraley on days when Fraley is playing. Even a decent platoon match for Fraley (~ league average) could push that spot to a combined OPS+ in the 125-130 range just from shielding Fraley from LH pitching given his OPS+ vs RH pitching. Meanwhile, hopefully Fairchild would maintain in the 115-120 range playing every day.

    • David

      Gilliam and Hopkins may not be answers to the Reds long-term, but getting them up here and seeing ML pitching, might make them more valuable as players in a trade with another team.
      And sometimes guys really take off at the ML level and become better players.

      Just remember that their calendar ages versus their “playing age” (their position or progression in the minors) should be rolled back about a year because of the generally “lost year” of 2020, when most of the minor leaguers didn’t play at all.

  7. JB

    Ugh. There is a saying out there about lipstick and a turd. This franchise has alot of turds.

  8. MBS

    Retain both imo. We need the depth in the OF. Fraley, Friedl, Fairchild, (Senzel), Gilliam, and Hopkins. I’m assuming Aquino will be gone, and Senzel is also a risk to be gone. That only leaves us with 5 – 6 OF on the 40 man.

  9. Hotto4Votto

    I’d protect both. There’s more than enough filler on the 40-man roster to find room for these guys. Both could be in competition for OD roster as an OF’er.

  10. old-school

    When do the Reds name a hitting coach? Season has been over a month. Maybe that can help the OF. Guardians went a long way with contact and OBP. Like to see the Reds hitters and outfielders show some plate discipline and manufacture some runs.

    • Doug Gray

      A hitting coach isn’t going to turn the currently constructed roster into a “contact” team. These guys aren’t miracle workers. You’ve got to get hitters who have the ability to be contact hitters.

      • old-school

        Turner Ward sure did the opposite.

        Senzel had great plate discipline, on base skills, and good pop to right field his first season, using the whole field and had an elite hit tool as a prospect and even as a rookie was solid. Next thing u know its launch angle and pull the ball and a different hitter and then injuries and a mess. Fraley has good plate discipline as well so perhaps the new hitting coach can get more out of both Senzel and Fraley and re-emphasize that walks and hitting the ball where its pitched and hitting line drives are what the Reds need from them.

        No, A hitting coach isnt going to fix Aquino at 29. I certainly want a different set of eyes and a different voice working with Barrero though.

      • Votto4life

        Hitting coaches he’s may do some good I suppose, but I have never put much stock in them making much of a difference.

        I think the position exists because we have always had them. I imagine they were hired so a manager could reward his old baseball buddies with a job.

        Someone needs to create a WAR for hitting coaches. My guess is they don’t win many games over the course of a year.

        Pitching Coaches are probably impactful.

      • Reaganspad

        I agree with old school on Turner Ward. He completely set us back as an organization with his approach to hitting.
        Don Long was a much better coach for the Reds, but they went after the shining object in the storefront window

  11. TR

    I think Tony Perez set the standard for hitting coaches when he said; see the ball, especially breaking pitches, hit the ball.

  12. Challenger

    There are clearly (at least) three areas of concern this off season, in no particular order: OF (There is currently no starting outfielder who would start on a World Series team), Catcher (There is one all star catcher period, and for health/durability reasons, he would be best served (and thus the team would be best served) if he caught 35-50% of the time. IMO a second hit/field catcher is needed to build a World Series level team; and a #4 starting pitcher with an all star history, maybe on the downside of his career (maybe named Kluber). Depending on whose healthy, the Reds may benefit from adding a strong relief pitcher, probably LH.
    If this assessment is accurate, that’s need for 2 OF, 1 C, 1SP and 1RP (they did loose 100 games last year, right?
    Proposal: Reds acquire: Michael Conforto, Adam Duvall, Danny Jansen or Christian Vasquez, Corey Kluber, and Matthew Boyd.

    • Votto4life

      I would be shocked if it happened… but if the Reds acquired Andrew Benintendi and Mike Conforto they would have the semblance of a big league line up.

      I don’t think they will acquire either one, but if they did, it would help restore my faith a little.

      • Optimist

        Let’s start talking about pillows – the M’s didn’t make a QO to Haniger, so he’s now alongside Conforto as completely available with no strings attached. Creative contracting says a 2 year offer, back-end loaded, with mutual options is doable. Allows for a mid-season trade if they are healthy and productive, or an escape clause if they flounder.

        Others will come available, but these 2 are most obtainable.

        Benintendi, as desirable as he is, will surely get a 4 year deal, if not 5 – both likely out of range for the Reds.

      • Votto4life

        I don’t think either is out of the range for the Reds. The Reds could afford to sign both, they just won’t choose to do it.

      • Tom Diesman

        How to be patient and save ~ $32M next year by Steamer Projections:

        Name PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
        Conforto 554 .244 .340 .418 .758
        Fraley 495 .236 .330 .422 .752
        Benintendi 567 .267 .338 .408 .746
        Friedl 488 .248 .326 .417 .743

        FA Contract predictions from The Athletic:
        Benintendi 5 years, $75 million
        Conforto 2 years, $34 million with an opt out after Year 1

      • Optimist

        The Benintendi line is what I’ve seen, but that Conforto projection seems a bit rich. I thought it was more along the lines of 10m year 1, with a 12-15m mutual option for year 2.

        Wouldn’t be shocked if the Reds went for a $30m 2 year deal with someone. Would be shocked if they went toward the Benintendi range.

        The problem, of course, is they need 2, if not 3, of these types for the OF.

      • Optimist

        Oh – just recalled that Boras is Conforto’s agent. Alas . . .

      • Old-school

        Conforto will get a Castellanos type prove it deal with good AAV 2 years guaranteed but a player option out after year 1 if he hits well to cash in.

  13. Old-school

    Reds arent spending any significant new money on free agents.
    C Trent has a good winter primer article up and thinks the reds will tender Farmer, Cessa, Senzel,Antone, and Dunn but then did add Farmer might have trade value at the winter meetings in December. Reds are going to going to see what Fraley and Friedl and Senzel and Fairchild do in 2023 and Siani is the wildcard if his defense in CF is elite and he has a good first half in AAA. Siani could be a great 8 hole hitter and everyday CF in 2024 if the corner OF spots are manned by big time hitters. The OF depth is just so awful right now the Reds are going to let 2023 play out and see what they have and what they dont have as the Moose and Votto money comes off the books after 2023.

    Interesting to see if the Cubs extend switch hitter GG left fielder Ian Happ this off-season. I suspect they do but he played his college ball at UC and rakes in GABP. Id be targeting Happ and Winker as LF and DH a year from now as both have crushed pitching in GABP and would give good professional lefty hitting to complement India and Stephenson from the right side as the young players develop or dont.

    • Votto4lfe

      The outfield has already been sorted out. The results are clear. The Reds don’t have one current outfielder who would start for a competitive team.

      I agree the Reds won’t sign a competent outfielder this off season, but that does not mean

      1) There isn’t a need or
      2) There is one inside option, let alone three.

      The idea there is still some doubts about the internal outfield options is absurd. They can watch Fraley, Friedl, Senzel and company for the next five seasons and the results will be still the same.

  14. Tar Heel Red

    The current 40-man roster sits at 39. By most accounts the Reds will protect 5 prospects (De La Cruz, Marte, McLain, Williamson and Stoudt), so at least five current players have to be let go. To me the logical list is…Dowdy, Kuhnel, Solomon, Reynolds and Aquino. I would also consider not protecting Gutierrez and Warren, since both will not pitch next year due to surgery. That puts the roster at 37 (36 if you trade Senzel…a distinct possibility).

    • Harry Stoner

      Your list of non-proctect-ees makes sense to me.

      And the likely list of prospects to shield, any of which might get sandbagged on an MLB roster to hang on to them for 2023 to see what happens.

      Trading Senzel? For what?
      Trade value is nearly nil, though he’d likely thrive in the Braves organization….

      At this point in time, he’ll bring in a Jagelo, Rookie Davis II or some such stiff.

      Unless his spot is desperately needed (for who? Reynolds?) keep him around another year to see if anything becomes of things.

      Though the Bell-oid “super utility” role is bound to further surpress his hitting.

      The return on him next year isn’t going to be any better or any worse.

      One of the more mismanaged prospects in recent Reds history.

      A cautionary tale for those aching to launch EdlC into CF because he’s tall and fast and hits a lot of home runs.

      • Votto4life

        I agree Harry. I am not sure why everyone is eager to have EDLC switch positions, when the Reds still don’t have a Shortstop.