Every November 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 10 years the Cincinnati Reds have added as many as eight players and as few as one player 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. We took a look at the infielders on Monday and the outfielders on Tuesday.
The Easy Choice
Brandon Williamson was acquired by the Reds in March when the organization traded Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to the Seattle Mariners. Williamson was the top prospect that came over in that deal at the time that also included big leaguers Justin Dunn and Jake Fraley. The lefty was coming off of a big season in 2021 where he posted a 3.39 ERA in 98.1 innings with 33 walks and 153 strikeouts while seeing time in High-A (31 innings) and Double-A (67.1 innings).
Things did not go nearly as well for Williamson in 2022. He began the year in Double-A where he posted a 4.14 ERA in 14 starts, but struggled to find consistency both with his stuff as well as his control. He walked nearly twice as many batters in Double-A in 2022 as he had in 2021 in the same number of innings. Still, Cincinnati promoted him to Triple-A at the midpoint of the season and he made another 13 starts for Louisville. The consistency issues remained as he posted a 4.07 ERA in 55.1 innings while walking 37 batters with just 49 strikeouts. You can see all of his stats here.
So why is this an easy choice for a guy who clearly struggled throwing strikes on the season? Well, he would be picked up by other teams without much hesitation. He did struggle at times this past year, but he’s got quality stuff when he’s on, he’s left-handed, has shown he can handle a starters workload, he kept the ball in the park despite his inconsistency…. there’s just a lot of upside here to work with. There’s no way he goes unprotected.
The “Let’s talk about ’em” Group
Another prospect acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, but Levi Stoudt was acquired at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Luis Castillo to the Mariners and brought back a 4-prospect package back to Cincinnati. At the time he was rated as Seattle’s #10 prospect.
There were two different seasons for Stoudt in 2022. With the Mariners he posted a 5.28 ERA in Double-A with the Arkansas Travelers. He had 22 walks and 82 strikeouts in 87.0 innings, but also allowed 13 home runs and 92 hits in that stretch. After joining the Reds organization he made one start for the club in Double-A Chattanooga before joining Triple-A for six starts that were interrupted by a stint on the injured list that cost him nearly four weeks. In his seven starts for the Reds in the minor leagues this season he posted a 2.63 ERA and didn’t give up a home run in 24.0 innings. Between his three stops he made 25 starts with a 4.70 ERA, 32 walks, and 103 strikeouts in 111.0 innings. You can see all of his stats here.
Making the call
Levi Stoudt has solid stuff and it’s the kind of stuff that if he can find some more consistency with it he could be a 3/4 starter. But he’s also going to be 25-years-old next season and did struggle in Double-A this past season. Still, Cincinnati’s brass was able to see him pitch well down the stretch after he was acquired, and they certainly liked him enough to have him included in a big time trade – even if he wasn’t one of the main pieces of that deal. If the team were struggling to find space on the 40-man roster this may be more of a close call, but Cincinnati should have plenty of room to add Stoudt.
If you look at the stats on the surface this feels like a rather easy choice to say “leave him unprotected”. Luis Mey posted a 5.65 ERA in 43.0 innings at Single-A Daytona. He also walked 32 batters in that span and he hit another 7.
That, of course, isn’t the entire story. On June 2nd he had a 9.37 ERA with 14 walks and 4 hit batters in 16.1 innings. Opponents had hit .357/.483/.571 against him. It was bad. Real bad. From that point forward he pitched much better, posting a 3.38 ERA in 26.2 innings while allowing just 1 home run, striking out 34, hitting 3 batters, and walking 18. Of those 18 walks, 7 of them (!) did come in a 3-inning stint on August 21st. While you can’t just discount that one outing, he does help show that by-and-large he did improve his control in the second half of the season outside of that one game.
Still, we’re talking about half of a season of solid but unspectacular results at the lowest level of full-season minor league baseball. You can see all of his stats here.
Making the call
As was noted above – looking at the stats would seem to make this an easy call. Even if we just looked at his second half stats the call would probably be easy given that they came in A-ball and he’d have to stick to the big league roster. But Luis Mey also throws 102 MPH. One thing we tend to see time and time again is that teams are more willing to take chances on hiding a pitcher with a high upside in the bullpen who has little track record compared to trying to hide a position player on the bench who has a higher upside. You don’t have to squint too hard to think that a team could see 102 MPH fastballs and improvements in the second half and think that maybe they can work with that kind of arm and get good value. At the same time you may understand why the Reds would leave him unprotected thinking that the chances he sticks to a big league roster for all of 2023 aren’t great. This feels like a “leave unprotected” situation, but on this team with this roster? Maybe you protect him and allow him to develop instead of keeping a 29-year-old AAAA pitcher around on the 40-man.
The first thing we need to note with regards to Lyon Richardson is that he did not pitch at all in 2022. He underwent Tommy John surgery following the 2021 season. During that 2021 season the then 21-year-old battled some consistency issues. When he was at his best he looked like a guy who was a 2nd round draft pick in 2018. But other times during the season his stuff just wasn’t consistent and he got hit around a bit. In 2021 he threw 76.0 innings with a 5.09 ERA, giving up 74 hits, walking 38 batters, and striking out 91. You can see all of his stats here.
After reaching into the upper 90’s with his fastball in high school he didn’t show that kind of velocity at all in his first two seasons after being drafted. In 2021 he did find some more velocity and threw in the 93-95 MPH range often enough and touched higher, while also showing solid secondary stuff. But with that additional velocity his control did take a pretty big step backwards.
Making the call
Coming off of Tommy John surgery and his last time on the mound coming in August of 2021 when he showed solid, but unspectacular stuff and not-so-great numbers you could make the argument that leaving him unprotected makes sense. He’s never pitched in Double-A or Triple-A, and on the scouting report nothing specifically jumps off of the page at you. Teams will often protect top round picks who haven’t just completely flopped, and Richardson certainly hasn’t done that. But it’s also tough to think many teams would be interested in adding him to the big league roster based on what we know about him today, too. Still, it only takes one team to be interested for a player to be picked. It’s a coin flip here because of the investment in the signing bonus and 2nd round pick, but I’d lean ever so slightly towards guessing he will be protected.
Selected by the Reds in the 13th round out of Walters State Community College back in 2017, Ricky Karcher has worked his way up the chain ever since. He made a big jump in 2022 to Double-A after having only thrown 27.1 innings in A-ball during 2021. With Chattanooga in the first half he posted 3.24 ERA and picked up 6 saves for the Lookouts while giving up just 1 home run, striking out 42, and walking 21 batters in 25.0 innings. The high walk rate was the lone issue on the stat sheet, but the Reds felt he could get away with it and promoted him to Triple-A. He made 32 appearances with the Bats after that and posted a 3.98 ERA while picking up another 4 saves. In his 31.2 innings there he allowed 2 home runs, walked 19 batters, and picked up 46 strikeouts. You can see all of his stats here.
Making the call
The stuff is there – Karcher throws a fastball in the upper 90’s, a slider in the upper 80’s, and a change up in the low 90’s. The question is can he harness it enough to be relied upon? It’s a fair question to ask about a guy who has 128 walks in his 143.1 minor league innings pitched. But it’s also fair to point out that his walk rate in Triple-A this season was just 5.4 and it was the lowest rate he’s had at any stop in the minor leagues. The improvement in the strikeout rate came suddenly, too. In his first 21 games with Louisville he walked 16 batters and hit 2 others in 20.0 innings. Then September rolled around and he walked just 3 batters in 11.2 innings while striking out 17.
If you are in the Cincinnati front office and you think he took a real step forward with regards to his ability to throw strikes then he’s probably a safe bet to be protected. The stuff is there and if he can throw strikes a bit more consistently then it makes perfect sense. At the same time you are betting a lot on one good month of throwing strikes in Triple-A with a long history of an inability to throw strikes. Still, you could see where another team could pick him up and at least give him a look in spring training to see what he can do with their pitching coach given his stuff. This one feels a bit like a coin flip, but I’d lean towards him being protected.
Others to consider
These guys may be a bit more of a longshot category, but all could have a reason that they would be protected and or selected by another club.
Garcia isn’t young. He didn’t enter professional baseball until he was 24 and he will be 28-years-old when the season begins in 2023. His age may be working against him here, but he showed that he could dominate in Double-A. In 40 games with the Lookouts he posted a 2.17 ERA in 49.2 innings, picked up 12 saves, allowed just 3 home runs, walked 19 (2 were intentional), and he struck out 58 batters.
That was the good side of things. On the flip side he did struggle a bit in his 6.2 innings after being promoted to Triple-A. He allowed 12 hits in 6.2 innings and posted an ERA of 10.80. The sample there was small, but he certainly didn’t fool hitters much with the Bats in the final month of the season. You can see all of his stats here.
Making the call
The stuff is fine, but doesn’t stand out. He throws 93-95 that will touch higher and has a hard slider in the upper 80’s. He found a ton of success in Double-A and without a BABIP over .500 in a small sample size in Triple-A maybe things look better from a statistical standpoint there, too. With his age and not much time in Triple-A, it seems like a safe-ish bet he won’t be protected, but he’s got enough going on that it wouldn’t be shocking if he were added or if some other team took a flier on him.
Much like Garcia, Nutof isn’t exactly young. He just turned 27 last week. Cincinnati selected him back in 2017 out of Michigan. He had worked his way up to Double-A in 2019, but missed 2020 with everyone else in the minor leagues as the season was cancelled and then he missed 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. When he returned the Reds sent him to Double-A Chattanooga where he pitched well, posting a 2.96 ERA in 39 games while walking 29 and striking out 65 in 54.2 innings. There were a few more walks than you’d like to see, but he got the job done. He then got a late call up to Triple-A where he pitched in four games, giving up 2 runs in 4.1 innings pitched, walking 5 and striking out 2. You can see all of his stats here.
Making the call
Nutof had an interesting profile in 2022 with Chattanooga. He had a 50% ground ball rate (MLB average is just under 43%) but also had a 27% strikeout rate. Pitchers who can put up good strikeout numbers and high ground ball rates tend to be good. Of course Double-A isn’t the big leagues, so those numbers don’t necessarily translate. The righty works with a fastball that works in the 93-95 range and a breaking ball in the low 80’s that he leans on often. Opponents slugged just .321 against him in 2022. He also didn’t give up a single home run until August 20th – his 35th game of the season. He doesn’t seem like a slam dunk protection or pick for another team, but he’s got solid stuff, an interesting profile, limited power output, and kept the ball on the ground when guys did make contact against him. It wouldn’t be overly surprising if someone decided that he would be worth a look in spring training to see how things went.