Reds face tough Rule 5 choices with young talent

Club must decide which prospects to protect by Friday deadline

Reds face tough Rule 5 choices with young talent

CINCINNATI -- At the surface, it may seem like a perfunctory set of decisions that have little consequence. But for a team in the midst of a youth movement with several prospects, choosing who to protect from next month's Rule 5 Draft might be more complicated and significant.

The deadline to protect players on the 40-man roster is Friday. Those eligible for the Rule 5 Draft include anyone not on the 40-man roster who was signed as an 18-year-old in 2012, or at 19 years or older in '13.

Currently, the Reds have 33 men on their 40-man roster, leaving seven openings. Moves were made over the past couple of weeks to clear space, which included designating for assignment and trading pitcher John Lamb to the Rays; losing reliever Josh Smith on waivers to the A's; and outrighting infielders Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Hernan Iribarren, outfielder Yorman Rodriguez, starting pitcher Jon Moscot and relievers Caleb Cotham and Matt Magill. More moves are possible.

Among those in need of protection are several of MLBPipeline's Top 30 ranked prospects in the organization.

It's a lock that No. 3 prospect Jesse Winker will be protected. The corner outfielder still hasn't found his power -- hitting only three home runs in 106 games for Triple-A Louisville -- but he batted .303/.397/.384.

There is also pitcher Keury Mella (No. 9 prospect), who came with Adam Duvall from the Giants in the 2015 trade for Mike Leake. Mella posted a 3.90 ERA for Class A Advanced Daytona. A former first-round pick and No. 16 prospect, pitcher Nick Travieso had a 3.84 ERA in 23 starts for Double-A Pensacola. Another former first-rounder, outfielder and No. 17 prospect Phil Ervin impressed at Spring Training this year, but he struggled while batting .239 with 13 homers at Pensacola during the regular season.

Routt nabs comebacker for DP

Also from the Top 30 are Pensacola shortstop Calten Daal (No. 20), Daytona outfielder Aristides Aquino (No. 21), Pensacola third baseman Eric Jagielo (No. 25) and Moscot (No. 29). Moscot, recovering from Tommy John surgery, is a good bet to remain unprotected.

Outside the Top 30 are a few highly regarded prospects currently in the Arizona Fall League. Shortstop Zach Vincej hit three homers in 121 games for Pensacola while batting .281, but already has four homers and is batting .379 over 17 games in the AFL. There is also catcher/first baseman Chad Wallach and pitchers Barrett Astin, Evan Mitchell and Nick Routt -- all from Pensacola.

Other names to look out for are second baseman Brandon Dixon (Pensacola), left-handed pitcher Ismael Guillon (Louisville), third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean (Louisville) and reliever Zack Weiss (injured and missed all of 2016).

Even if a player is left unprotected, it doesn't mean his fate is sealed to join another organization. Last year, the Reds did not have any players plucked in the Rule 5 Draft, while they selected two in the Major League phase.

Teams can select players left unprotected for $50,000, and they must stay on the Major League 25-man roster of their new club for the entire season. If not, they are returned to their original organizations for $25,000. The Rule 5 Draft is scheduled for Dec. 8, the final day of the annual Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.