2018 Rule 5 Preview Part 2: The Infielders Doug Gray October 16, 2017 14 Comments Last Monday we took a look at the list of players who would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if the team left them off of the 40-man roster. This week we will look at which infielders from that group warrant a consideration for being protected from that group. Among the infielders, which includes catchers, there are five players that I believe warrant consideration to being protected. Below we will address those five and talk about each. Before that, though, let’s talk about what types of players tend to be selected. Among position players there are generally two types of guys who get selected: The high upside, but raw player. These guys tend to be unprotected because a team believes they are too raw to stick in the Majors and will go unselected. Teams, however, are willing to give it a shot at times. Last year the Padres worked out a pick-and-trade with the Reds to grab Luis Torrens. He was a 21-year-old catcher who barely played in Low-A. But, he’s got plenty of potential and the Padres, going nowhere in 2017, kept him around all year. The other type of player is one who is close to the Majors and can fill a role of need. These are usually guys who may be starter capable, but can fill a nice bench role, too. Alex Blandino Why he would be selected: He’s proven that he can hit at both Double-A and Triple-A, where he OPS’d over .800 in 2017. There’s a little bit of pop in his bat, he gets on base and walked nearly as often as he struck out. Blandino is also capable of playing multiple positions in the field, including shortstop as a backup. Why he would go unpicked: This is a tough one because I think he checks all of the boxes that would leave him being selected. He hasn’t carried a high batting average between Double-A and Triple-A, so if you had to push something as a reason, that may be it. Still, his on-base percentage, particularly in 2017, was .382 and teams are going to care far more about that than a .265 average. Brandon Dixon Why he would be selected: He can play first base, second base, third base and anywhere in the outfield. While he’s stretched in center, he can handle that in a pinch if needed. Essentially, he can cover you anywhere but shortstop and catcher if really needed. Dixon also has some speed on the bases and some pop in his bat. His profile is pretty good as a bench player. Why he would go unpicked: There isn’t an easy transition for Brandon Dixon to being a starting caliber player without improving at the plate. He’s probably not going to carry enough average/on-base percentage without some adjustments that he hasn’t shown to this point in his career to profile as a starter. Gavin LaValley Why he would be selected: He’s a young corner infielder with plenty of pop in his bat. There’s a potential there for 25+ home runs in his bat, and probably soon. He’s capable of playing both first base and third base in the field, though he fits better at first defensively. Why he would go unpicked: He struggled in his transition to Double-A where he hit just .251/.305/.352. His defensive profile as a corner infielder also makes it tougher to hide him on a Major League roster for a full season as the flexibility isn’t as easy as with someone who can play up the middle spots or both infield and outfield. Nick Longhi Why he would be selected: He’s a young guy, just turning 22-years-old at the end of the 2017 season. Scouts like his hit tool and he showed solid pop in his bat in Double-A despite a young age. While he’s spent most of his time in the minors at first base, he’s more athletic than most first baseman and can handle the corner outfield spots, too. Why he would go unpicked: His season came to an end in July after needing to have Tommy John surgery. While he performed solidly in Double-A, he didn’t stand out offensively. Shed Long Why he would be selected: He’s an athletic middle infielder with pop in his bat and speed to work with. He hit incredibly well in the Florida State League at age 21, a league where it’s rare to see guys hit well and he posted a .922 OPS. While his time has been spent almost exclusively at second base since 2015, he could probably back up at third and is probably athletic enough to handle left field with a little bit of practice out there if needed. There’s upside there for a quality starting second baseman in the near-term future. Why he would go unpicked: He struggled in 42 games at the Double-A level. He’s athletic enough to transition to other positions in a backup role, probably, but he’s yet to actually show he can do it. Who to protect from this group The Cincinnati Reds are going to need to create more than a few roster spots to protect players in November. Among the infield group, it’s a tough call, but I think that I would only protect two guys. Alex Blandino and Shed Long seem like the two most likely to be selected. I believe the other three guys have an outside chance of being selected, but much less of one than the middle infielders do. If Gavin LaValley had hit better in Double-A in the second half it may change the conversation. But, he struggled and I think that will make it unlikely he is taken. For Nick Longhi, coming off of Tommy John surgery and solid, but unspectacular Double-A production combines for a low likelihood of being selected. Brandon Dixon is a bit of a wildcard. He went unselected in last years Rule 5 draft. This year he moved up to Triple-A and hit better, but wasn’t a real standout offensively. He’s well rounded, but that he may not project to be a starter could leave him unlikely to be selected. There’s some risk with all three being taken, but it seems like a risk I would take. 14 Responses William Kubas October 16, 2017 “Alex Blandino There’s a little bit of pop in his bat”: August 31, 2017 Former Stanford Cardinal, Alex Blandino has his on base percentage fall to .386 with no hits in 3 at bats. August 29, 2017 Former Stanford Cardinal, Alex Blandino, playing both halves of a double header raises his on base percentage to .391 with 3 hits (45th, 46th, 47th) including 13th double and 6th home run producing his 20th RBI. Blandino has had 172 at bats since joining the Louisville Bats. ” he gets on base and walked nearly as often as he struck out”: August 30, 2017 Former Stanford Cardinal, Alex Blandino raises his on base percentage to .392 with his 29th and 30th base on balls in 205 plate appearances since joining the Louisville Bats. ” Blandino is also capable of playing multiple positions in the field, including shortstop as a backup.”: At second base, he fielded 115 chances, committing 1 error. At short stop, he fielded 36 chances, committing 4 errors. At third base, he fielded 58 chances, committing 6 errors. The Cincinnati Reds calling up Zack Vincej as a September call up is plangent. Doug Gray October 16, 2017 You’re reading into this way too much. Here’s why Vincej was called up instead of Blandino: He can be DFA’d and not claimed. It’s as simple as that. It’s not because they thought he was the better option. It’s because he could be called up in September and DFA’d without much of a worry that someone would claim him in November when they may need that roster spot. MK October 16, 2017 Must be the Stanford education but I had to look up plangent. I believe Alex will be protected as his performance makes him deserving but I wonder if his lack of a specific defensive position work against his Rule 5 selection, the same with Dixon. Just can not remember that many utility guys being selected in the past. Norwood Nate October 16, 2017 I agree completely with who you’d protect and the reasoning behind it. Tampa Red October 16, 2017 Having a legitimate roster crunch is a good thing. The Reds haven’t had that in a while. Usually lots of filler on the 40-man. Having said that, Brandon Dixon would be a nice bench player to have. Good thump, speed and multi positional. I guess I’d leave him off too, but he’s going to get picked. Good for him, hope he gets the opportunity and runs with it. Cinvenfan October 16, 2017 I’d protect Blandino since he has the most upside and Lavalley. He can be depth at 1b and Votto’s not getting younger. Shawn October 16, 2017 I would also add LaValley mark l October 16, 2017 I think we protect only Blandino. I don’t know enough about this stuff, but it seems really unlikely that it would benefit a team to draft Long. I’m sure I’m missing something, but it has not proven he can hit AA at this point. Josh October 16, 2017 Shed Long would for sure be picked if left unprotected. There is no way you can leave him unprotected….. Shed will more than likely be the 2B of the future. I don’t see any chance of broken down Dilson ever becoming a real player. mark l October 16, 2017 I believe in him as a prospect, but I don’t understand why a team would take him. He doesn’t have superstar potential and there is no guarantee he ever makes the majors. Kap October 16, 2017 Dixon seems like another Kivlahan but with more power. MAybe he can take that role next season if he’s not selected in the rule 5 draft. Would rather give Blandino or long the 40 man roster spots Tampa Red October 16, 2017 I think Khivlehan has enough power, but Dixon can run the bases quite a bit better and can play some positions Khivlehan can’t. I don’t think either will be with the Reds next year, but if I were GM Dixon would be, of the two. Brock October 16, 2017 Doug, how many spots on the 40 man do you think will be open for new additions? Doug Gray October 16, 2017 I don’t have the full list in front of me right now, but I think six.