When the Cincinnati Reds selected Connor Joe in the Rule 5 draft in December he was announced as a catcher. That jumped out a little bit because he had never actually caught a single pitch in a game. He had played a lot of positions in the Minor Leagues. Joe had experience at first base, second base, third base, left field, and right field. Catcher was not one of those spots.

When it comes to catching, though, Connor Joe isn’t entirely inexperienced. In college at San Diego he did catch briefly during his junior season, and in the Cape Cod League. The Dodgers moved him off of the position as a professional, though. That is, until October of 2018. In instructional league Los Angeles gave him another look behind the plate. Earlier today, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale reported that Joe will focus on catching according to manager David Bell.

With both Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali on the roster already. That makes it tough to see where Connor Joe would get much time behind the plate unless there were an injury to one of those two players. With that said, having confidence that he can be a viable third catcher does give David Bell some flexibility in how he could use Barnhart or Casali as pinch hitters on days when they aren’t the starter.

The lack of experience catching professional pitching still leaves it very unlikely that Connor Joe sees much time behind the dish. He’s far more likely to be used as a backup option on the corners. He can play the corners on the infield and outfield, and be used as a pinch hitting option. As was written two weeks ago, it’s perhaps the hitting ability for Joe that could be the most interesting aspect of his game. He had a breakout year in 2018 after changing his approach at the plate with the Dodgers.

16 Responses

  1. The Duke

    So basically we’re sending him back at some point in spring training

    • ohiojimw

      Seems that way. Only other thing I can imagine is they hope to get him through waivers then strike a trade with LA in lieu of returning him.

  2. Krozley

    Right now, I see them keeping 13 pitchers with the bench coming out of ST as Kemp, Casali, Blandino (or Trahan), and Joe, unless he looks really bad. When Senzel comes up mid-April, will he replace Joe or a relief pitcher? Ervin is the one probably out of luck as he still has an option. They could also make a move before opening day that will change everything.

    • MK

      Can’t imagine Blandino is ready until mid-season. Had surgery in July.

      • Doug Gray

        Things are different for everyone, but these days it usually doesn’t take a full year to recover from ACL surgery.

      • Krozley

        Blandino said today he is hitting, taking ground balls, and should be ready by Opening Day. Maybe optimistic, but I’m guessing he won’t be out for long.

  3. Norwood Nate

    Still don’t see a clear path to be on the roster, even by adding catching duties. Don’t think he’ll be on the OD roster.

  4. Stock

    Unless he proves he has no clue behind the plate he will stick with the Reds. Even then he may stick. I know it is the minors but a line of .299/.408/.527 works for me. A .935 OPS with an ISO .228 is pretty impressive, especially if it sticks at catcher. For comparison sake Ervin had an OPS of .864 and Senzel had an OPS of .887. Great bat off the bench.

    The Reds start the season with a bench of Tehran, Joe, Casali, Kemp and Ervin. In two weeks Senzel replaces Tehran and sometime in May when Blandino is ready he replaces Kemp (trade) or Ervin (option).

    • Oldtimer

      Teheran, the capital of Iraq? Playing for Reds? Perhaps you meant Trahan (backup SS).

    • The Duke

      .935 OPS in the PCL and the Texas League, two of the most hitter friendly environments in baseball. When the outlier numbers are in those leagues, it’s best to take them with a healthy dose of skepticism. Joe will need to have a monster spring to show he should be on the roster instead of someone who can be a defensive replacement at CF or an 8th BP arm.

      • Norwood Nate

        I was also going to mention that the leagues he played have a big effect on his numbers. If it comes down to Joe or Ervin, I’m taking Ervin every time.

  5. Optimist

    I’v liked the Joe selection since it was announced as a catcher. That seemed a pretty clear signal coach Ward thinks his bat is ready, as noted in the comment above, and that they need only expand his utility role.

    I’m still a bit confused on how they clear him from the Rule 5 restrictions – if they can make a deal straight with the Dodgers, or they have to clear him through DFA/waivers. Seems that time in AAA as a Catcher is needed to solidify his value, but he’s already a fine 25th man on the bench.

    Until Blandino is totally right, they still have a hole in middle infield defense depth, but hoping it’s just weeks, not months for him.

  6. $$

    Good stuff Doug. Kid had a monster breakout season in 2018 that should not be ignored especially from a former 1st round pick. I hope he sticks somehow.

  7. SaveTheFarm

    Don’t forget about Farmer in the Dodgers trade, by my count that’s four catchers.

  8. Scott C

    I think of it this way, when the Rule 5 draft took place, this was a pretty decent pick up, a guy who had a pretty good track record in the minors, a decent hit tool and could play multiple positions. Possibly better than what we had had in that position. Now there is no real clear spot on the 25 man roster. And what have we lost? He goes on waivers, he’s picked up by another club, or he is sent back to Dodgers, or he clears waivers and he becomes minor league depth. It shows how far this roster has come since the rule 5 draft.