Listed on the transaction sheet for the Cincinnati Reds was the signing of catcher James Free. He was an undrafted junior out of Pacific, who hit .335/.412/.541 in 2019 for the Tigers. That came along with 14 doubles, a triple, 8 home runs, 24 walks, and 33 strikeouts in 226 plate appearances. He also threw out 58% of opposing base runners, going 23-for-40 in throwing out attempted base stealers.

He was a big time freshman back in 2017 when he burst onto the scene at Pacific, hitting .343/.407/.652 with 14 home runs. His sophomore season was a step back, hitting just .283/.394/.439. Things came back some as a junior, though. He had been playing in the Northwoods League for the last two weeks before signing with the Reds.

Baseball America had James Free rated as the 274th best prospect in the country entering this past draft. But he went undrafted. The switch hitter has some pop in his bat, and there’s some raw power for him to potentially come into in the future. The report from Baseball America’s pre-draft scouting report notes that some teams didn’t believe he would be able to remain at catcher due to a below-average arm. But that other teams were more optimistic, giving him credit for improving this year at throwing out nearly 60% of runners.

College Stats

2017 204 14 0 14 15 37 .343 .407 .652
2018 221 6 1 7 27 49 .283 .394 .439
2019 226 14 1 8 24 33 .335 .412 .541
Total 651 34 2 29 66 119 .320 .404 .543

There’s no word on how much money he got to sign. But, if it was over $125,000, the amount over that would count towards the draft budget. You can see how much the Reds have left to spend here, at the Cincinnati Reds Draft Tracker.

26 Responses

  1. RedsfaninTX

    Doug I have a draft question. It seems to me that the Reds have signed a lot more guys in this draft as compared to drafts in the past. The Reds have signed about 28 out of the 40 plus a couple of guys that were not drafted. Am I wrong? If I am correct why do you think they are more successful with this draft?

    • Doug Gray

      They usually signed 25-30 guys, so no, this isn’t really different.

    • Bill

      I think we’ll see at least two more signees (college seniors playing in the CWS). Having the extra team provides a little extra room. It’s not a big bump, but it does seem the Reds have cast a slightly wider net this year.

    • RojoBenjy

      Good question. Seems like a good pickup. What was keeping teams away, if anything?

      His arm like Doug said, or something else?

      • Simon Cowell

        plenty of guys come up as catchers with a noodle arm and then convert over to left or first.

  2. LB

    Now, I trust that the Reds did not go into the range that would cost them a draft pick (as they never have and iirc no one ever has), but that said…

    How in the world did they manage to fit in Yan Contreras and this kid when they only had roughly $120,000 of slot money that they could spend without losing a pick?! And yeah, to echo the sentiments of others, I’m not really sure how a kid like this could go undrafted if he didn’t have high signing bonus demands, but obviously he didn’t…very odd situation that is reminiscent of Friedl’s situation, but there’s very little chance that it occurred for the same reason given that Free played all three years.

    Great job by Dick ‘n’ Nick, I’d say.

    • LB

      Whoops, I amend my statement…the number they had available was closer to $180,000, but still, pretty wild stuff!

      • The Duke

        After rd 10, the first $125,000 does not count towards the draft pool. So if they had $180,000 available, he could have signed for over $300,000 with the Reds still under the 5% threshold where they would lose picks. Also, some kids just don’t want to go to college, and commit purely as leverage to sign for more with a pro team.

      • LB

        Yes, I know that Duke, but my main point was I found it hard to believe that both of those guys could be signed for a total of $430,000…

        However, very astute point that it’s possible that Contreras did not have a desire to go to college, but with where he was rated in the draft by evaluators I would have expected him to go much higher if he didn’t have any strong demands. With Free I think it definitely comes down to asking why he went undrafted (I understand why he’d want to take whatever money he can get as a college junior).

        Overall, a very odd thing indeed, but I’m not upset! Good job, Reds

      • The Duke

        Contreras could have told teams it’d take a million to sign him scaring teams off. And when the Reds come at him with a take it or leave it offer at the end of the process since that’s all they have left the options are take that money now or head to San Jacinto and take your chances next year. No real insight into this situation, that’s just the hypothetical that makes sense to me.

  3. kevinz

    Good sign Reds. The more bites at the the apple the better.

    • RojoBenjy

      Looks like the player is James Free II. So it could be a father-son endorsement.

    • Martino Amello

      My aunt was Free’s accountant for awhile way back when.. Yeah, I know.. Completely and utterly irrelevant , but there it is anyway..

      • NateA

        He should be able to help Dietrich get some new bling

    • Cguy

      Yeah, .229 is a bit low. Nothing wrong with that .358 OBP though, & that .941 OPS is just fine.

      • Cguy

        Be nice if Votto, Suarez, Puig, Senzel, Winker , or anybody else had OBP &/or OPS that high.

      • kevinz

        Going off trends so Far. Once Winker Votto Puig Senzel cool Down.
        All 4 been Hot over the Past 30 Days to a Month.
        Suarez and DD will get hott on the average OPS slugging etc front.
        The past month Suarez bad in all stats.
        DD bad in average only . He is still pretty good in the OPS slugging Department in past 71 AB.

      • Hanawi

        Well Votto has a .356 OBP so he’s just about there. And they are going in opposite directions.

      • Cguy

        Votto is just about where? He’s almost reached the low point in OBP in his entire career. That’s where he’s at. Joey has improved lately, no doubt. Dietrich on the other hand is having a great year. Votto edging out Dietrich for team lead in OBP doesn’t impress me much —–for Joey.

      • Hanawi

        Whether or not you are impressed, you said you hoped those guys could have OBP as high as DD. Votto does and is trending up. Will probably be over .400 by the end of the year again.

  4. Tyler Brackett

    So who is left to sign
    Cam Warren
    Patrick Raby?