The Cincinnati Reds selected outfielder Mark Payton in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft this afternoon. Reminder that players selected in the Major League version of the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the Major League roster all season and can’t be sent to the minors unless it’s on a rehab assignment. If they are not going to be on the big league roster they must be placed on waivers for any other team to claim, and if unclaimed, offered back to the team they were originally selected from.

Background Information

Mark Payton was a 7th round draft pick in 2014 by the New York Yankees. He was drafted twice before signing, once in the 31st round out of high school in 2010 by Minnesota, and then in the 16th round in 2013 by the Indians. He went to Texas where he had a career OPS of .869, but was at .900+ for his last three seasons, including a big junior season where he hit .393/.483/.545, that somehow came without a single home run.

He’s listed at 5′ 8″ tall and 190 lbs. He hits and throws left handed.

Minor League Playing History

In his professional debut he put up a strong season, hitting .320/.418/.497 with the Yankees Low-A and Advanced-A levels in 48 games. But he couldn’t carry that forward, posting an OPS of .714 the following season, then a .780 OPS in 2016 between three stops. IN 2017 his OPS dripped to .702. During 2018 he spent his entire season in Triple-A, but missed the first half of the year. Once he returned he hit .259/.368/.401.

The 27-year-old had a big time break out season in 2019. He joined the Oakland Athletics organization after being selected by them in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, and for the first time since 2016 he stayed on the field for a full season, or close to it. In 118 games he hit .334/.400/.653 with 30 doubles, three triples, and 30 home runs across 447 plate appearances. He walked 45 times with 76 strikeouts. Most of his time was split between the corner outfield spots, but he did see a limited amount of time in center field – which has been the case for most of his minor league career.

Nearly half of his minor league home runs came during the 2019 season. Entering the year he had only one double-digit home run season, back in 2016 when he hit 10. With a total of 32 career homers before the year, 30 of them was a big step forward. Between moving to the Pacific Coast League and the juiced baseball in use in Triple-A during 2019, he went off in the power department like never before.

Scouting Report on Mark Payton

Let’s start with the good: He seems to get the strikezone fairly well. In his career he has 233 walks with 384 strikeouts in 2248 plate appearances. While he’s not a big time contact hitter, he makes contact at a rate that’s better than average. And his walk rate for his career is over 10%. While he’s not likely an every day option in center field, he’s capable of being a back up guy there, and can play in the corners.

Now let’s focus a little bit on the questions. He’s going to be a 28-year-old who has never been in the Major Leagues. And his breakout season came in the most hitter friendly league, in the most hitter friendly park, in a year with a baseball that was juiced to the gills.

It’s not unheard of for guys to figure something out and explode onto the scene. For Mark Payton the question is did he do that, or are we seeing a perfect situation of circumstances for 2019? Honestly, it’s tough to say. He almost certainly saw some benefit from the playing environment and the baseball in use. Everyone did. His team hit .298/.371/.531 as a whole. THE TEAM HAD AN OPS OF .902.

But there could be something going on here a little more than just that. Entering the 2019 season Mark Payton had a career ground ball rate of 44%. In 2019 that rate dropped to 34.7%. He started hitting the ball in the air with far more frequency than ever before. Obviously with the playing environment and baseball, that’s really going to help out. But even without those things, that’s usually going to help. You aren’t racking up extra-base hits on grounders. Let it fly, as the kids say.

As a left-handed hitter he showed some splits last season. He hit an absurd .357/.417/.697 against right-handed pitchers. Against lefties he hit .263/.346/.516. His strikeout rate was also significantly higher versus lefties (24.1% vs 14.7%).

Can Mark Payton stick and how would he be used?

The rosters are moving to 26 players for the 2020 season. The Reds are looking to add offense this offseason, and while I doubt they are looking at Mark Payton as a guy who they are going to pencil into their lineup every day, if they can’t land that kind of outfielder, he certainly could fit into an outfield rotation. A left-handed hitter who can cover all three outfield spots on a given day who has a good approach at the plate, and perhaps some real power that he found due to a change in approach is certainly useful.

The question is can he stick to the roster? That’s a tougher question. It’s probably easier to do that in 2020 than ever before given that there is an extra roster spot. The big question may come down to whether or not his breakout in 2019 was real. If he gets to Goodyear and looks like it was more real than environment created, he’s probably going to have a good chance to stick on the roster.

The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft

The Cincinnati Reds didn’t lose any players in the Major League phase of the Rule 5, but they did lose several in the Minor League phase. The rules are a bit different than the Major League phase. Players do not have to remain on any given roster. Essentially, the Minor League phase is simply a “sale” where teams are permitted to acquire for a cash fee players that are left unprotected on the minor league roster.

Players that were lost:

But the Reds were also buy selecting players in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, too. They picked up shortstop Michael De Leon from the Texas Rangers organization and right-handed pitcher Miguel Figueroa from the San Francisco Giants organization.

Michael De Leon is a 22-year-old shortstop who played in Double-A in each of the last three seasons. His OPS in those seasons has been .541, .623, and once again, .623. He’s a glove first player who doesn’t bring much with the bat – he’s a career .249/.294/.321 hitter in 676 career minor league games. He hit .164/.164/.209 in 67 plate appearances with Licey this winter in the Dominican Winter League.

Right-handed pitcher Miguel Figueroa turned 22 at the end of the 2019 season. He’s yet to make it out of rookie league baseball. In 2019 he posted a 3.00 ERA in 15 games where he threw 36.0 innings without allowing a home run, walking 15 batters, and striking out 45. He split his time with the Giants Arizona Rookie League team and their short-season team in Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League.

46 Responses

  1. Brad

    Solid day. Will miss watching Yon take BP in spring training. Whoever scouts the Reds for the Angels has some pull, they seem to pickup a lot of Reds.

    Curious how Payton, Martini and Jankowski compare as LHH OF. Jankowski more expensive but more experienced and can play CF. Martini and Payton seem like bench guys.

    I really hope to see Ervin get every start vs LHSP. Valuable piece off bench as well. Current bench of: Casali, Farmer, Van Meter, Ervin and Jankowski.

    De Leon is interesting in that I dont know where he plays. Alf-Rod is SS for AAA and assume Jose Garcia is same for AA. Miguel Hernandez at High-A?

    • MBS

      It does seem as if the trio of Jankowski, Martini, and Payton are vying for the same roster spot, the 25th or 26th man.

      • RedsKoolAidDrinker

        Maybe this is a dumb question, but is $100,000 a lot of money to a big league club to spend on someone who may or may not stick?

      • Doug Gray

        Well, it’s only $50,000 because if he doesn’t stick you offer him back for half price.

        But even at $100,000 – that is 0.035% of the Reds annual spending. So, no.

  2. Norwood Nate

    It Rule 5, so nothing to get worked up either way. But my question is, how is this guy better than O’Grady? O’Grady had options and a little more defensive flexibility as well.

    • AlphaZero

      O’Grady’s K% at AAA was 30.5%. That jumped to 35.4% in very limited MLB action. Not many guys can have success when they whiff at that kind of rate.

      Payton is much more contact oriented (17.7% AAA K-rate) and he’s the better defender. So if he finds any kind of power to go with his contact skills and batting eye, he has a better shot to be successful at the MLB level in my estimation.

      • Norwood Nate

        Good points. I don’t think I realized O’Grady’s K% had risen that high. His BB% had always been pretty good and he added legit power in AAA last season, but in an overall less hitter friendly league than PCL. I thought as a optionable utility guy he had value. The strikeouts would have been an issue at that rate though, I agree. I’m struggling to see the plan for Payton next season with what we have currently on the roster. Though that can change…

    • MK

      Good point. But, the player to be named later should be announced soon as the Rule V Draft is over.

  3. Seth R

    could this be a little cheap insurance for if we trade Winker? seems like a similar profile (high-OBP, medium power)

    • Oldtimer

      Yeah. The 1960 Pirates really didn’t need Roberto Clemente.

      • Little Earl

        Umm, They took Clemente in 1954, right after finishing 50 – 104. In that case they were a bad team in need of a rule 5 guy.

      • Oldtimer

        Regardless he was a Rule 5 draft pick who was essential to their 1960 WS championship.

    • Big Ed

      There have been a few that have worked. Josh Hamilton, for one, and Roberto Clemente made a little impact with the Pirates.

      You are right that it’s generally nothing to get your panties in a wad about.

  4. Oldtimer

    Insofar as MilB players figuring it out a little late, Chris Sabo had five ordinary MiLB seasons from 1983 to 1987 for Reds then became NL ROY as Reds starting 3B in 1988.

    It happens sometimes. Probably the best Reds “older: rookie who succeeded right away at MLB level was 27 YO Frank McCormick in 1938. A couple of MLB “cups of coffee” before then but proceeded to lead NL in Hits 3 straight years 1938-39-40.

  5. Krozley

    Schebler, Martini, Jankowski, and now Payton as a potential Aquino platoon partner. Barring an injury, I’m not sure any of them make the club as they still need a backup shortstop to go with the other four bench guys (Ervin, Casali, Vanmeter, Farmer). Then again, the Reds aren’t done dealing, so who knows. Glad Friedl is still around.

    • Oldtimer

      Agree on Friedl. His 2019 results were subpar compared to 2018. He can get back to Good in 2020 and Reds still have him around.

    • MK

      Blandino back-up shortstop though Farmer was a college I shortstop at Georgia.

  6. Dawson

    Doug, you do a tremendous job…thank you!

    Can someone clear something up for me please…I am glad to see that TJ Friedl didn’t get taken in the Rule 5 Draft, but I missed something recently…I thought we lost Friedl to the Rays in a trade a couple weeks ago. Then I see him on Doug’s prospects list, available in the Rule 5 Draft, and still in the organization. What did I miss?

    • Doug Gray

      You might be confusing Friedl with Brian O’Grady, who the Reds did lose to the Rays.

      • Dawson

        Thanks Doug. I don’t know where the heck I got it from, but glad Friedl is still with the organization.

      • Doug Gray

        This morning I failed to count to 38 accurately, so who knows how our brains function? Lol

  7. Greenfield Red

    There is a David Price piece on MLBtraderumors that mentions the Reds interest in a trade. He is owed 96 mil over the next three years after a bad 2019 and 34 years old. The Red Sox don’t want to include young players in the deal. I don’t see where there is any common ground here without significant youngster(s) involved unless Boston pays 70+ mil of it. That seems to defeat the reason for trading him.

    Thoughts?

    • John C.

      This is the type of trade rumor that scares me to death. If we could unload Votto, it might make some sense but we just dont have a salary to dump back to them.

    • AlphaZero

      I’m only interested if it helps to majorly soften the prospect cost of the acquisition of another key piece from Boston like Benintendi. Otherwise, you would get better value just pursing one of Keuchel or Ryu.

    • Krozley

      I like the idea of getting Price, Benintendi, and about $30 million from the Sox for something like Disco, Ervin, and maybe someone like Kuhnel. Throw in a wild card like Ibandel. Price for 3 years/$66 million would be worth it if he can get back to form with the help of his former coach DJ. Price was not bad last year. Take out two short inning/high run starts and he had a 3.38 ERA in the other 20 starts. They would have to be comfortable with his injury situation, though. Benintendi would be a great addition. I doubt the RedSox would do it as my suggestion is probably too light a return for them and they’ve said they would not include Benintendi in such a deal. I heard a commentator say he heard the Red Sox asked the White Sox for Vaughn and Madrigal (two top 40 prospects) as part of the package for Price and money. The RedSox are delusional if they think they would get that.

  8. CP

    Glad we didn’t lose Friedl. He still has a good chance to become a ML OF. Starting CF at his ceiling but less likely and decent 4/5th OF more likely. Either way a useful and valuable player on a ML roster.

  9. Stock

    I love this pickup. Granted some of the HR are due to playing in the PCL and using ML baseballs in AAA. But the way I see it if you cut his HR/FB % to match 2018 he hits 23-25 HR over 600 AB. Not bad. He instantly becomes our 3rd best OF.

    Senzel
    Winker
    Payton
    Ervin
    Aquino/Martini
    Jankowski

  10. MK

    I don’t think if they pay the salary for the Reds it doesn’t count toward the luxury tax threshold. If they pay him for themselves they would probably need to pay a penalty which would cost the even more.

  11. Oldtimer

    Some Reds Rule 5 draft history (trivia) from the 1960s. Bill DeWitt used Rule 5 draft often.

    Reds had Jim Baumer (Opening Day starting 2B in 1961), P Moe Drabowsky (1962), P Al Worthington (1963 and 1964), P Don Nottebart (1966), and P Ted Abernathy (1967 and 1968) as Rule 5 draftees who made the Reds roster the season.

    Except for Baumer, the rest were experienced MLB P who had been sent down to minors. Abernathy, in particular, was an excellent reliever for the Reds (especially 1967).

    The Reds lost a player to Rule 5 draft in 1959 who became the Phillies to reliever in early 1960s (and a pretty good one). He later was one of the players the Reds got for Frank Robinson in 1965.

    • gregteb

      A rule 5 selection in 1961 who they carried till mid season, than had to give up for their penant winning season was Claude Osteen.

    • Oldtimer

      Osteen was not Rule 5 draft pick. He was signed by Reds out of Reading HS in 1957.

      He was trade to WAS Senators late in season for P Dave Sisler.

  12. Jim t

    Jack Baldschum was the relief pitcher. One of the worst trades in the history of the franchise. Milt Papas and Dick Simpson were the other players.

    • Oldtimer

      THE worst trade in Reds history and among the worst ever in MLB history.

  13. MK

    Thought they might pick up a catcher in the AAA phase. The minor Lrague catching corp has been thinned down with the release of Cassidy Browns and Juan Gaterol as well as the Free Agency of C: Nick Ciuffo, Pabel Manzanero , Chadwick Tromp & Stuart Turner.