Reds pitchers and catchers report today! Spring Training is upon us. The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, the grass on the diamond is green, and all of the players are in the best shape of their lives and have never felt better and are on schedule and...
All of these things are true in the Land of the Endless Strip Mall, at least.
Spring Training also means we get the first glance at the newest Reds. This year, we've got plenty of new 40 man roster additions to get an extended preview of. Guys like Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza, and Rookie Davis are on the 40 man roster, and while none of them are locks to make the Opening Day roster, it's clear that they're going to be in the organization and around the team for the foreseeable future.
The most interesting unfamiliar faces you'll be seeing wearing a red jersey in Goodyear, AZ are the non-roster invitees. These guys have the longest shot to stick in the organization, and further, an Adam Dunn Ohio River dinger shot in actually making the 25 man Opening Day roster.
But, occasionally, one of these guys will knock the cover off of the ball or slice just enough eyeballs to to make a big enough impression on the organization's brass to earn a spot in the dugout come April. Here we'll look at the full* list of Reds NRIs, and pick out a few that you might should keep your eye on.
*So this is a somewhat of a comprehensive list. It's compiled from a few different sources, but the Reds themselves have yet to officially release a list. So, this is fluid. If someone gets added of note that you need to read about, you can read about it a www.redreporter.com
There are plenty of players here that could crack the Reds this year who we've already spilled plenty of digital ink about. The prospects: Winker, Ervin, Blandino, Reed, and Travieso have all been written about and scouted ad nauseam. There are some familiar players here that have either already been in Cincinnati or in the organization: Adleman, Magill, Mattheus, Somsen, Weiss, and Wallach.
There are also players not listed here that are new and "have" 25 man roster spots from the Rule 5 draft, or else they get returned to their old teams. That's not the point of this exercise, and if they show themselves actually worthy of a seat on the bench at the beginning of April, you'll read about them in a Red Report.
The purpose, here, is to take a peek at some of the players that haven't gotten as much fanfare. The ones that could come out of nowhere and seize a spot at the end of the home dugout.
Dayan Diaz, RHP
Diaz is a 27 year old relief pitcher that's bounced around a bit and has never cracked MLB. Diaz was signed at 16 years old by the Houston Astros as an international free agent out of Columbia, by way of Venezuela. Apparently Diaz suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery right before he was supposed to come to the States, wiping out most of his 2009 and 2010 seasons. Even though he impressed by the time the Astros got to see him, the Astros couldn't wait around and he was granted free agency after the 2012 season.
The Red Sox signed Diaz in December of 2013 and debuted for Boston's A+ team in 2014 to the tune of 10.69 K/9 in 33.2 IP and a 1.34 ERA. His first 16 innings in AA didn't go as well, but he returned to that level in 2015 and improved to nearly 10 K/9 in 15 innings before getting the call to Pawtucket. He struggled in his first seven appearancesthere before righting the ship and dominating through June and July.
Diaz is little in stature (5'10", 190lbs), but is only 27 years old, can dial it up to the mid-90s, and was certainly once something worth taking a chance on. He's improved with experience at every stop, and with the Reds bullpen in flux, Dayan is certainly in play here.
AJ Morris, RHP
Morris was drafted by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB draft. He was sent to the Cubs along with other prospects as part of a Tom Gorzelanny trade, but he compiled no stats for 2011 because of what I'll assume was an arm injury, though I cannot find confirmation of that on the internet.
Morris was released by the Cubs in 2013 and picked up by the Pirates where he spent the majority of that year making batters look silly in Altoona, to the tune of a 1.98 ERA and a 1.119 WHIP in 14 games and nine starts. He got off to a hot start in his call up to Indianapolis but was placed on the DL with a forearm strain and struggled a bit when he came back, inflating his final 2014 numbers.
Morris was back for the Indians in 2015, this time used primarily in relief. He had a very solid year in that role (84.2 IP, 2.44 ERA, 1.157 WHIP). He doesn't have otherworldly strikeout rates, but he did raise his K/9 by a full point in 2015 with the move to the bullpen. I can't find particularly recent information, but from everything I've read, Morris's fastball benefits from a relief role, ticking up to a useful mid-90s mph, with movement and command being strong suits as well.
Despite the solid year, Morris couldn't crack Pittsburgh's already loaded bullpen and elected free agency. The Reds bullpen is far from solid, and it wouldn't be surprising to see any of these guys get a shot at long relief or more, should they prove themselves. Coming off a solid year AAA, Morris may have the inside track.
Brandon Allen, IF/LF
Allen is listed on Reds.com as an infielder, but he's played some left in his career, though he hasn't cracked the major leagues since 2012. Otherwise a first baseman, he's a long shot to crack the team on Opening Day (or, really anytime this season, fingers crossed), but he's also the only position player worth mentioning for this exercise, unless you really want to read Alex Blandino and Jesse Winker scouting reports again.
Allen is a 30 year old left handed batter (who just had a birthday last week), and while he's far removed from it, he used to be somewhat of a legit prospect. Drafted by the White Sox in the 5th round of the 2004 draft, and was considered by Baseball America to have the best raw power in the class.
He spent the first part of his career bashing and mashing in the minor leagues, where save for his first go around with Rookie league (and subsequently his first go around with A ball), Allen never had an OPS lower than .819 until 2009. In 2007, his 93 RBI set a record for the Kannapolis Intimidators and his 62 extra base hits ranked second in the South Atlantic League. In 2008, across A and AA, he led all White Sox prospects in extra-base hits (67), runs scored (87), while also ranking second in home runs and slugging percentage (.555) and fourth in RBI.
Pre-2009, he was ranked as BPro's #99 prospect and, prior to 2010, their #85 prospect. He was traded to the Diamondbacks in 2009 and made his major league debut. Unfortunately, over the subsequent four years, all of that talent, power, and minor league success failed to translate to the major leagues. He was eventually traded to Oakland and then released by several teams before finding himself in Japan at the end of 2012.
Most recently, Allen played all of 2015 in the Mets organization, putting up a 116 wRC+ and 16 home runs in the PCL. He's somewhat of a free swinger, striking out 35% of the time in MLB, and usually at 20% or above in the minors. Though, since 2013 that has ticked below 20%, so maybe an adjustment has been made.
It's unlikely that he gets much of a shot unless all of that pre-2009 mashing comes back in 2016, but I would imagine that he could be organizational fodder/emergency backup plan in case the unspeakable happens.
However, talent and potential are fickle beasts. It's obvious that Allen once had the tools to be something decent. Who knows, maybe they'll manifest themselves into something real now that he's a Red.
As a reminder, if you haven't already, go on over to our Community Team Preview sign up page and select from a few of the teams that have yet to be signed up for. It's fun, I promise.