The final real action of MLB’s annual Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, where each MLB squad with an open roster spot gets a chance to select a fringey, non-roster player from other franchises in a sort of back-handed, semi-complimentary way. Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the selecting team’s active roster for the duration of the next season, with the team that lost the player having the rights to take them back in the event they’re removed from the selecting team’s roster beforehand. You likely remember Stuart Turner as the most recent example of this with the Cincinnati Reds, for instance.
On Thursday, the Reds selcted IF/OF Connor Joe from the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, adding a versatile former 1st round draft pick in an intriguing move, as Baseball America’s JJ Cooper detailed.
6. Reds. Connor Joe, C, from Dodgers. Conversion guy who has played a variety of positions. Didn't list a position but he has tried C lately.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 13, 2018
Joe, 26, was a 1st round pick (39th overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 MLB Draft out of the University of San Diego, and was eventually traded to the Atlanta Braves in a deal that sent Sean Rodriguez back to the Pirates. Later, he was flipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for international bonus pool space. While he has seen the most of his defensive reps at 1B and 3B, he has also played in both corner outfield spots. As SBNation’s Eric Stephen noted earlier, Joe was announced as a catcher despite having never once played there as a professional, in part because he’s been getting reps there of late. He has, however, caught previously in Cape Cod League play.
While his defensive positioning is still a bit in question, what isn’t is his offense, which features a solid ability to take a walk and a relatively low strikeout rate. And after hitting just 13 total dingers across his first three professional seasons (in over 1100 PA), his power stroke showed up in 2018 between AA-AAA, as he clubbed 17 homers in 436 PA as part of an impressive overall .299/.408/.527 effort - and while yes, some of that was in the high-octane Pacific Coast League, the .979 OPS and 11 dingers he posted with AA Tulsa was actually more potent than the .879 OPS and 6 dingers he hit while in the PCL with AAA Oklahoma City.
In many ways, that profiles as something of a combination of a pair of bench-bats used by the Reds in 2018 - the power and positioning of Brandon Dixon combined with the strike zone prowess of Alex Blandino. Considering Dixon’s gone to Detroit on a waiver claim, Blandino is still recovering from a torn ACL, and Dilson Herrera landed back with the New York Mets on a minor league deal, Joe and his right-handed bat might well have a pretty clear path to a bench/utility role with the Reds after all.
In the minor league portion of the draft, the Reds did not make a selection - but they did lose hard-throwing RHP Taylor Grover to the Baltimore Orioles, as MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported.
The Orioles take RHP Taylor Grover from the Reds in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft.— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) December 13, 2018
Grover spent the 2018 season in indy ball, but has a 100 mph heater that has garnered much attention of late. He had previously been signed by the Reds earlier this offseason, but had not made the 40-man roster so as to be protected from selection in this Rule 5 Draft.