A lefty-swinging catcher who popped 19 homers between AA-AAA last season, participated in the esteemed Arizona Fall League, and has a career minor league OPS of .849? Sounds pretty awesome to me!
Of course, that may not be what the Cincinnati Reds have in mind with their newest addition - that would be Blake Sabol, formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who was taken by the Reds 4th overall in this year’s Rule 5 Draft.
The #Reds have selected OF Blake Sabol from the Pirates in the MLB Rule 5 Draft.— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) December 7, 2022
Sabol, 24, slashed .284/.363/.497 with 19 homers and 75 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A last season. pic.twitter.com/15MwWnJe1i
You’ll see in that tweet from the Reds that they list Sabol as an outfielder, not as a catcher, despite the former 7th round pick out of the University of Southern California having spent more games behind the plate (167) than at any other position. Last season - which was his most extensive as a professional to date given the pandemic in 2020 - he played over half of his games at catcher, and given the dearth of options at the position for the Reds in their upper-minors, you might be inclined to wonder if he’ll get some time there, too.
The Reds recently signed Luke Maile to backup Tyler Stephenson, of course, but intimated at the time that they may still be willing to carry a third catcher, too. Given Sabol’s versatility, that’ll at least be something they can still consider.
That said, the team’s outfield situation is perhaps more dire than their catching situation. As things stand, Jake Fraley, Stuart Fairchild, and TJ Friedl sit atop the corner outfield hierarchy, and that’s not the kind of franchise-altering talent that would preclude Sabol from perhaps working his way into some serious playing time. Having hit a combined .284/.363/.497 between AA Altoona and AAA Indianapolis last season, he clearly has a bat that’s on the up and up, and the Reds might well be inclined to give him a chance to prove them wrong while he’s residing on their active roster.
That’s if he sticks on the roster, however - this is the Rule 5 Draft we’re talking about, meaning the Reds either have to keep him on their active roster all year or return him to the Pirates for a fee. For now, though, welcome Blake to the fold.
For more on Sabol, here’s a feature on him from FanGraphs put together just a few weeks ago.
UPDATE: He has been traded to the San Francisco Giants for cash, so nevermind.