Cincinnati Reds: Rule 5 Draft selection Mark Payton may stay on the roster

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 13: Outfielder Mark Payton #4 of the United States hits a solo home run in the bottom of 8th inning during the WBSC Premier 12 Super Round game between USA and Australia at the Tokyo Dome on November 13, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 13: Outfielder Mark Payton #4 of the United States hits a solo home run in the bottom of 8th inning during the WBSC Premier 12 Super Round game between USA and Australia at the Tokyo Dome on November 13, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Reds selected outfielder Mark Payton in the Rule 5 Draft this past week. Formerly of the Oakland A’s organization, will Payton stick on the 2020 roster?

The Rule 5 Draft is always a gamble. Last year, the Cincinnati Reds selected Connor Joe, an infielder who failed to make the 25-man roster. This year, the Reds selected outfielder Mark Payton from the Oakland Athletics organization. Payton will have to fend off several other players in order to make the 2020 Opening Day roster.

The Rule 5 Draft offers teams the opportunity to select a player from an opposing team, provided certain criteria are met. Typically, the player has several years of experience in the minor leagues, but has yet to realize his potential enough to breakthrough at the major league level. Essentially, any player not on the 40-man roster, who has four-to-five years of experience is eligible.

This year, we saw the Cincinnati Reds “protect” four players (Tejay Antone, Tony Santillan, Tyler Stephenson, and Ryan Hendrix) by placing them on the 40-man roster. Payton was left off the A’s 40-man roster, and plucked by the Reds in the first-round of the Rule 5 Draft.

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Once selected, a player is automatically assigned to a team’s 40-man roster, and in order to stick with the Reds, Payton must remain on the 25, soon-to-be 26-man roster. If Payton fails to make the cut, he’ll be offered back to the A’s who can decline such a move, making him eligible for waivers.

So, who is Mark Payton? The 28-year-old Payton was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. Payton climbed the ranks of the Yankees organization, all the way up to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre in 2016. The left-handed hitting Payton is relatively small for an outfielder, standing only 5’8″ and weighing 190-pounds.

After spending the majority of his minor league career with the Yankees organization, Payton spent last season with Triple-A Las Vegas, an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. After putting up average numbers earlier in his career, Payton slashed .334/.400/.653 with 30 homers and 97 RBIs last season.

Those kind of numbers are really good, but don’t be fooled. Fans know of the increased number of home runs we saw in 2019. An increase in power was seen throughout major league and minor league baseball. Not to mention that the Pacific Coast League (PCL) is a hitter-friendly league. Those two things combined could give some insight as to Payton increased power numbers.

Still, the numbers he put up are impressive. If that type of production translates to Goodyear, Payton has a real chance to stick on the 26-man roster next season. The additional position made this year’s Rule 5 Draft rather intriguing, as players who’d likely not make an Opening Day roster in 2019 may have a more legitimate shot in 2020.

Payton will definitely have competition, and a lot depends on what else the Reds do during the offseason. Barring a trade, it’s safe to assume that Phillip Ervin, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, and Aristides Aquino are all part of the Cincinnati outfield next season. Throw in a potential free agent signing like Marcell Ozuna or Nicholas Castellanos, and the outfield could get crowded very quickly.

The Reds also have outfielders Josh VanMeter, Jose Siri, Travis Jankowski, Nick Martini, and Scott Schebler on the 40-man roster. The competition will be stiff, but Mark Payton has a few things in his favor. The former Texas Longhorn is a lefty and can play all three outfield spots. In this day of matchups and position versatility, having a player like Payton on the roster could greatly benefit the Reds.

The offseason is still in the early stages – don’t forget it was nearly Christmas before the Reds pulled off their blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last winter – but the competition in the Cincinnati outfield already looks to be very entertaining. Another addition will only add to the intrigue.

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Mark Payton is a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, but the statistics he put up in the minor leagues last season cannot be ignored. If he’s able to duplicate those numbers when spring training gets underway, Payton’s chances of sticking on the 26-man roster are very good.