5 prospects the Reds must protect from the Rule 5 Draft and 2 who should be left exposed

The Reds have a lot of talented prospects who'll need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason.

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Rece Hinds
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Rece Hinds / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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The list of young talent with tremendous upside within the Cincinnati Reds farm system is very long. And every year, teams must protect those top prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.

According to MLB.com, players signed at age 18 or younger need to be added to the 40-man roster within five seasons and players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons.

Last season, the Reds added obvious choices like Elly De La Cruz, Brandon Williamson, and Noelvi Marte, but also surprised some fans with the addition of Lyon Richardson. Which prospects might the Reds add to the 40-man roster this winter, and who should be left out in the cold?

The Reds must protect Vin Timpanelli from the Rule 5 Draft

So, this is a name that not many Reds fans have probably heard, but keep your eyes peeled this offseason. Vin Timpanelli is very highly thought of in the Cincinnati Reds farm system because he throws strikes.

Timpanelli has taken an interesting path to get to professional leagues. The right-hander was a former catcher who likely would have been drafted in 2020 had it not been reduced to just five rounds. But Timpanelli appeared as a pitcher in a men's summer league and was signed to a contract.

The 24-year-old is raw, and you can see that reflected with his five walks per nine innings pitched, but a 24.5-percent strikeout-rate is hard to ignore. Timpanelli made it all the way to Double-A this season, and could have a Ricky Karcher-esque rise onto the Reds roster.

Now, Reds fans know that Karcher didn't exactly stick on the 40-man roster, though he's still within the Cincinnati organization. The Reds should protect Vin Timpanelli to ensure that raw talents remain within the organization.

The Reds must protect Jacob Hurtibise from the Rule 5 Draft

This is a player who's been gaining some recognition in recent weeks, due mainly to his assault on Triple-A pitching since his promotion. Jacob Hurtibise will reming a lot of Reds fans of TJ Friedl; a speedy outfield who hits for contact.

Hurtibise, just like Friedl, went undrafted. Hurtibise is a graduate of West Point and is on the cusp of making it to the major leagues. One of Hurtibise's greatest attributes is his ability to get on base. In 36 games at Triple-A Louisville, the outfielder drew 29 walks to 14 strikeouts.

Hurtibise is off to the Arizona Fall League this offseason, where the Cincinnati Reds hope the 25-year-old will continue to develop. Hurtibise even began hitting for power this season, posting a .482 slugging percentage while splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A.

Not only will Jacob Hurtibise be added to the Reds 40-man roster this offseason, he may very well find a spot on Cincinanti's Opening Day roster. The one drawback is the fact that Hurtibise, just like Friedl, Jake Fraley, and Will Benson, is a left-handed hitter. But that won't stop the Reds from protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.

The Reds must protect Rece Hinds from the Rule 5 Draft

Rece Hinds had, perhaps, his best season as a professional baseball player in 2023. The former second-round pick had struggled for years to cut down on the strikeouts.

While that number was still high this season, those swing and misses didn't prevent Hinds from making an impact with an .866 OPS and a wRC+ of 121 according to FanGraphs. Hinds also recorded 23 home runs and 98 RBI.

This was a make-it or break-it year for Rece Hinds. The 22-year-old has faced a ton of adversity in his young career, including a variety of injuries over the years. Hinds also made the switch from third base to the outfield during the 2022.

The transition hasn't been seamless, but there aren't major concerns about Hinds' ability to stick on the outfield grass over the long haul. With so many young infielders in the Reds farm system, moving Hinds off third base was a necessity.

If Hinds can develop into the player that Cincinnati hopes he can be, they may have a power-bat just waiting to break onto the scene. However, there's a lot of swing and miss in his game. The Cincinnati Reds have no choice but to protect Hinds from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason.

The Reds must protect Christian Roa from the Rule 5 Draft

Christian Roa, like Rece Hinds, is another former second-round pick who the Cincinnati Reds must protect from the Rule 5 Draft. Roa, taken with 48th overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, has been a steady, reliable arm since joining the Reds organization.

Roa doesn't necessarily fit the prototypical mold of what Reds fans have seen in recent years from their starting pitching prospects. Roa is more of complete pitcher, with a four-pitch mix. However, rather than doing one thing great, Roa does a lot of things well.

Fans aren't going to confuse Christian Roa for Hunter Greene or Connor Phillips; he doesn't have that type of velocity on his four seam fastball. Roa is more in the mold of Andrew Abbott; a polished pitcher who's going to rely on location and mixing his pitches.

Roa made it all the way to Triple-A this past season, and would definitely benefit from a full season at that level of competition. With so much young pitching depth in the Cincinnati farm system, the organization should be able to afford him that.

Roa's 5.16 ERA in 25 starts this season aren't going to impress the Reds fanbase, but the right-hander posted 170 punch outs in just over 120 innings. Roa might be able to snag a couple of spot starts in 2024 for the Reds, or at the very least, could add depth to their minor league rotation.

The Reds must protect Jose Acuña from the Rule 5 Draft

Jose Acuña is easily the most controversial name on this list. The other four are virtual locks to be added to the 40-man roster later this offseason, but Acuña is in a bit of a different category.

Acuña, as Reds fans might remember, was part of the trade last summer that sent Tyler Naquin to the New York Mets. In return, the Reds received Acuña and highly-rated outfield prospect Hector Rodriguez.

Acuña is just 20 years old and spent all season at High-A Dayton. It's rare when clubs feel the need to protect such a player because any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the selecting team's active roster throughout the season, or be offered back to his original ball club.

But Acuña is very projectable, and you'd hate to lose out on his potential in the event that some team looking to secure a diamond in the rough would take a flier on the right-handed pitching prospect. Acuña was 7-3 last season with a 3.93 ERA.

It's not a slam dunk that the Cincinnati Reds add Jose Acuña to the 40-man roster this offseason, but it's a move that could pay off big time for the club down the road. As was the case with Lyon Richardson in 2022, the Reds should make sure to keep Acuña within the organization.

The Reds should not protect Tyler Callihan from the Rule 5 Draft

Tyler Callihan was in the same draft class as Rece Hinds. Selected one round later, Callihan has not had near the same level of success that Hinds has discovered. One of the biggest reasons for Callihan's shortcomings has been an inability to stay on the field.

Injuries have crippled Callihan's career thus far, with the most severe being an elbow injury that required Tommy Johm surgery. While much more common for pitchers, position players who suffer a UCL injury will undergo the procedure as well.

Callihan was finally heathy in 2023, and showed what he can do with a full season under his belt. After a mediocre performance at High-A Dayton, Callihan received a promotion to Double-A Chattnaooga and performed much better.

Callihan hit just .236/.312/.373 at High-A, but turned it up after stepping up in competition. In 22 games with the Chattanooga Lookouts, Callihan posted a slash line of .310/.396/.460 with 10 doubles in just 22 games.

There's a lot to like about Tyler Callihan, but having just played a handful of games at Double-A, it's difficult to see a team selecting the 23-year-old in the Rule 5 Draft. Callihan is also locked into one position. While he can play third base, his arm fits much better at the keystone.

The Reds should not protect Yerlin Confidan from the Rule 5 Draft

Yerlin Confidan has tremendous upside. But there's absolutely no reason for the Cincinnati Reds to protect the hard-hitting prospect from the Rule 5 Draft. While Confidan is eligible, he's got at least two more years of seasoning in the minor leagues before he'll even be close to stepping onto a major league diamond.

In 2021, Confidan hit 11 home runs in the Arizona Complex League and was one of the hottest young players in the Reds farm system. But an injury in 2022 slowed the young outfielder and he's struggled in 2023 as well.

The results speak for themselves. Confidan hit just .197/.273/.339 at Low-A Daytona in 2023. His power was virtually nonexistent with only three homers in 73 games with the Tortugas.

At just 20 years old, it's very difficult to see another club taking the risk of selecting Confidan in the Rule 5 Draft. Again, if a team makes that commitment to taking a player in the Rule 5 Draft, he must remain on the active roster all season long. You'd have to squint pretty hard to see a team take on that type of risk.

The Cincinnati Reds may still have something in Yerlin Confidan. In fact, there are many within thw organization that think he's got the potential to follow in the footsteps of Elly De La Cruz. The raw talent is there, but pitch recognition and reps will be crucial for his development in the years to come.