The Cincinnati Reds added three pitchers to the 40-man roster on Thursday in an effort to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5.
Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano, and Stephen Johnson were all added to keep other teams from plundering them when the Rule 5 draft occurs on Dec. 10 after the Winter Meetings that will take place in Nashville starting on Dec. 6. A Rule 5 draft picked is one that has been in the organization for at least four years, but that number goes to five if the player was signed before the age of 19. The biggest name from last year’s draft was Delino DeShields Jr., who is the son of the current Louisville Bats manager. Deshields was claimed by the Rangers from the Astros organization and played in 121 games while finishing seventh in the AL Roookie of the year vote. Other noteable Rule 5 draft picks include Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, and Shane Victorino.
It was all but guaranteed that Stephenson was not going to be a part of this year’s draft as he is ranked the second overall prospect in the organization behind outfielder Jesse Winker. The former first round pick made his way from Double-A Pensacola to Triple-A Louisville over the course of the season. His numbers weren’t overwhelming as he posted an 8-11 record with a 3.83 ERA, but if he gets some legitimate time during spring training, he could get a shot a cracking the rotation in 2016.
Romano is currently ranked 17th in the Reds pipeline. He turned in decent numbers while pitching at Dayton going 6-5 with a 3.46 ERA in 18 starts, but struggled mightily once he made the transition to Double-A where he went 0-4 with a 10.96 ERA. He was acquired in the same draft as Stephenson in 2011, albeit 22 rounds later.
Johnson took a different route to find himself on the Reds 40-man. He started the year in the Giants organization going 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 44 relief appearances for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. He was there a majority of the season until an August trade sent Marlon Byrd to the Bay Area and Johnson to Double-A Pensacola. He made six relief appearances for the Blue Wahoos and did not surrender a run in those 8.2 innings of work.
One player that could get added is Aristides Aquino, who is currently number 15 on the Reds prospects list, but is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Perhaps the Reds are banking on the fact that he struggled in Dayton, hitting just .234 with five homers in 61 games.
The Reds have until the end of Friday to add up to three more players to fill out the 40-man roster.