The Reds selected Mark Payton in the Rule 5 draft this morning. He’s a 28-year-old left-handed outfielder who demonstrated massive power last season at AAA. Payton isn’t listed as one of the A’s top-30 prospects by MLB.
For a refresher on what it means to select a player in the major league part of the Rule 5 draft, here’s the explanation from MiLB.com:
A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft pays $50,000 to the team from which he was selected. The receiving team must then keep the player on the Major League 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season, and the selected player must remain active (not on the disabled list) for a minimum of 90 days. If the player does not remain on the Major League roster, he is offered back to the team he was selected from for $25,000. If his original team declines, the receiving team may waive the player.
Once a player is selected, he is automatically assigned to his new organization’s 40-man roster.
So for Payton to stick in the Reds organization, he’ll have to remain on the major league roster all year. MLB expanded those rosters to 26 players this season. In 2017, the Reds selected catcher Stuart Turner in the Rule 5 draft and kept him on their roster all season.
Here’s the basic scoop on Payton:
Payton was selected in the 7th round of the 2014 draft by the New York Yankees out of the University of Texas. One interesting nugget from Payton’s college bio: At Texas, he reached base safely in 101 consecutive games, the longest such streak in Big 12 history.
Payton, 5’8″, 190 lbs., worked his way through the Yankees’ system, spending most of 2017 and all of 2018 at the AAA level in the International League where the Louisville Bats play. In Dec. 2018, the Oakland A’s selected Payton in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft and assigned him to their AAA team in Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League. These are his core numbers from the past three seasons in AAA:
Power The most interesting data here is the jump in power from Payton’s time in the Yankee system to last year. Payton’s home runs increased from 12 to 30 and his isolated power (ISO = SLG-AVG) jumped from .139 to .319. That’s quite a leap from one year to the next, especially for ages 26 and 27.
A couple explanations that don’t involve Payton making a breakthrough are (1) MLB had AAA start to use the MLB baseball last year, the MLB ball is considered more lively; (2) the Pacific Coast League is known for being a hitters league. When you combine those factors, Payton’s 2019 season is a little less eye-opening. 43 qualified hitters in the Pacific Coast League slugged better than .500, 15 slugged better than .600. 13 players in the PCL hit more than 30 home runs.
On the other hand, even accounting for the hitter’s league (PCL) with the new ball, Payton did have the league’s second-highest OPS. He went from being league average in power — the International League, where Payton played in 2018 had an ISO of .137 and Payton was right around that at .142 — to well above average. The average ISO for the 2019 PCL was .200 and Payton’s ISO was .319. That’s noteworthy.
Walks Payton can take a walk. His walk-rate (BB%) throughout his time in the minors was more than 10%. The PCL league average in 2019 was 9.7%.
Strikeouts Payton doesn’t strikeout much. His rate of 17% was well below league average, which was 22%.
Payton hits most of his home runs to right field, but did demonstrate power to all fields. The A’s assistant farm director, Ed Sprague (not the same Ed Sprague that played on the Big Red Machine), said this about Payton’s emergence: “Here was this little guy who was going to be a fourth outfielder in Vegas, and he goes out and hits 30 homers. Another guy who uses all parts of the ballpark, so he’s a very tough out.”
Here’s Payton’s 2019 Spray Chart from Baseball Savant:
The Reds are hoping that Payton’s power is real and spectacular enough to make the club as a LH bench bat and back-up OF. His approach (strikeouts and walks) gives a bit more hope it’ll survive the promotion. They’ll try to figure out of that’s the case during spring training. But it’s not even a guarantee Payton will make it to spring training with the Reds. That depends on whether the Reds can keep him on the 40-man roster as they make more offseason moves. If Payton doesn’t work out, it only costs the Reds $25,000.
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