The Reds added right-handed pitchers Vladimir Gutierrez, Riley O’Brien, and Jared Solomon to the 40-man roster to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. The team also acquired two right-handed pitchers from the Astros in Brandon Bailey (for cash) and Fredy Medina (to complete the Brooks Raley trade).
Gutierrez was signed by the Reds to a $4.75 million deal in August 2016. He was considered a top-30 international prospect coming out of Cuba that year, but inconsistency has kept him from reaching his high expectations. Once the Reds’ No. 7 prospect (MLB Pipeline), Gutierrez has fallen all the way down to No. 17 following a nightmarish 2019 season in Triple-A Louisville (6.04 ERA, 5.61 xFIP) and an 80-game PED suspension in 2020. Now 25 years old, Gutierrez will still have 20 games left to serve on his suspension in 2021.
Why, then, did the Reds add him to the 40-man roster? Because 1.) they invested a lot in him, and 2.) he still has a whole lot of potential. With solid control (career 6.6% walk rate), Gutierrez has a fastball that can reach 97 mph to go with a plus changeup and slider. Per FanGraphs, Gutierrez’s fastball has sinking action that doesn’t play well at the top of the strike zone and has played a large role in his home run issues in his last two seasons (44 HR in 284 IP). The Reds will likely want to work with him on optimizing the way he uses his fastball.
O’Brien was acquired by the Reds in August in the trade that sent Cody Reed to the Rays. He’ll be 26 at the start of spring training. Cincinnati’s new No. 16 prospect spent the last month of the 2020 season at Prasco Park. O’Brien also saw action in the Instructional League during the fall. Read more about O’Brien in our breakdown that followed the trade in August.
Solomon was an 11th-round draft pick by the Reds in the 2017 draft. Although he’s yet to throw above High-A, the Reds weren’t willing to take the chance on losing him. He’s been a starter to this point in his career, posting a 3.82 ERA, 22.0% strikeout rate, and 10.8% walk rate in 226 innings. Solomon also threw in the Instructional League, where he dialed his fastball up to 98 mph. The heater is Solomon’s bread and butter, as it sits in the mid-90s and has high spin. The 23-year-old also throws an above-average slider and average changeup. Most scouting reports (MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, Reds Minor Leagues) expect Solomon to eventually transition to a relief role, where his fastball-slider combo would really play up.
Bailey is the only new addition with big-league experience. The 26-year-old made his debut in 2020 with Houston, earning a spot on the team thanks to the expanded rosters. He saw action in five games — all in relief — allowing two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out four. Bailey was a sixth-round pick by the Athletics in 2016 and was traded to the Astros in 2017 for center-fielder Ramon Laureano. Bailey was selected by the Orioles in the 2019 Rule 5 draft but was eventually returned to the Astros. Houston used Bailey in both starting and relief roles, although he saw more action as a starter. The right-hander has put up big strikeout numbers in his minor-league career (28.4%), helping him put up a 3.07 ERA.
Long term, Bailey projects as a reliever. He’s yet another pitcher with a high-spin fastball who thrives when throwing it up in the zone — no big surprise coming from the Astros organization (and likely a large reason the Reds targeted him). The curveball and changeup are Bailey’s premier secondary pitches, and he also mixes in a slider/cutter.
Medina is a 23-year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic who has yet to pitch above Rookie level and has only 74 professional innings under his belt. Although he has a 3.74 ERA and 26.5% strikeout rate, he’s walked an alarming number of batters (15.4% walk rate). He’s a long shot to ever have an impact in the majors.