Big Finish Gets Mark Payton Noticed
When the Reds selected 28-year-old Mark Payton in the Rule 5 draft in December, the outfielder was coming off of a breakout season at Triple-A Las Vegas in the Athletics' organization.
The Reds were signaling to the lefthanded-hitting outfielder that he was going to be given a chance to earn a big league role if he performs this spring.
Payton earned that chance with a monster season in which he hit .334/.400/.653 with 30 home runs in 118 games. While offensive production spiked all across Triple-A with the adoption of the major league ball, Payton more than kept pace by ranking second in the Pacific Coast League with a 1.050 OPS.
"Payton is a guy who has enough speed to play center field and you can put him different places," vice president and general manager Nick Krall said. "What we were most impressed with was the quality of his at-bats, especially against righthanded pitching.
"Last year he did a great job of taking at-bats and coming into his power with some differences in his approach to get to the ball, and we felt he was a good fit to come in and compete at least for a bench spot."
The 5-foot-8 Payton's production spiked in the second half, when he hit .361 with 20 of his 30 homers, as he grew comfortable with a shorter swing. He was the Yankees' seventh-round pick in 2014 out of Texas. New York lost him to Oakland in the 2018 minor league Rule 5 draft.
Payton faces plenty of competition for a big league bench spot in Cincinnati. Outfielders Aristides Aquino, Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker all return. On top of that trio, the Reds signed free agent Nick Castellanos and Japanese veteran Shogo Akiyama.
A trio of out-of-options outfielders—Phillip Ervin, Scott Schebler and Travis Jankowski—will also be in camp.
Even with rosters expanding to 26 players this season, Payton will have to hit his way onto the Reds' roster.