Out in Left Field

Before we dig into the continuing of the Reds positions, I want to take this opportunity to welcome a new writer here to Blog Red Machine. Alex Apple will be joining us here as a contributing writer. For his his first primary assignment, Alex will be grading the starters and relievers for 2010. Welcome, Alex!

On with the grades for your 2010 Cincinnati Reds.

We’ll start with the outfield and evaluate how the left fielders performed in 2010. The bulk of the job was carried out by Jonny Gomes with a bit of aid from Laynce Nix. But there will be questions about 2011 regarding this position. Some have already been raised. I’ll address those at the end.

Cincinnati Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes celebrates after defeating the Houston Astros in their MLB National League baseball game in Cincinnati, Ohio September 28, 2010. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Gomes celebrated with Reds fans after winning NL Central. Image: Yardbarker

Thing is, Gomes wasn’t a Red until February 22, 2010. Other teams had a shot at signing him, but no one bit. Up until the Gomes signing, left field was a question. Even though Gomes proved he could produce runs, some may still fell the position is a question mark for 2011

Gomes does possess some pop as evident by his 18 homers last season. He also provides that “rah-rah” and “play the game at 110%” attitude that is seems like every team needs…or has. He’s not gifted in the defense department. Despite that perceived deficiency, you know exactly what you are getting with the mohawked one. Full-out effort and a non-stop motor. And some Reds fans tend to forget that for a period of time (mid-May to mid-June), Gomes’ bat carried the club. And he also emerged as one of the team’s emotional leaders.

No question that Gomes comes with a bat in hand. And it’s a clutch bat. When Gomes was at the plate with with two outs and runners in scoring position, his line is .333/.457/.561 with 30 RBI in 66 AB. It was during that same situation that Gomes exhibited his best plate discipline. He had a SO/BB ration of almost 1.00 (13 SO/12 BB).

The defense has been the stigma that Gomes can’t shake. His arm isn’t a weak one. It’s not accurate. The penchant for missing a cutoff man is always a possibility. The glove isn’t too bad either, but even with his all out hustle on every play, his range is a bit limited. In 2008, Gomes only committted one error. That increased to four last season. He did mange to have one more assist (5 in 2009 and 6 in 2010). But we all know teams will be more than willing to test his lack of defensive prowess whenever the opportunity arises.

Laynce Nix also played a decent amount in left (38 games). While Nix didn’t bring the power numbers from 2009 to 2010, he did greatly increase his batting average (.291) and on-base percentage (.350). Both were career highs as well as his OPS (.805). Nix isn’t bad in the field wither. He didn’t commit an error in 2010 and added two assists. Possessing that lefty bat also enabled Reds skipper Dusty Baker to employ a platoon situation at times when Gomes was struggling.

Now, 2011. Mark Sheldon of Mark My Word on MLBlogs is reporting that Cincy will increase its playroll a bit for next year. But he adds:

“Offensively, we might like a true leadoff hitter or another run producer,” general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We will try to refine what we have.”

If the Reds do add a leadoff hitter, it would probably be either a shortstop or left fielder — the only positions that can be considered somewhat in flux for the time being.

Does that mean Gomes’ days as a Red are numbered? Not really. The Reds can keep him for $1.75 million. A far cry from what the most desired left fielder in Carl Crawford will get. It’s estimated that Crawford could command as much as $100 million. That’s way too rich for Jocketty and the Reds ownership. Other options exist and even a trade could bring someone in.

As you usually hear in this sort of case…stay tuned.

Overall Grade: B

Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds Jonny Gomes Laynce Nix

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