June 1, 2010; St. Louis, MO. USA; Cincinnati Reds left fielder Chris Heisey (28) dives for a ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals pinch hitter Ryan Ludwick (not pictured) in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. Cincinnati defeated St. Louis 9-8. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Sunday Morning Confession

I decided to arise early this bright Sunday morning and bare my soul before leaving for church.  I need to reveal my heartfelt opinion.  I am over Chris Heisey.

He has never been one of my favorites on the Cincinnati Reds, but I wanted him to succeed.  The success of any player on the Reds roster makes the Reds a better team.  My confession is I no longer can find a place on my roster for him.  It just isn’t there.  Consider the arguments against this roster move:

  1. Chris Heisey should replace Drew Stubbs.  Absurd.  Stubbs struck out too many times in 2011 it is true, but he has approached this offseason with an uncharacteristic drive to fulfill his promise.  He is expending the effort to be a better, more disciplined hitter.  By improving his OBP, he will in turn steal more bases and this will improve his runs scored tally.  Another number worth noting is that in 2010 and 2011 Stubbs struck out around 33% of the time both in spring ball and during the regular season.  This spring he has struck out 5 times in 19 at bats.  Not a lot to go on, but he just looks more comfortable at the plate.  Defensively he is unassailable.
  2. The Reds signed Ryan Ludwick to a contract and it is to start or sub in left field and offer power to the lineup.  Common wisdom this spring holds that Heisey will split time with Ludwick; I am not certain Ryan will be an upgrade, and if his spring average of .190 is a precursor to his year, he may not even be adequate, but he is still playing better than Heisey.  Doesn’t take much.
  3. The Reds need outfield depth so Heisey is a must even if Ludwick is the starter.  My answer to this is simple.  Who would I rather see play in left field Heisey, Donald Lutz, Todd Frazier or Denis Phipps?  How sad it is that among these four players/prospects Heisey finishes last in my mind.  Dead last.
    • Could Lutz make a 4 level jump in the Reds organization?  Maybe not, but he is wowing crowds in Arizona.
    • Can Frazier continue playing at the level he has this spring?  Not sure and can’t wait to find out!  Plus Todd gives infield options as well.
    • Can Phipps deliver?  His spring numbers are good and it may be the time to give Denis a serious look.
    • Heisey has earned his chance.  This one probably offends me the most.  Earned his chance?  Really?  Every player on every team earned their chance.  Not just in the majors but throughout each MLB organization.  Mistakes on rosters are made by the management, but the expectation was the players in question were ranked objectively and used so the team could win.  When a team loses, the organization makes personnel decisions intended to be both fiscally responsible and improve the opportunity for victory.

To my mind, Chris Heisey may no longer fit that bill.  With Heisey, it is less about upsides or downsides, you know what you will get.  That is comforting, but I want the opportunity for greatness that his competitors present.  Chris has finished both seasons of his career with a .254 batting average.  Not horrific but not worth getting excited about.  Could he be better than the aforementioned choices?  Maybe.  Does he have an upside?  Only in his power numbers.

Chris hit 18 home runs in 2011, a very respectable number given he had just 279 at bats.  But he struck out 27.9% of the time.  If given the same number of at bats that Drew Stubbs had he would have struck out 172 times but he could have homered 35 times.  I like when the Reds hit home runs but you can’t live and die by them.  The Big Red Machine was far more focused on doubles, and scoring runs than homers; doubles create serious momentum.

So with my confession complete, I can now go visit God’s house this morning with a clear conscience.  Ludwick would be my left fielder opening day with Frazier and Phipps in the wings.  I would send Heisey to AAA.  Last but not least, I would promote the promising Donald Lutz to AA with high hopes for his future.  If this experiment did not work I would hope Heisey would develop a fire in his belly and be ready to return with guns blazing.

Disagree with me?  Let me know (politely please?) in the comments and follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz.  I would welcome differing points of view!

Tags: Chris Heisey Cincinnati Reds Denis Phipps Donald Lutz Ryan Ludwick Spring Training 2012 Todd Frazier

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