The biggest change made by the Reds in the off-season concerned the outfield. Center-field to be more specific. Drew Stubbs, who is destined to become MLB career strikeout king if he doesn’t make some adjustments, was shipped north to Cleveland for right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo. Others were involved in the three-team deal but they were the headliners.
So much hope had been held for Stubbs that it was sad to see him go. After all, he was the Reds 1st round pick (eighth overall) in the 2006 amateur draft. He had speed to burn, was a gazelle in the middle of the outfield, had a cannon for a right arm and could hit the ball out of the park. Those darn strikeouts!
Before I digress let us move on to the current outfielders. The Reds present a rarity in baseball. It is not often that you will find the entire starting outfield being southpaws. I didn’t take the time to research it, but I have watched mucho baseball in my time and believe me when I say it is rare.
LF – Ryan Ludwick
Ludwick, 34, is the elder statesman of the outfield corps. In fact, other than Bronson Arroyo, he is the oldest player on the Cincinnati roster. He is entering his 11th season in MLB with his sixth team. Previously, he has done time with St. Louis, Cleveland, Texas, San Diego, Pittsburgh and last year here with the Good Guys.
He had his career season in 2008 with the Cardinals when he produced a line of .299/.375/.591 and an OPS+ of 151. He also hit 37 HR, had 113 RBI and scored 104 times. His WAR that campaign was a hefty 5.3, essentially half of his career total.
That year Ludwick made his only All-Star appearance and he garnered a Silver Slugger Award as well.
He is not known to be an excellent defensive player, in fact in only five of his 10 seasons has he been on the plus side of dWAR (defensive Wins Above Replacement). He is more than adequate, yet if defense was the only thing looked at, he would be watching Chris Heisey from the dugout.
In his only year in a Reds’ uniform, Ludwick represented himself very well. He batted .275 with 26 HR and 80 RBI in 125 games. His OPS+ was 28 points above average at 128.
He has struggled this spring only hitting .178 with a mere 2 RBI. In the two previous springs his numbers mirrored each other. 2 HR and a .283 average.
He will be counted on heavily to replicate what he did in 2012. He is scheduled to bat cleanup and will be a LOOGY-stopper between Joey Votto and Bruce.
CF- Shin-Sin Choo
Choo, 30 has been a thorn in the Reds’ side. In 24 games Choo has fashioned a .351/.426/.713 line while hitting 7 HR and driving in 16. The lion’s share of that damage was done to Arroyo who welcomed him with open arms.
Choo is slotted to bat first and play center-field although he is very inexperienced there. He has played right-field for 583 of his 699 career games. Although he is not considered a very good outfielder, the South Korean will probably do an adequate job. In his career he has given up 2.3 wins (dWAR) in eight campaigns. He doesn’t have nearly the ground to patrol at Great American Ball Park that he will have in games in San Diego.
As an offensive player he should be a rally starter. He has a career OBP of .381 and can swipe 15 to 20 bases. He has a career average of .307 as a leadoff batter, which is something the Reds have not had in quite some time. He hits with power and has averaged nearly 20 HR per year based on 162 games. He has yet to be named to an All-Star team, and the only honor placed on him is a 14th place finish in MVP voting in 2010.
RF- Jay Bruce
Bruce has established himself as one of the premier power hitters in the National League. He was the Reds 1st round pick (12th overall) in the 2005 draft and was a 21-year old rookie in 2008. He has steadily and consistently improved his power numbers each year. From 21 HR and 52 RBI to 34 HR and 99 RBI.
He has been on the All-Star squad the past two seasons and he was 10th in MVP voting in the National League in 2012. He also put a Silver Slugger Award on his mantel.
Many thought he should have won a Gold Glove Award last season, but he came up short in the voting. He has an explosive arm and has earned the respect of base runners league wide.
When Bruce broke into the big league he was moved from his minor league position of center-field to the corner in favor of Ken Griffey, Jr. Some, me included have thought that the Reds would be better served moving Bruce back to the middle and leaving Choo in the corner. That makes sense, yes?
The biggest knocks against Bruce are his propensity for striking out and the longevity of his batting slumps. When he is good, there are few better. When he is not good, he may as well close his eyes, swing and hope for a better day. If he could shorten up his slumps he could really put up some wicked numbers.
Entering his sixth season in MLB he is still a crowd favorite.
Offensively, that is a pretty impressive outfield. In fact, I will be disappointed if the three of them combined do not hit 85-90 HR. Defensively, well, Stubbs will be missed. Choo will be adequate and even better than that as he gets acclimated.
These three will be backed up by three year man Chris Heisey who can play all three outfield positions very well. It looks as though he may be getting his power back in spring training. He waned terribly in 2013 in homers after belting 18 in just 279 AB in 2011.
Xavier Paul, a four year veteran will be used mostly in a pinch-hit role or to give one of the corner starters a night off. In 86 AB in 2012 Paul produced a line of .314/.379/.465.