Mar 10, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick (48) on deck prior to his at bat in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Reds Outfield Projections for 2014


Yesterday we looked at the Cincinnati Reds starting infielders and how they projected, and on Monday we took a look at the starting pitchers. Today we move to the starting outfielders were the Reds seem to be set heading into the season with Ryan Ludwick, Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce playing left, center and right field.

That outfield is quite a bit different than the one that spent most of 2013 together as Shin-Soo Choo left via free agency and a collection of players spent time in left field as Ludwick was injured for the better part of the season. Jay Bruce was able to hold down right field for the entire season. How do the starting outfielders project from an offensive standpoint for the 2014 season?

To answer that question we can head over to Fangraphs.com to get a look at the various projection systems and what they have to say about each player. To get a general answer rather than rely on just one system, I went ahead and grouped together the ZiPS, Fans, Steamer and Oliver projections to come up with one overall projection for each of the projected starters in the outfield.

Ryan Ludwick

The projection systems are all taking into account how he performed last season coming off of a shoulder surgery and are weighing that season heavier than the previous seasons. While he is still coming back from the injury, and it is one that historically is very hit-or-miss when it comes to guys returning to their old form, it should be noted that his performance while still recovering is being held against him in these projections. The Fans projections are the most favorable for Ludwick, projecting him to hit .254/.319/.412 with 22 doubles and 17 home runs in 464 at bats.  The average of the four systems projects a .246/.313/.411 line from the left fielder in 438 at bats with 21 doubles and 17 home runs. That is likely below what the Reds are hoping to get out of Ludwick, who hit .275 with 26 home runs in 2012.

Billy Hamilton

Hamilton will be taking over for one of the best hitters in the National League for the 2013 season as he comes off of a 2013 season in Triple-A where he really struggled to hit. The ZiPS projection system was easily the most friendly for Hamilton as it projects him to hit .264/.319/.362 with 68 steals in 556 at bats. The Reds would be ecstatic with that production from Hamilton at the plate and it would make him an incredibly valuable player. The average of the four systems projects a more moderate .250/.303/.336 line for Hamilton with 64 steals.

Jay Bruce

Bruce will be entering his 7th season with the Reds, making him easily the longest tenured starter in the outfield for the club. For Bruce the Fans projections are the friendliest as they project a .265/.340/.514 line to go with 40 doubles and 34 home runs on the season. That would be his best season of his career, though as he enters what is typically the prime years for a player that wouldn’t be surprising to see a slight uptick in production. The average of the four systems project the right fielder to hit .258/.331/.491 with 33 doubles and 30 home runs in 550 at bats. That would put him slightly above his career averages.

Overall Thoughts

Much like the infield, there is a lot of leeway to be given with these projections. Jay Bruce seems to be pretty solid in terms of what to expect from him, but his increased walk rate in the spring could carry over to the season and could swing things a bit more to his advantage. Either way though, .260 and 30 homers seems like a solid bet.

There is a very wide array of outcomes for Billy Hamilton. He has shown much improved plate discipline in the spring compared to his 2013 year. Does hit plate discipline he showed in 2012 and so far in spring training carry forward? Two of the projection systems have Hamilton with a .300 and a .302 BABIP, which seems a bit low for him with his speed. So there could be two improvements working in his favor that could boost his offensive projections. On the flip side, he struggled to hit .256/.308/.343 in Triple-A and the Majors are a big upgrade from there. The Oliver system projects him for a .233/.278/.321 line, which would very likely get him sent back to the minors for more seasoning.

Ryan Ludwick, for different reasons than Hamilton, also has a wide variety of outcomes. A fully healthy Ludwick showed what he could do in 2012. At the same time, he will turn 36 during the season and is coming off of shoulder surgery and really struggled to do much in 2013 when he did return late in the year as his power was non-existent. If his power returns to 2012 levels, his projections will be off by quite a bit on the low side, but if he struggles to hit for power again, the projections could be on the high side.

With both Ludwick and Hamilton possibly having such a large gap between their ceiling and their floor, the outfield could be anywhere from very good offensively to having some real struggles. If the three outfielders all perform well, the Cincinnati Reds offense could be among the best in the league. If things go south though, the team could really struggle to put runs on the board.

Tags: Billy Hamilton Featured Jay Bruce Popular

  • Ron Fulton

    Ludwick will not last long in the starting line up. Jocketty’s gaffe in over paying him is now coming back to haunt him. We will see Heisey or Jocketty will trade for a left fielder. In either case I hope Jocketty don’t wait too long or the Reds will be out of the race.

    • Doug Gray

      The fact that Ludwick is being paid, and has a big buyout, is exactly why he will last in the starting lineup. Fairly or unfairly, the Reds owe him $13.5M even if they let him go at the end of the year, so he is going to get a long leash to sink or swim. I imagine he will be the starter until at least June no matter how good or bad he is hitting unless he gets injured again. There is simply too much money tied up in him to bench him quickly.

      • Ron Fulton

        Your absolutely right. We must live with Jocketty’s overspending gaffes the entire year. And that is going to kill the Reds at the gate this year.

        • Doug Gray

          Well, we can hope that Ludwick beats the odds and can return to his 2012 form, or at least something close to it.

          • Ron Fulton

            I am the eternal pessimist. I don’t think that will happen. The way Heisey is hitting this spring the pressure will be on early to replace him. It will be interesting to see which scenario will come into play. Jocketty’s ego or doing the right thing. I predict the ego will win out because Jocketty’s not likely he makes mistakes.

          • Doug Gray

            Teams that make decisions based on spring training performance tend to make the wrong ones. When a team decides that 50 at bats in practice games outweighs an entire career of major and minor league at bats, it is strongly going against the odds.

            Of course with Ludwick coming off of an injury, maybe a little bit more should be paid to his performance.

            As a side note, neither Ludwick nor Heisey has drawn a walk yet this spring.

          • Ron Fulton

            You have a point but what spring training does do is show the potential and if you look at defense, speed and potential you have to go with Heisey. I’m not saying start Heisey at the beginning of the season but, as you say. they must start Ludwick, But what I am saying is they will replace him with Heisey somewhere down the line. I just hope they don’t wait too long before making the change.

          • Doug Gray

            The team already knows the potential though. Spring training is just a bunch of practices where every guy is working on something different on a given day and the pitchers that each guy is facing are vastly different than the pitchers just about anyone else on the team is going to be facing. Ryan Ludwick has a lot more potential than Heisey does. Ludwick, while not quite as good of a defender as Heisey, is still a good corner outfielder on defense. Offensively, they aren’t close. What Ludwick did in 2012 is something that Heisey has never sniffed. Of course there are real concerns about whether or not Ludwick can sniff that now after the injury and at age 35/36. Heisey simply isn’t starting material. He is far too aggressive at the plate to ever be much of a hitter unless he completely overhauls his approach. Good 4th outfielder, but as a starter he just doesn’t cut it.

          • Ron Fulton

            I don’t agree with your assessment. Don’t forget he played for Baker all those years and never played more than a few games at a time with all that platooning that never worked. Ludwick has no future potential. He had his hoorah in 2012 and I think you will agree once the season starts. I’m still not convinced that Heisey can’t be an everyday player once given the chance. I think he would cut down on his swings and get the curve ball solved if he played everyday, but we will never know. Also is 20 times the better defensive outfielder and 20 times the speed than Ludwick.