2011 Cincinnati Reds Season Preview: Outfielders


There are essentially six outfielders in the mix this season. There is one word that sums up the entire situation in the outfield: potential. Turning that potential into a reality this season is going to be the key to getting the Reds back into the hunt for the Championship – yes I said Championship. Expect nothing less if these guys can do what they are capable of doing.

Like Justin, I’m going to start on the right side and work my way across by position.

Right Field

Jay Bruce

While there are three players listed on the depth chart in Right, there is really only one. Jay Bruce. When Bruce broke into the majors, his quick bat and extraordinary power had everyone in awe. He has shown that same power and quickness in spurts and it has earned him a considerably sizeable contract in his first extension with the team. Not only does he have a tremendous bat, his defense has the potential to win a Gold Glove. He has a tremendous ability to chase down balls and even though he loses a battle with the angles in the gaps once in a while, he is fairly consistent at cutting off the ball in the gap to keep the runner at second. Add to that, the fact that he has 26 assists in the past 3 years and it’s safe to say that runners think twice before tagging on fly balls.

Center Field

Drew Stubbs

It’s the Drew Stubbs show in Center and accordingly, it’s his position to lose. Stubbs played in 150 games and started in 138 of them (regular and post season), hit .255 and fielded a very respectable .987 with 7 assists. Stubbs has a great arm with great speed, so defensively Center Field is solid. Offensively is the question mark in Stubbs’ game and depending on the pressure from the bench, it could potentially be his downfall. While Stubbs possesses tremendous power and excellent speed, he strikes out very frequently. In 2010, 168 times to be exact. Don’t get me wrong, Stubbs isn’t the only one to strike out a lot. In fact, the Reds were 6th in terms of strikeouts in the National League in 2010. The point is, maybe Drew needs to watch “Major League” and take notes from Willie Mays Hayes.

Chris Heisey

Competing for the position in Center (albeit not much of a competition when it’s Stubbs’ position to lose) are Chris Heisey and Fred Lewis. Heisey showed great poise while hitting in clutch situations off the bench and hitting .254 while only starting 42 of his 97 games played (22 of those were in Right). His lack of speed is a majority of the reason that he spends most of his time in the corner outfield positions rather than in Center. His arm, glove and instincts are not a problem at all, but center fielders should not be caught stealing 2 times in 3 attempts. Ever.

Fred Lewis

Lewis had a much better offensive production year last year than the year before and better matched that which he showed in 2008 as well. If the pattern continues, this should be a statistically down year for Lewis, but I think that’s going to happen naturally anyway since Dusty Baker has already said that Drew Stubbs is his man in Center. Regardless, Lewis has above average speed and knows how to score runs, so if Stubbs does have trouble starting off the year like Chris Dickerson did last year, look for Baker to at least look at giving Lewis an opportunity in Center.

Left Field

Jonny Gomes

To me, this is the field with the most potential for improvement. While Drew Stubbs in Center may have a higher upswing than the potential left fielders, they can improve the most from where they finished last season. As a whole, the Reds list Gomes, Fred Lewis, Chris Heisey and Yonder Alonso – in that order – on the depth chart. I love Jonny Gomes’ hustle and attitude toward the game in general because I’d like to think that if I were still fortunate enough to be playing, I’d play the exact same way. There’s a difference though in playing determined and playing within yourself so that your actions do not hurt the team as a whole. The latter is what we saw on a couple of occasions last year where his exuberance actually led to errors or runners moving up bases when they shouldn’t.

Lewis and Heisey will have more opportunities to work into the rotation in Left than they will in Center but don’t be surprised to see both on the field from time to time with Heisey in Left and Lewis in Center to get in their work together. Dusty made a comment last week roughly stating “if” Fred Lewis makes the squad and based on a 25 man roster, it’s possible that he’d be the one left out, but again, based on his potential, we could also see him getting a lot of time before the rosters are cut down.

Yonder Alonso

What can we say that hasn’t already been said? How many first basemen have you ever seen who are good enough that instead of the organization trading him, they actually try to convert him to an outfielder? He’s still a year away from being comfortable enough in the outfield to actually work his way into the mix, but there’s no reason that he won’t be called up from time to time in roster shortage periods to get a peek at big league pitching to keep his eyes and reflexes sharp in case he’s needed. Once again – potential.

Overall, youth, talent and potential are running rampant throughout the Cincy Outfield. They’re exciting to watch on both sides of the field and if they’re able to work into their potential, we’re going to see a stellar outfield to match the infield.