Lutz Finding His Swing in AFL

So many people saw the movie. So many more people now know the line because of its inclusion.

Hulk smash.

Mar 11, 2012; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Lutz hits an RBI single during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Goodyear Ballpark. (Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE)

I’m not using it as a reference to the popular green character from The Avengers, although that line did provide one of a few moments of comic relief in the flick. I’m referring to Reds first base prospect Donald Lutz. If you follow him on Twitter, you know exactly what I mean. His handle: @braunerhulk. Our friends over at In the Gap Shirts even have their take on it.

Therefore…braunerhulk smash. Yes, we have a hulk, too.

And smash Lutz has done…and traveled.

Since signing with the Reds as an undrafted free agent in 2007, Lutz has seen not only a few cities, but played on more than just one continent as well.

2008, 2009: GCL Reds
2010: Billings, Canberra (Australian Baseball League)
2011: Dayton
2012: Bakersfield, Pensacola, AZL Reds (rehab), Germany (WBC)

Too many cities to list and three different continents. That is well traveled.

The smash? He does hit a few home runs, particularly in his last two years. As a member of the Dragons in 2011, Lutz hit 20 round trippers and, according to The Baseball Cube, was the Midwest League’s 10th rated hitter. He posted a triple slash of .301/.358/.492, added 75 RBI, and scored 85 runs. He was second to Hamilton on that team in hits (140).

Of those that were ranked ahead of Lutz were four of Jonathan Mayo’s Top 100 MLB Propects: Rymer Liriano (4th), Nick Castellanos (6th), Jake Marisnick (7th) and Billy Hamilton (8th).

Not bad company at all.

2012 arrived and Lutz was still smashing to the tune of 22 home runs between his three stops. An oblique injury derailed a shot at playing as a Cal League All-Star and that may have also led to the slide in his numbers after being promoted to Pensacola. Lutz played well in his brief rehab assignment in Arizona, but never quite got on track for the remainder of 2012.

For all levels, Lutz posted a slash of .269/.336/.517. His SLG was up, but the average and OBP were down.

Much of the talk about Reds and first base prospects is a two-fold situation of sorts. One is that most chatter centers around Neftali Soto after Soto blasted 31 home runs in 2011. Soto also suffered from an injury this past season (back spasms) and was limited in his production. No talk about Lutz.

The second part is the no-brainer part: Joey Votto. With Votto under contract until 2023, these guys may need to find another position. Just ask Yonder Alonso how that feels.

And the Reds have made such an effort with Lutz. Between Bakersfield and Pensacola, Lutz started in left field for a total of 59 games. He did make two errors in 83 chances, but he also compiled a pair of outfield assists. Lutz actually started more games at the left field position (59) than he did at his natural position of first base (38).

And his swing is returning. In the Arizona Fall League, Lutz is batting a lofty .517 with a homer and 4 RBI. He has recorded a hit in six of the seven games in which he has played. In those six games, he has multiple hits as well. Something about Arizona and Lutz feel right. At the WBC where he represented Germany, Lutz hit .308 in 4 games. Yes, small sample. The smashing is returning, slowly, but surely.

The difference? Ask Lutz and he’ll tell you.

“Down here, we’ve been playing a lot of day games and I’ve just been seeing the ball well,” Lutz said. “I’ve got one of my batting coaches [Alex Pelaez] here with me and he’s been doing a good job of getting me back on track while I’m here. We have a good group of guys, too, and that helps a lot.”— Lutz via

Back on track? Considering in his last game, Lutz was a triple shy of posting a cycle, I’d say that swing is heading in the right direction.