Spring Flings: 2013 Cincinnati Reds Edition


It happens every spring. Many towns and colleges have an event called a “Spring Fling”. It is usually a huge social gathering with various activities centered around the spring theme.

For Reds fans, “Spring Fling” could also refer to seeing that one guy that isn’t expected to make the 25-man roster put together a spring that becomes one to remember. You could even say a spring training of legendary proportions. In 2011, that fell upon the shoulders of former Red, now property of the Chicago Cubs, outfielder Dave Sappelt. That spring, Sappelt was 22-for-39 (.564), scoring 11 runs, smacking 3 homers and driving in 12.

Last spring, Reds fans didn’t see that big of a burst on the scene, but for the majority of the spring, Denis Phipps wowed Reds fans. He ended his stay in Goodyear with a .316 batting average and a slugging percentage of .526. For the record, Phipps, a non-roster invitee this year, is hitting .304 and slugging .565 this spring.

This year, the Reds have multiple candidates. We’ll set aside the Devin Mesoraco‘s spring as it is expected that Mes will head to Cincy as the backup to Ryan Hanigan…at least.

(RELATED: Making the Case for Devin Mesoraco)

There are a pair of players on the 40-man that may have propelled themselves even more up the minor league “food chain’: Donald Lutz and Henry Rodriguez.

Feb 16, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Donald Lutz (70) during photo day at the Reds Spring Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Having a primary position of first base and currently being a member of the Reds organization has, shall we say, a logjam at that position in the name of one Joey Votto. There has been a plan in place in converting Lutz to the outfield. During the 2012 season and splitting time between Bakersfield and Pensacola, Lutz played 59 games as a left fielder while manning first base for 38.

Here is what Lutz has done during this spring…

Of note here. You see “OppQual”. This is a new “measure” instituted by the gang over at Baseball Reference. The complete details of the “stat” are here, but a quick and dirty take is that the higher the number, the higher quality of pitching the player has faced based on the level where the pitcher was last season. There is a scale involved with this.

10 – MLB
8 – AAA
7 – AA
5 – High A (Cali or Carolina)
4 – Full-Season A (Midwest and SALLY)
1.5 to 3 – Rookie or Short-season
1 – for pitchers if the opposing batter is a pitcher

Lutz has averaged seeing a pitcher that is Triple-A caliber. If we take into consideration that Lutz may be headed back to Pensacola for at least the beginning of the season (as projected by Doug Gray on Reds Minor Leagues), then we may (rightly or wrongly) assume Lutz will have a productive stint in Double-A.

And Lutz has a fan: Dusty Baker. I have read a number of articles where Dusty mentions names such as Stargill and Cepeda when talking about Lutz and his swing and approach at the plate. One day…

March 5, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Rodriguez tags out Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout on a stolen base attempt in the third inning during a spring training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. (Photo: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports)

For Rodriguez, we saw a little of him after last season’s September call-ups, but with the acquisition of Jason Donald, and the minor league free agent signings of Cesar Izturis and Emmanuel Burriss, the chances of HRod making the 25-man were severely diminished. Hasn’t deterred him either. He’s till hitting.

Among all Reds in Goodyear that have at least 20 plate appearances and are still in the big league camp, only the previously mentioned Mesoraco (.474) and Shin-Soo Choo (.435) have posted a higher batting average than Rodriguez (.400). If you’re wondering, Lutz is 4th.

Here’s what Rodriguez has done since arriving in Goodyear.

Rodriguez has faced a pitcher that is somewhere in between Triple-A and Double-A, but mostly toward the Triple-A level. Considering his likely landing spot for him in 2013 will be Louisville, all appears well. A reunion with Jim Riggleman is in order.

The biggest question will be how well Rodriguez has recovered from his hand injury from last season.

The question for Lutz and Rodriguez since we are now only two and a half weeks from Opening Day is how well they sustain their spring and carry over to the regular season. Sometimes, that can be a huge task.

Spring training does create a small sample size and we have poo-pooed the meaning and relevance of numbers produced while there. The Arizona air is also different from the likes of Pensacola and Louisville, but do expect good things from this duo in 2013.