Cincinnati Reds in Review: OF Chris Heisey

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One of the few players to be an active member of the 2010 National League Central Division winning club and still a member of the active roster, Chris Heisey has shown some serious longevity within the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Having undergone massive transformations as a player, Heisey has proven his worth year after year as one of the game’s elite bench players—which can be both a blessing and a curse.

Chris Heisey – Outfielder

Something you probably didn’t know about Heisey: his numbers have precipitously dropped over time. He hasn’t gotten better with Major League experience, but actually worse. It doesn’t necessarily seem this way because he hits so exceptionally well off the bench that it seems to balance out his massive valleys as an everyday player. Yet after 2014, it can confidently be concluded that Heisey cannot hold down left field on a consistent basis.

It’s not as if he hasn’t gotten his chances. With Skip Schumaker missing most of the early part of the season, and Ryan Ludwick hobbled by his usual ailments, Heisey once again got extended playing time.

In this past season’s Spring Training, Heisey looked as destructive as ever before. He had tinkered with his stance, allowing his hands to drift higher up in the zone so that he could react even quicker and turn on pitches. He was so ferociously hot in March that many clamored for him to take over for Ludwick on a daily basis.

Two months into the season, Heisey had just one home run, which was a pinch-hit Grand Slam that barely snuck over the fence to the opposite field. His blistering March was long forgotten.

Chris Heisey is an enigma. He plays the game so damn hard that it’s virtually impossible to dislike him; yet he is so talented that it can be infuriating to watch him have games when he appears clueless at the plate.

On top of that, he may just be the best bench player in all of baseball. That sounds silly for a player with a low batting average and on-base percentage, but as a pinch-hitter, he has 10 career home runs (exactly one-fifth of his career total) and a .283 batting average, along with a .335 on-base percentage.

Those numbers become even more drastic in 2014: four home runs (exactly half his season total; he’d hit four as a position player all year long) and .273 batting average when purely pinch-hitting. As a starter, he would bat .212 on the season.

After five years of Heisey being a part-time player with the Redlegs, it’s time to accept him for who he is. He isn’t the answer in left field, but he is certainly the answer late in the game as a pinch-hitter.

Heisey’s Stat Line:

.222/.265/.378, 275 AB, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 9 SB, 15 BB-64 K, career-low 80 OPS+

Top Chris Heisey Moment:

There’s just something about Pittsburgh. Having grown up and attended college in Pennsylvania, Heisey ramps up his game when he re-enters the state. His best game all season long came on August 31 against the Bucs when he would have his only multi-home run game of the year.

He handed the win to Johnny Cueto as he supplied all the offense of a 3-2 win. First was a two-run shot off Francisco Liriano in the fifth inning, before sealing the game with a ninth inning, go-ahead home run off Jared Hughes.

And to think, he did all that as a starter.

Low Point of the Season for Chris Heisey:

Particularly rough for Heisey was the month of June. He would bat just .138 with a putrid .194 on-base percentage, all the while barely getting any playing time whatsoever. Yet, there may have been merit to his slow month. He had a season-low .143 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) during that month, after having two straight over .290 to begin the season.

Final Grade: C-

The single player most affected by what general manager Walt Jocketty will do this off-season may be Heisey. Should the club enlist the help of a left fielder from outside the organization, he will see his role decrease steadily. But if they believe a combination of Heisey and Skip Schumaker can do the job, expect the two to platoon admirably.

Entering his sixth season with the Cincinnati Reds, it may finally be time for Heisey to show up or be shown the door.