Who Will Play Left Field for the Cincinnati Reds in 2016?

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When the start of Spring Training arrives in one week, the Reds will have competitions at several positions, including left field. The position has been a bit of a problem spot for the Reds in the past couple of years, with numerous guys seeing time there. Marlon Byrd was supposed to be the everyday left fielder for all of 2015, but an injury to his finger hurt his cause–leading to his eventual trade (and leaving a gaping hole).

Spring Training will allow a number of young players to fight for that spot, not only for now but possibly years to come. Here’s a look at the potential candidates:

Adam Duvall is currently the most likely candidate to be starting in left field on Opening Day. At 27-years-old, he could be considered a veteran, but given that he has played in only 52 games over the last two years at the Major League level, he is still learning alongside the youngsters. In 27 games with the Reds in 2015, he batted .219/.306/.484 with five home runs and nine RBI. He struck out 26 times and only had six walks. He will have every chance to prove himself, but if he hits like he did last year (a power hitter who strikes out a lot), the Reds will likely turn to a younger player.

If the name Scott Schebler doesn’t sound familiar to you, it’s because the Reds received him from the Dodgers in the three-team trade for Todd Frazier in December. Schebler is a 25-year-old, left-handed outfielder who found himself in 19 games with the Dodgers in 2015. He batted .250/.325/.500 with three home runs and four RBI. At the Triple-A level, he batted .241 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI in 121 games. If he plays well in Spring Training, he could platoon with Duvall when the season begins.

The Reds selected Jake Cave in the Rule 5 Draft in December. He played mainly for the Yankees’ Double-A team at Trenton in 2015, batting .269/.330/.345 with two home runs and 37 RBI. Cave will no doubt be given every opportunity to prove that he can play at the Major League level, but given that he’s only played four games above the AA level, he will have to perform well during Spring Training.

Yorman Rodriguez is a home-grown player who has been in the Reds farm system since 2009–when he was 16. He’s still young, only 22, and still develop into a decent major league player. In seven seasons in the minors, he has a .261 average with 50 home runs. His most recent time in the minors was spent in Louisville last season, where he hit .269 in 85 games. In his only trip to the majors in 2014, he hit .222 with six hits in 11 games. His biggest detractor right now is playing time. He needs to be given an extended opportunity to see if he can be successful at the Major League level. The fact that he played in the Futures Game at GABP (last July during All-Star Weekend) shows that he still has yet to receive that opportunity. The Reds and MLB still see him as a part of the future at the highest level in baseball, which is a good thing for the Reds organization and the fans.

The Reds claimed Tyler Holt off waivers from the Cleveland Indians at the end of the season last year. In five games with Cincinnati, he got a hit, scored two runs and walked twice. His major league time was also limited with Cleveland, playing in nine games and only getting two hits in 20 at-bats. However, in six seasons in the minors, he hit .274/.367/.351, including a .304 average in AAA in 2014. If he can adjust to major league pitching and can replicate some of those numbers, he can be a decent platoon/bench player. Because Holt has decent speed, he is seen more as a center fielder than a corner outfielder–putting him in a position to “light a fire” under the “batting-challenged” Billy Hamilton.

Jesse Winker is the left fielder of the future right now; however, he is the top position player prospect in the system, so the Reds are going to take their time getting him ready. This is why he will start the 2016 season in Louisville. If he plays well, he could see the Major Leagues during September’s expended roster call-ups, at the earliest.

Finally, Kyle Waldrop has played more right field in his minor league career, so it’s probably a long shot to see him in left field. He seems to be ahead of Winker in his development thus far, so if the Reds need another outfielder at any point he could get the call-up to play left.

The Reds’ official depth chart lists Duvall, Cave and Schebler, in that order. As of right now, that is probably the most accurate, but don’t be surprised if one of the other candidates performs well in camp and makes the 25-man roster for Opening Day.

Regardless, it will be a very interesting storyline to watch through all of Spring Training.