Cincinnati Reds Rockin’ Left Field Merry-Go-Round


Left field for the Cincinnati Reds once was locked down by Adam Dunn for seven seasons from 2001-2008. The last seven seasons have been an entirely different story. Ever since Walt Jocketty traded Dunn to the Diamondbacks for Micah Owings, Wilkin Castillo, and Dallas Buck in mid-2008, the revolving door that is left field hasn’t been filled for the long term.

Enter 2016.

This team is loaded with candidates to fill the position for the next 10 years locked down. Drafting, trades, and international signings have brought into this year’s Spring Training a competition for the open left field spot that they’ve never had since Dunn left. Competition is good, especially for a rebuilding team. The best overall player will rise and the others will be sent to AAA or the bench.

The player who will be given every chance to win left field will be Scott Schebler, who was acquired with Jose Peraza in the Todd Frazier trade. Schebler has serious power and could win the starting job outright with a great spring. Schebler has a track record in the minors of hitting well at every stop along the way. He ran into a crowded outfield in Los Angeles and there was really no playing time available.

Schebler hits left handed and produces a ton of power with great bat speed. His 2013 stats broke down .296/.360/.581 with 27 HR & 91 RBI in A+ ball. Schebler followed that up in 2014 slashing .280/.365/.556 with 28 HR & 73 RBI at AA. The most impressive stats Schebler put up was the Arizona Fall League after his 2014 season in which he hit .310/.352/.524 with 5 HR & 23 RBI in only 23 games. The AFL is likely where Schebler caught the Reds’ eye. It’s a great test for top prospects close to being ready.

2015 found Schebler spending most of the season at AAA where he hit .241/.322/.410 with 13 HR & 50 RBI. He was called up for 19 games and 40 plate appearances to have a respectable .250/.325/.500 slash with 3 HR & 4 RBI in only 36 at-bats. I’m not this bullish on Schebler but that works out to about 45 HR over 600 AB’s. If given regular playing time, Schebler almost certainly will contribute 25+ HR. “If” is the big question. His OBP against right-handers was a robust .341 vs. left-handers at .282. This is something to watch out for in Spring Training where Reds manager Bryan Price has stressed the importance of making Schebler into a complete ball player.

The other powerhouse in Reds camp, who could either beat out everyone else or possibly platoon with Schebler, is Adam Duvall. This guy is like a lumberjack and destroys baseballs. Duvall came over to Cincinnati from San Francisco in the Mike Leake trade. Check out his HR/RBI totals per year; 22/87 in 2011, 30/100 in 2012, 24/85 in 2013, 34/108 in 2014, and 35/96 in 2015. All Duvall does is run bats into baseballs, redirecting them into the stands. The key here for Adam Duvall is not missing the baseball. He also averaged 115 strike outs per season over those five years. With Barry Larkin and Eric Davis in camp with these guys, what if they can help them make contact more often?

Now, I would love for Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler to force their way into the starting lineup at 3B and LF. Duvall has started more games (405) at third base in the minors than any other position, but he has a less than stellar .917 fielding percentage. Time to call Chris Sabo and put him to work to get Duvall ready to take over for Frazier at the hot corner. All this sounds awesome other than Walt Jocketty has already announced that 2015 shortstop of the future Eugenio Suarez would be penciled in as the starting third baseman before camp even started. What if you had 25 HR each from Suarez at SS, Duvall at 3B, and Schebler in LF? Talk about an infusion of offense to help the new young pitching staff!

Next left field candidate, drum roll please — Yorman Rodriguez. This guy has been in the Reds organization for so long he’s literally out of options so now is the time for Yorman to somehow stick as the fourth outfielder or outright win the left field job. He has mostly played CF and RF in the minors and when he signed at age 16 in 2009, and was supposed to be a powerhouse once he developed. At 6’2″ and 210, Y-Rod has the right frame to develop some XBH skills, but the last three years in the minors he’s produced 13, 9, and 10 homers respectively. At 23 years old, he still has time to develop that but it looks like he will take the path as a fourth outfielder to develop those skills even further. Yorman is a career .261/.314/.399 hitter over seven minor-league seasons so he has the skill set to be a nice complimentary piece who can play all three outfield positions when needed.

That brings us to Joey Votto 2.0. Yes, Joey Votto 2.0, who refers to himself as “The Wink”. That’s right, Jesse Winker is the Reds No. 1 prospect and poised to either hit his way onto the 2016 starting lineup or refine himself one more year in AAA. Votto 2.0 you ask? Well, Votto slashed .289/.385/.476 in the minors and Winker has winked out a .292/.397/.471 line so far. These guys have nice left-handed swings that automatically gives some lift to those special pitches who ultimately belong in the stands. Winker is an OBP machine just like Votto and it’s only a matter of time until he’s patrolling LF regularly for Cincinnati, probably getting driven in by Joey Votto. Could it be 2016 or 2017?

These four players are the top candidates to win the very open left field job in Cincinnati this year. The only question is, how can they fit half of them in the starting lineup out of the gate? It really depends on how Spring Training goes for each of these guys. Can Duvall or Schebler become complete non-platoon players? Can Rodriguez stick at the major league level? Is “The Wink” ready or does he need a little more seasoning? It all starts in Arizona.