Cincinnati Reds outfield – which three will start in 2018?

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds have a group of young veterans and prospects that all want time in the outfield in 2018.

The Cincinnati Reds have a good problem.  They have too many competitive, young hitters in the outfield.  Now they have to decide which three are the primary starters for 2018.

In this three outcome era, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish talent from strategy.  Most players are trying to walk or hit a home run with a strikeout being an acceptable side effect.  In that vein, the Reds have a difficult assessment to make.

Down the stretch, the Reds had three outfielders that really were playing well.  The newest call-ups Phil Ervin and Jesse Winker each spent some time covering for Scott Schebler and Billy Hamilton this season.  The other player that played well down the stretch was second baseman turned shortstop turned center fielder for a pair of games, Jose Peraza.

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If Zack Cozart comes back on a one-year deal as expected, Peraza could be the starting center fielder or a super sub coming off of the bench.  Ervin and Winker continued to be the OBP machines that they were coming up through the Reds system.  With Ervin in left and Winker in right, the outfield defense would be plus compared to most MLB teams.

That scenario for the Cincinnati Reds excludes their three starting outfielders from 2017 entirely.

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There’s about a 33% chance that center fielder Billy Hamilton will be playing somewhere else come opening day 2018.  He makes a little too much for the Reds and bats more like a low end number five hitter, than a starting lead-off man.  His  injury history, however, may keep him around.

Adam Duvall will be starting for the Reds in 2018.  He will almost definitely end up in left field after winning his first Gold Glove there (projected).  If something happens to MVP candidate Joey Votto, Duvall could be moved to first.

That leaves right fielder Scott Schebler.  He went from a platoon style outfielder to a three outcome outfielder in the past two seasons.  He has found power and maintained a decent OBP, but has done at the expense of consistency.

Looking forward, the Reds will likely give Peraza one more chance to be the starting second baseman.  That will allow Scooter Gennett to replace Eugenio Suarez at third base.  With Nick Senzel just a call away, Suarez is more likely on the move than one of the outfielders.

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That means that Ervin and Winker, however, will battle Hamilton and Schebler for playing time.  Winker projects as the best everyday player of the four, but could play right field with or without a platoon partner.  However, that leaves Ervin and Schebler platooning in center and Hamilton as the best defensive replacement in MLB in 2018.