The Cincinnati Reds outfield is surprisingly overcrowded after a busy offseason. Now, with Spring Training underway, there are a lot of talented players vying for a starting spot in the outfield. Jesse Winker should get the nod over Matt Kemp.
We knew when the Cincinnati Reds front office decided to non-tender center fielder Billy Hamilton that there would be an opening in the outfield. Then, in late December, the team worked out a massive deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers to bring outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Queen City. That left them with an abundance of outfielders and only 3 starting spots to give out.
With the hype and excitement surrounding Puig, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he isn’t manning right field for almost all of the162 games this year. Seeing him on the field is going to bring a lot of Reds fans into the ballpark.
The fight for center field is on, as Nick Senzel and Scott Schebler, have the inside track, though a few other names are in the mix as well. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but every indication is that the job is Senzel’s to lose.
That leaves us with the left field corner to cover and there are really only a couple of players who are in the running for that spot. They are last year’s right fielder Jesse Winker and of course the veteran Kemp.
Kemp is bringing a ton of talent and experience to the Cincinnati Reds ballclub. Offensively, he has a career slash line of .286/.338 /.497. He is also strong defensively with a .989 fielding percentage for his career while playing in left field. Across the board, Kemp is a solid, albeit aging outfielder.
Conventional wisdom would say that Jesse Winker is more of a wild card when compared to Kemp because of Kemp’s experience. However, I would argue that it should be Winker who gets the nod over Kemp.
It was rumored that Winker was one of the players being eyed to win Rookie of the Year last season prior to his season-ending shoulder injury. Winker showcased Joey Votto-like offensive talent last season, batting .299 with a .405 on-base percentage and a .431 slugging percentage. He was one of the few players on the Reds roster who came close to touching Scooter Gennett’s .310 batting average.
Defensively in left field last season Winker put up a 1.000 fielding percentage with 49 total chances matched with 49 putouts. Statistically he is stronger in left over right field, though still putting up good numbers over there as well.
The bottom line is that the Reds have proven this offseason that they are trying to do everything they can to put the best possible team they can on the field in every game. I think, given the numbers Winker has put up, with an injured shoulder no less, should earn him the chance to get the start in left field.
There is a lot of hype surrounding Kemp coming in from the Dodgers organization, and I’m sure he will not disappoint. But, if the Reds are going to put their best team on the field, Jesse Winker is the man for the job.