With the Opening Day starter now revealed, the biggest question surrounding the Cincinnati Reds centers around the team’s overcrowded outfield. It’s time to relax folks, it’s a good problem to have.
Luis Castillo will be the Cincinnati Reds‘ Opening Day starter. With that question now answered, fans’ attention has shifted to the team’s overcrowded outfield. It’s okay folks, this is a great problem to have and it will work itself out.
Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Nick Senzel, Phillip Ervin, Jesse Winker, and Scott Schebler are all part of a crowded Reds’ outfield and it has been a point of contention amongst fans all offseason. Why don’t the Reds trade Kemp? Why would you keep Senzel on the Opening Day roster? Ervin is crushing the ball in Spring Training, why should he start the season in Triple-A?
All of those are valid questions, but at the end of the day, the Reds have a great problem on their hands. The team has six outfielders currently on their roster who have the ability to make a positive impact on the roster. The team couldn’t say that last season.
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Billy Hamilton is gone. The speedy center fielder who’s above-average defense combined with his below-average offense frustrated fans over the past few years. Great American Ball Park would see mouths drop after Hamilton made a spectacular catch, but those same mouths would cuss and scream when Hamilton went down swinging with runners on the corners and two outs in a one-run game.
Hamilton is now in Kansas City and his vacancy left in center field is still unfilled. Soon enough David Bell and the Reds’ brass will make the decision to keep Senzel with the team or send him down to Triple-A Louisville. He’s done nothing to make me think he’s going to be sent down, but the MLB service time rules may override rational thought.
Thankfully for the Reds, if Senzel is sent down, they have a very capable player named Scott Schebler who can fill in at center until Senzel makes his major league debut. Schebler appears to have really worked on his plate discipline this offseason. The 11 walks he’s drawn combined with his .548 on-base percentage during Cactus League play makes him a very viable candidate for the leadoff spot when he’s in the lineup.
Yasiel Puig we know will get the lion’s share of starts in right field, but what about the other former Los Angeles Dodger Matt Kemp? Kemp is slashing .289/.341/.605 this spring with 3 homers and 9 RBIs in 38 at-bats. After his resurgence last season, there’s no way that Kemp spends several days in row on the bench.
Jesse Winker has had a mediocre spring and that’s putting it mildly. The 25-year-old lefty is batting just .122 in 41 at-bats and his .200 OBP is well below what most people expected from a player whose on-base percentage was above .400 last season.
It’s just spring ball folks. That talent that you saw last season is still there. Let’s not forget that Winker spent the second half of the season on the disabled list and spent a considerable amount of the offseason rehabbing a shoulder injury. It may take a little time, but he’ll get back to his old ways soon enough.
Then there’s the curious case of Phillip Ervin. Ervin has been head and shoulders above every other hitter on the Cincinnati Reds this spring. Ervin is slugging .780 in Cactus League play and leads the league in homers this spring with 5.
Ervin’s been one of the best offensive players on the Reds during Spring Training, and yet he may not have a spot on the 25-man roster when the season begins in less than a week. According to Roster Resource, both Ervin and Scott Schebler have one minor league option remaining and if Senzel makes the Opening Day roster one of those two will likely be sent down.
The Reds could send down Ervin and keep Senzel with the team on Opening Day. A balance of lefty (Winker and Schebler) and righty (Senzel, Kemp, and Puig) bats could give David Bell a lot of different options depending on the pitching matchup.
An outfield of Winker in left, Senzel in center, and Schebler in right against right-handed pitchers could be a phenomenal matchup for the Reds. What about Kemp in left, Senzel in center, and Puig in right when a lefty is on the mound? These combinations are endless and you could plug Ervin’s name into several spots as well if he makes the cut.
The versatility will allow David Bell to play the matchups on a nightly basis. Heck, we could even see a night where the game ends with Derek Dietrich in left field and Michael Lorenzen playing center. The Reds’ crowded outfield provides the coaching staff with multiple options night in and night out.
Who knows how the roster is going to shake out. Bell and his staff have some tough decisions ahead before the Cincinnati Reds take the field on March 28th against the Pittsburgh Pirates. One thing is for sure though, this so called problem that the Reds have with their overcrowded outfield will work itself out and it’s a good problem to have.