Cincinnati Reds: The group of outfielders checks all the boxes

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 21: Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 21: Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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The Reds outfield does not too many weaknesses.

Shogo Akiyama showed why, during last night’s exhibition game versus the Detroit Tigers, the Cincinnati Reds brought him to the Queen City. Akiyama slugged a three-run homer to straight-away center field that knotted the game at six runs a piece in the bottom of the fifth inning. But Akiyama isn’t the only player in the Cincinnati outfield likely to shine in 2020.

On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Reds sent Rule 5 Draft pick Mark Payton back to the Oakland Athletics. Payton was taken during the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. By rule, in order for a Rule 5 draftee to remain with the organization that selected him, he must remain on the team’s active roster for the entire season.

That wasn’t likely in the case of Payton. While the former New York Yankees prospects offers defensive versatility and showed power from the left side, Cincinnati’s front office invested heavily in the team’s outfield over the winter, and it was unlikely that Payton would’ve survived the second-round of cuts when teams a trimmed from 30 players down to 28.

Instead, the Reds opted to offer the sixth and final outfield spot to speedster Travis Jankowski. Formerly of the San Diego Padres organization, Jankowski is a top-tier athlete. Though his hit tool is certainly lacking, Jankowski provides speed and defense, two attributes that will serve the Reds well in late-game situations.

The Reds starting outfield will be very matchup dependent. I can’t envision many scenarios that don’t see Akiyama and Nick Castellanos in the starting lineup. However, Castellanos, whose defense is a bit below-average, may see some time as the team’s designated hitter on occasion.

More times than not, I’d look for Jesse Winker to take on the role of designated hitter. Winker is below-average defensively, but offers power from the left side and has a high on-base percentage. However, when a lefty is on the bump, look for David Bell to bench Winker in favor of a right-handed bat. Winker’s career-OPS against left-handers is .543.

Phillip Ervin can more than pick up the slack when a southpaw takes the hill against the Cincinnati Reds. Last season, Ervin lit up lefties to the tune of .349/.411/.628. Ervin offers a little better defense than both Castellanos and Winker, so look for Ervin to rotate through the Reds outfield and perhaps see some time at DH against left-handed pitchers.

Nick Senzel rounds out the Reds outfield and will see a lot of time in center field despite the addition of Akiyama. Senzel’s rookie season saw him play in 104 games, but a red-hot start gave way to struggles and injuries over the latter-half of the season. Now healthy, Senzel looks to be part of the everyday lineup heading into 2020.

Next. Final Reds roster predictions for 2020

David Bell has so many different ways to matchup against this year’s opponents. This year’s outfield checks every box. The Reds have speed (Jankowski and Senzel), power (Castellanos and Winker), defensive versatility (Akiyama and Ervin), and plate discipline (Winker and Akiyama). Look out for this year’s group of outfielders.