Blake Dunn is the solution to the Reds' search for a right-handed hitting outfielder

The Cincinnati Reds outfield is suddenly as crowded as the infield.
Dayton's Blake Dunn runs to the dugout
Dayton's Blake Dunn runs to the dugout / Cody Scanlan/Holland Sentinel / USA
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Despite signing Jeimer Candelario and all but making it official that Spencer Steer will be the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day left fielder, there are still cries from the fanbase to sign a right-handed hitting outfielder.

If Reds fans are led to believe that Steer will log the majority of his starts in left field while TJ Friedl gets everyday reps in center field, that leaves Will Benson and Jake Fraley in line to start in right field against right-handed pitching.

However, things could get a bit dicey when it comes time to face left-handed pitcher. Neither Benson nor Fraley had much success against southpaws in 2023. But rather than sign a player like Michael A. Taylor or Randal Grichuk, perhaps the Reds already have the solution sitting in their organization.

Who could join the Reds Opening Day roster as the fifth outfielder?

In addition to the aforementioned quartet of Spencer Steer, Will Benson, Jake Fraley, and TJ Friedl, the Cincinnati Reds also have six more outfielders on the 40-man roster.

Nick Martini, Rece Hinds, TJ Hopkins, Jacob Hurtubise, Stuart Fairchild, and Bubba Thompson are all part of the current roster. While Hinds, Hurtubise, and Fairchild are likely to remain with the Reds through spring training, the other three are on very shaky ground.

At the moment, Fairchild would seem to have the inside track for that fifth and final spot in the Reds outfield. The 27-year-old spent 97 games in the majors last season and displayed plenty of power and speed, while also playing above-average defense at all three outfield spots.

Will Blake Dunn push Stuart Fairchild off the Reds roster?

But there's one very skilled player, not currently on the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster, who could sneak his way onto the team's Opening Day roster next spring.

Blake Dunn burst onto the scene in 2023. Finally healthy, the Western Michigan product was one of the Reds' most productive minor league players a year ago. Dunn hit .312/.425/.522 combined across High-A and Double-A while also smashing 23 home runs and stealing 53 bags.

At 25 years old, there's every reason to believe that Dunn could skip Triple-A altogether with an outstanding performance in the Cactus League next spring. At the very least, Dunn could be Plan B in the event the Fairchild fails to find success in 2024.

Stuart Fairchild has no minor league options remaining, and with all things being equal, would probably get the nod over Blake Dunn heading into next season. But if Fairchild struggles, Dunn will be lurking, ready to snag his roster spot.

Rather than shelling out for a platoon outfielder, president of baseball operations Nick Krall would do better to invest that money into the pitching staff.

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