GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Call left field the land of opportunity this year for the Reds.
Left is the one position completely open for the Reds. There are plenty of candidates, but no one is the overwhelming favorite.
The Reds will probably use a platoon, at least at the start of the season.
“I think that’s what we’ll end up doing,” Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said. “I like the guys we have.”
Who makes up that platoon will largely be determined on what happens in the spring training games. Here are the candidates:
—Adam Duvall: Duvall, 27, came over from the San Francisco Giants in the Mike Leake trade. He’s a converted infielder, but he acquitted himself well in left after the trade. “I’m comfortable out there now,” he said. He’s a left-handed hitter with power: He hit .281 with the 25 home runs and 91 RBI at Triple-A last year. He hit five home runs in 64 at-bats for the Reds. He’s probably the favorite to win at least a platoon spot.
—Scott Schebler: Schebler, 25, was in the Todd Frazier trade. He’s athletic enough to play any of the three outfield positions. He had a bit of down year in 2015. He hit .241 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI at Triple-A. He hit .250 with three home runs in brief stint with the Dodgers. The year before he led the Southern League in triples (14), home runs (28) and slugging (.556).
—Yorman Rodriguez: Rodriguez is in his eighth year in the organization at 23. He was signed for $2.5 million as a 16-year-old. He hit .269 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI in Triple-A last year. He was limited to 85 games by a calf injury. He’s a right-hander hitter — the only one in the left field mix. He is out of options. It’s doubtful that the Reds would expose him to waivers to get back to minors. He’s talented, but the question is: Is he ready to hit in the majors?
—Jake Cave: Cave, 23, was the Reds’ Rule 5 selection from the New York Yankees. He hit .278 with 25 doubles, six triples in stops at Double-A and Triple-A last year. The Reds have to keep him on the roster all year or offer him back to the Yankees.
—Jesse Winker: Winker, 22, is the Reds’ best hitting prospect and nominally the left fielder of the future. He hit .282 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI at Double-A last year. That was after a slow start. He hit .316/.426/.516 the second half.
“We have a lot of young players that profile well in left field for us that we think can be everyday players and maybe their first step towards that opportunity is in a platoon environment,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I know we've talked about with Schebler and Duvall and Yorman for sure — guys that are really pushing for regular time, with Jake Cave. So we have a lot of options.”
“And, as we know, Winker on the horizon.”
For the players, none of them having spent much time in the majors, this is a great opportunity.
“I look at every year as an opportunity,” Duvall said. “I’ve got to go and do what I do and play my game. Not put too much pressure on myself. Go out there and swing it, play defense and have fun.”
Schebler was shocked a bit by the trade but quickly realized the chance if offered.
“I kept getting texts saying congratulations,” he said. “That got my hopes up. I looked around at roster and thought: If you put a good spring training together, you’ve got a chance to make the team. I’m excited.”
Spring training numbers matter for all of the above, but they will not be the only factor.
“I think more than anything, it's going to be settling in with guys we feel are the most ready to perform and not just simply go by spring training performance,” Price said. “I think we've got enough of an understanding of the players here in camp — and we're going to get a better understanding obviously through the game, but a good enough understanding to know, really, who should be competing for those spots and who might get the first crack at it.”
Even if the Reds settle on a platoon, that does not end the competition.
“I think any time you have a platoon, one of those guys has an opportunity to take more playing time or really take that position full time by their performance,” Price said.