Longtime Reds beat writer John Fay will break down nine key questions about the Reds. A story addressing one of the questions will run each day between now and Opening Day.
Question 5: Who’s in left?
CINCINNATI -- Left field has been stopgap central since the Reds traded away Adam Dunn in 2008. Jerry Hairston Jr., Layne Nix, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Ludwick and Marlon Byrd have started on Opening Day in left since Dunn departed.
Only Ludwick made more than one start.
This year, the Reds skipped the stopgap, free-agent option and decided to go with what they had in the system-- or, more correctly, what they had just added to system. Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler, obtained in trades, and Rule 5 pickup Jake Cave are competing for the spot, along with holdover prospect Yorman Rodriguez.
As spring training winds down, no one has won the job outright. Reds manager Bryan Price and president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty have said all along that the Reds will go with a platoon of some sort.
One thing within the platoon plan: Rodriguez is the only right-handed hitter in the mix, and he’s had a rough spring. Duvall and Schebler both have fairly even right-left splits recently in the minors, although Duvall struggled vs. lefties after the trade last season.
Lots Of Choices
Duvall, obtained from San Francisco in the Mike Leake trade, has had the best spring of the bunch. He went into Tuesday hitting .321 with three home runs and a team-leading 13 RBI. Duvall is a converted infielder, but the Reds gave him 15 starts in the left in September and he held his own.
“I’m comfortable there,” he said. “I’ve played there enough.”
Duvall’s best tool is his power. He’s hit 30 home runs or more in three of the last four seasons. Between Triple-A and the majors, he hit 35 last year. Duvall also has made starts at first base and third base this spring.
Schebler, obtained from the Dodgers in the three-way Todd Frazier trade, has a lot of pop as well. He led the Southern League in home runs with 28 in 2014. He’s athletic too. He also led the Southern League in the triples in ’14 with 14.
He’s also had a decent spring. He went into Tuesday hitting .255 with a three home runs and 12 RBI.
Cave and Rodriguez haven’t hit as much as Duvall and Schebler. Both were hitting .225 through Monday. But there are roster considerations.
Cave, as a Rule 5 pickup, must stay on the 25-man roster all year or be offered back to the New York Yankees for $25,000.
Rodriguez is out of options. He would have to pass through waivers to be sent to the minors. Given his age (23) and the $2.5 million investment the Reds made in him, it will be hard to let him walk.
Wild Card Option
A wild card may be Jose Peraza. Peraza, obtained in the Frazier trade as well, is a middle infielder, but he has played center. He looks like a natural in the outfield. He was hitting .294 through Monday with six steals in the seven tries. He is a right-handed hitter. The Reds could use him in left to try to get his bat in the lineup.
The guess here is Duvall gets the bulk of the time early. If he hits, that will continue. If he struggles, the Reds will look at other alternatives.
The other factor is Jesse Winker, the Reds top-hitting prospect, who could play his way into the picture with a good start at the plate.