The Cincinnati Reds outfield has one opening in it immediately as left field seems to be up for grabs given how the position was handled in the 2014 season. Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton are both locked up for several more seasons and at the very least, both players have job security for the 2015 season.
Louisville only saw two players get more than 50 starts in the outfield during the 2014 season and those two players were 32-year-old Jason Bourgeois and 29-year-old Felix Perez. Both may be options as bench players moving forward but neither is likely to factor in as starting players at this point in their careers. Ryan LaMarre battled injuries and was released and then re-signed by the team during the 2014 season. Steve Selsky played 49 games in the outfield with the Bats, splitting time between the two corner positions. After a good start in Pensacola where he hit .301/.410/.367 the 24-year-old saw a decline in Triple-A where he hit .240/.359/.339 while seeing his strikeout rate really jump up.
Down in Pensacola there were some younger guys making up the outfield. Yorman Rodriguez spent the entire year with the Blue Wahoos and played in 119 games. With the exception of a three week stretch directly after returning from an oblique injury the 21-year-old put together a quality season at the plate and continued to make progress as a defender in center and in right field before getting a September call up. Juan Duran played in 100 games while getting action mostly in right field but also seeing limited action in center and left. Duran hit a Blue Wahoos franchise record 17 home runs as he showed off his power but the rest of his offensive game was a struggle as he hit .243/.297/.464 with 23 walks and 130 strikeouts in just 364 plate appearances. Defensively he still has plenty of work to do but he has improved over the years. Kyle Waldrop showed up in Pensacola for the second half after hitting .359/.409/.516 with Bakersfield in the first half and he didn’t miss a beat as he carried on with a .315/.359/.517 line in Double-A. Waldrop expanded his defensive value by playing both corner outfield positions and holding his own as well as seeing time at first base in limited action in the regular season and currently in the Arizona Fall League.
While Jesse Winker did get some time in Pensacola, his wrist injury kept most of his playing time in Bakersfield as he lost most of the second half of his season. With the Blaze the corner outfielder hit .317/.426/.580 before getting promoted to Double-A. In 92 plate appearances with the Blue Wahoos he hit .208/.326/.351 before missing the final six weeks of the year. Winker only played left field and while he may be able to cover right, most believe he is best suited for left in the long run. Beau Amaral saw time in Dayton, Bakersfield and Pensacola during the season but most of his time was spent with the Blaze. On the season he would hit .292/.352/.440 between the three stops with 23 stolen bases. Amaral spent most of his time in center and he projects well as a defender there with good speed and strong routes. Juan Silva spent his entire season in Bakersfield, though most of his season took place in the first half as an injury kept him out for the final nine weeks. Silva performed well when he was on the field though, hitting .310/.421/.437 with one less walk than strikeouts and 34 steals in just 67 games played. It was easily his best season as a professional but was cut short because of an injury.
Sebastian Elizalde began his season in Dayton and finished up the second half in Bakersfield as he split the year between the two stops. He was outstanding in Dayton as he hit .311/.439/.503 before heading to Advanced-A where he was still quite solid while hitting .272/.330/.461. He had 47 extra-base hits on the season and stole 19 bases, but he was also caught 17 times. While he saw some limited action in center field he saw a lot more time in the corners where he projects best. Jeff Gelalich was on a similar timeline for the season as Elizalde as he also began the year with Dayton and was moved up to Bakersfield for the second half. Unlike Elizalde he didn’t have the success as he would hit just .222/.308/.311 with the Dragons before going on to Bakersfield where he picked things up and hit .252/.331/.415. The power output in Bakersfield was the first time he had shown a stretch with power in his career, hitting nine of his career 14 homers in just 61 games. Jon Matthews began the season in Bakersfield and was successful in a part-time role over the first few weeks where he hit .333/.383/.405 but was then sent to Dayton where he got more regular playing time. He would miss a few weeks on the disabled list but was successful as he hit .314/.398/.394 with Dayton and would seal 20 bases between the two stops. Phillip Ervin would spend his entire season with Dayton and after offseason wrist surgery he never seemed to get things rolling on the offensive side of things as he hit .237/.305/.376 with 46 walks and 110 strikeouts. The one bright spot offensively was that he stole 30 bases in 35 attempts. Defensively he improved throughout the season in both right and center field.
The Billings Mustangs outfield may have had the biggest offensive breakout player in the system on the team in Aristides Aquino. The 20-year-old hit .292/.342/.577 with 44 extra-base hits in just 307 plate appearances while also stealing 21 bases in 26 attempts. He is among the toolsiest players in the system and his break out was exactly what the position needed. Brian O’Grady spent most of the season in center for the Mustangs and put together a solid season after being drafted in the 8th round. The left handed hitter posted a .257/.354/.449 line with seven steals in as many attempts and 35 walks to go against 45 strikeouts in 254 plate appearances.
The Arizona League Reds had a group of three outfielders all gather up at least 40 games of their 56 game schedule. Jose Siri led the group with 46 games played and would hit .248/.310/.376 with 12 steals in 14 attempts. The 18-year-old was in his first season in the US and impressed with his tools while playing mostly center field. Reydel Medina also played in 46 games during the season. He showed off plenty of power with 20 extra-base hits but that was where the offensive success stopped as he hit .244/.265/.449 with just four walks on the season while striking out 61 times in 188 plate appearances. Medina has tools to work with but is still quite raw at the plate. Narciso Crook rounded out the outfield in Arizona with 42 starts as he split time between the corners. The 18-year-old was drafted in 2013 but was seeing his first action as a professional with the Reds during the 2014 campaign where he hit .255/.313/.423 with 12 steals in 13 attempts. There was also word out of instructional league that he was quite good during his time there and showed improvements.
The team showed good depth at the outfield position among the players who were around for a majority of the season. They were also missing out on several guys who missed all of or a majority of the season due to injuries with Bryson Smith, Junior Arias, Kevin Garcia and Jose Fernandez all missing significant time in 2014. The outfield is the deepest position covered so far in the series. It has top end prospects who performed well in the upper and lower levels of the minor league, guys that seem to be close and have starting caliber talents, big tools types of players who showed flashes of things as well as potential break out guys who have lots of tools to work with but haven’t been able to translate them to the games yet. There is also a good mix of guys who may not have a stand out tool but are solid all around in all aspects of the game. There is a lot to work with in the outfield for the Reds moving forward with the current crop of players.
Top Outfield Tools
This is the first position where every category is claimed by a different player. Starting at the top with defense there were several players in the running including Beau Amaral, Ryan LaMarre and Jose Siri. The arm was close as well with Rodriguez getting the edge over a few guys including Juan Duran and Aristides Aquino. The top hitting tool wasn’t too close as Jesse Winker projects to have a well above-average hit tool that is quite strong now and projects even better. The same thing goes for the power category. Juan Duran just stands out among the entire group even with several others having above-average power potential. When Duran hits the ball it’s just different from other guys. While he may not be able to use it as often because of his propensity to strikeout, very few players in the minor leagues can match his raw power. There are several plus runners in the Reds outfield throughout the organization only Billy Hamilton can rival the speed of Junior Arias in the entire organization.