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The Cincinnati Reds are in need of at least one corner outfielder for the 2016 season. With the rumors swirling that the Reds could be looking to trade Jay Bruce, they very well could be in need of two corner outfielders for the 2016 season.
Louisville had 15 different players appear in left field during the 2015 season and no one started more than 32 games at the position. Kyle Waldrop started 20 games at the position after earning a promotion from Pensacola earlier in the year. He had a solid first half with the Blue Wahoos, but he really struggled to make the adjustment in Triple-A, hitting just .185/.211/.229 in 55 games for the Bats. His walk rate was very low at both levels (under 5% in AA and under 4% in AAA) and his strikeout rate was at 24% and 25% at the two levels. Pitch recognition and pitch selection were issues for Waldrop and it led to a drop off in power from the year before and the pitchers in the International League were really able to exploit that part of his game in the second half.
In the first half of the season for Louisville, Steve Selsky spent time in left field and right field. In 202 plate appearances he would hit .317/.386/.428 with 19 walks and 44 strikeouts. His plate discipline was solid, but his power output was low and he was relying on a very high batting average on balls in play to put up that line (.407). Historically, Selsky has always had a high BABIP, but this was a new high and one that’s unsustainable. His season was cut short on June 19th after suffering a knee injury while running the bases.
Pensacola saw Jesse Winker get the most playing time in the corner outfield spots during 2015. After a very slow start to the season, hitting just .229/.343/.314 through May, the Reds top position prospect turned things around. After making some adjustments, Winker would hit .310/.414/.497 from June through the end of the season, showing off an all around ability to hit the ball with power and for average. He also has the best plate discipline in the system. Like the other two guys mentioned above, he’s capable of playing both left and right field, though left is viewed as a more likely destination.
After missing most of the first half of the season, Juan Duran returned to the field and after a short stint in the Arizona League where he would do some rehab, he joined Pensacola on July 1st. Things started well for Duran, posting an .811 OPS with 15 extra-base hits, but his strikeout rate was 34% in that frame. Over the final five weeks of the season the big strikeout rate caught up with him as he would post a line of .225/.250/.408 with just five walks and with 51 strikeouts in 128 plate appearances. The power is real, but the rest of his game has a long way to go before he’s ready for the big leagues.
Daytona saw a few corner outfielders throughout the season. Jeff Gelalich had the most playing time, getting 83 starts between the two corners. Things were brutal for Gelalich over the first three months of the season, hitting just .200/.317/.250 with a 30% strikeout rate. The next two months were better as he hit .325/.413/.433, but that came on the back of an incredibly unsustainable .528 batting average on balls in play over 141 plate appearances. His strikeout rate jumped up to 33% and he struggled to hit for power.
He shared the corner spots all season with Sebastian Elizalde. The Mexican native bookended his 2015 season with three real strong months in the middle of the year. From May through July the corner outfielder hit .284/.350/.455 with 33 extra-base hits in 78 games. He struggled in April and August/September though, posting an OPS under .600 between those two time frames. On the season he showed some power and a solid contact rate while being able to play both left and right field.
Brian O’Grady began the year with the Dayton Dragons, hitting .271/.385/.450 with 46 walks and 55 strikeouts in 305 plate appearances before earning a promotion to Daytona. With the Tortugas he had some struggles early on. In his first 29 games he would post a .133/.235/.200 line with a 29% strikeout rate. Over the final 16 games of the season he got things going in the right direction, hitting .354/.448/.604, cutting his strikeout rate down to 19%. He spent some time at all three spots in the outfield during the season, but projects better in the corners.
Aristides Aquino entered the year as the top prospect on the Dayton team after tearing up the Pioneer League in 2014. The season got out to a tough start in April and before the month was over he would hit the disabled list for over two months after being hit by a pitch and breaking a bone in his arm. He returned in late June on a rehab stint in Billings, played well for two weeks, but when he returned to Dayton he continued to struggle at the plate. On the season he would hit .234/.281/.364. He flashed some power, but his plate approach was very raw and limited his strong hitting tools.
Jimmy Pickens, like Aquino, got out to a slow start in the 2015 season. His OPS was under .600 through May. He was able to turn things around moving forward though. From June through the end of the year he hit .273/.316/.428. His plate discipline was a bit of an issue, even when he was hitting well later in the season, walking just 11 times with 54 strikeouts from June through September.
Down in Billings there were four guys who saw a majority of the playing time in the corners. Jonathan Martjin got 30 starts, all in left field or as a designated hitter. Things started out well as Martjin hit .302/.362/.407 in the first six weeks of the season. When the calendar flipped to August though, things slowed down. In the final five weeks of the year he would hit just .225/.263/.366 as his walk rate dropped and his strikeout rate jumped up.
Kevin Garcia would spend time in both corners, getting a total of 46 starts between left and right field. After missing the entire 2014 season with an injury, he returned to Billings (where he spent the final week of 2013) and performed well. On the season he would hit .317/.403/.399 with more walks than strikeouts and he would steal six bases in eight attempts. He didn’t hit for much power, smacking just one home run, but he showed strong plate discipline and an ability to hit for a good average.
Dalton Carter got inconsistent playing time, especially early in the season. Over the first four weeks he was only able to get into six games. In that span, unsurprisingly he hit just .167/.250/.167. While he wasn’t playing every day moving forward, he started to get into the lineup a few times a week and he made it count. From July 19th though the end of the season he would hit .293/.354/.573 in 82 plate appearances. He showed off solid plate discipline and a good amount of power despite not playing on a daily basis.
The final stop on the minor league tour is down in the Arizona Rookie League. Three guys shared most of the playing time. Satchel McElroy saw time in left, center and right, but most of his time came in left field. He struggled at the plate in his debut, hitting just .255/.303/.275 in 109 plate appearances. He had just one extra-base hit, a triple, and his plate discipline was not strong as he walked six times and had 26 strikeouts.
Raul Wallace made the trip to the US this season after two years in the Dominican Summer League. He would hit .285/.313/.447 on the season, showing some power and some average, but his plate discipline was a big concern. He walked just three times in 129 plate appearances and had 38 strikeouts.
Michael Beltre had a similar path as Wallace, making his US debut this year after two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He had some struggles at the plate, hitting .220/.273/.293. Plate discipline was an issue, walking just five times with 27 strikeouts.
Yorman Rodriguez and Phillip Ervin were both included in the center field article. Reydel Medina was covered with the first basemen.
Having Jesse Winker gives the position a premium prospect at the position, but after that, while there is some depth, most of the guys seem to be more backup types of guys with a few who could possibly be starters, but have a lot of work to do in order to get there. There are several guys talked about in the center field article that could eventually wind up in the corners, which makes the Reds look better overall, but costs this particular group in the overall grade.
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