The Cincinnati Reds have announced that they have called up outfielder Steve Selsky from Triple-A Louisville.
Steve Selsky was originally drafted in the 33rd round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft by the Cincinnati Reds. The team sent the 21-year-old to Arizona where he beat up on the pitching at the complex level. That got him a short call up to Billings late in the season. Between the two stops he managed to hit .311/.413/.585 with 17 walks and 24 strikeouts in 28 games.
The next year he went to Dayton, and was solid, hitting .281/.322/.395 in the first half with 12 walks and 49 strikeouts. Selsky was promoted to Bakersfield at midseason and once he got into the hitter friendly California League he was able to run through the league, hitting .348/.420/.618 with 21 doubles and 15 home runs in the second half of the season.
He returned to Bakersfield the next season and while he performed well, his numbers did decline in the second go-around. After hitting .297/.388/.497 in 91 games he was promoted to Double-A Pensacola for the final five weeks of the season. He struggled mightily in that span, posting a .486 OPS. On his return in 2014 to Pensacola things improved for Selsky, hitting .301/.410/.367. His power disappeared, but he began hitting for average again. After half of the season he was sent to Louisville and saw a decline in his production, hitting just .240 and seeing his strikeout rate jump way up.
The 2015 season was one where the outfielder returned to Louisville and he had gotten out to a nice start, hitting .317/.386/.428 with 19 walks and 44 strikeouts before going down with a knee injury that would cost him the entire second half of the season. He returned to the Bats outfield in 2016 and so far he’s started 35 games and hit .275/.380/.383 with 10 doubles and a home run to go along with 19 walks and 33 strikeouts.
Throughout his career, when he’s been in very hitter friendly environments, he’s shown off power. But outside of Arizona and Bakersfield he has managed to hit just 9 career home runs in 1077 plate appearances. While Cincinnati is certainly a power friendly ballpark, don’t expect Selsky to show off much home run power.
What he has been able to do, particularly this year, is show a strong walk rate. In 2016 he’s walked in 13.4% of his plate appearances. On the flip side, he’s also struck out 23.3% of the time he’s stepped to the plate, which isn’t overly high, but it could mean there may be some struggles at the big league level in making contact as well. Since 2014 he’s been able to overcome a strikeout rate in the low 20% range by posting very high batting average on balls in play with it being over .380 in 2014 and 2015 and sitting at .368 in 2016. Only one player in baseball has been able to post a BABIP that high in the big leagues that high since 2014 began, Odubel Herrera. The combination of a very high BABIP, low home run pop and a sort-of high strikeout rate could lead to struggles at the big league level at the plate. If he can be the rare guy who is able to have a BABIP north of .350 then he could probably carry a solid average. That’s not a good bet, but he’s been able to do it consistently in the minor leagues so it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing to see either.
On the defensive side of things, Selsky is a corner outfielder at the big league level. In the minor leagues he’s played center field a few times in his career, but that’s not going to happen at the Major League level as he simply doesn’t have the speed to make that work. He’s also played plenty at first base, but that’s not going to be a spot that could be open in Cincinnati for the taking. As a corner player without much power, it’s going to see how the Reds use Selsky, and for how long he’s going to stay up with the team. They had to open a spot for him on the 40-man roster by designating reliever Drew Hayes for assignment, but he took the spot of pitcher Tim Adleman on the big league roster. Soon enough the team will need to bring up another starting pitcher to replace Adleman and this could just be a few day call up for the outfielder. Hopefully he gets a chance to get into a game or two and get his feet wet, unlike we have seen over the past two years with other call ups who came up and sat on the bench for 2-3 days, never got into a game and then went back to Louisville.