This week we are going to take a look at the center field position on the farm for the Cincinnati Reds. The entire outfield at the big league level is uncertain as the team heads into the winter meetings next week. There are currently six outfielders on the 40-man roster, but it doesn’t appear that any of them are locked in as starters.
We’ll start with the Arizona Complex League Reds center fielder and look at Malvin Valdez. Cincinnati’s top international signing from 2021, Valdez spent his entire 2022 season in Arizona as an 18-year-old. He hit .219/.336/.307. It’s fair to say that he struggled at the plate. He walked at a good clip with 16 walks in 134 plate appearances, but he also struck out 38 times – a 28% strikeout rate. Valdez did steal 10 bases in 11 attempts. Valdez is a very good athlete, but his athleticism and raw tools are ahead of his baseball skills – particularly at the plate – right now.
Hector Rodriguez didn’t join the Reds organization until the trade deadline, starting the year with the New York Mets organization. The 18-year-old started the season in the Florida Complex League and hit .349/.381/.547 before the trade took place. After joining the Reds he spent a week in the Arizona Complex League – where he hit .400 – before joining Single-A Daytona. With the Tortugas he hit .289 in 13 games, but his season came to an end on September 3rd when he suffered a serious leg injury. The injury required surgery and he’s expected to miss the first couple of months of 2023 as he recovers. Prior to the injury he showed off good speed and was able to use it well on the bases and in the field. He struck out just 20 times in 196 trips to the plate, showing outstanding bat-to-ball skills during the season.
When the season began in Daytona it was Jay Allen II that was patrolling center for the Tortugas. Allen II was the 30th overall pick in 2021 and had a good debut in 19 games after the draft, but he struggled in full season ball. The 19-year-old hit .224/.359/.332 in the pitcher friendly Florida State League with 40 walks, 73 strikeouts, and 31 stolen bases in 73 games. Cincinnati moved Allen II up to High-A Dayton for the final month where he added 12 more steals, but hit just .230/.301/.297. Between the two stops he had an OPS of just .670 with three home runs in 91 games played. A good defender with above-average speed, Allen II can cover center well and as evidenced by his 43 steals, he can provide plenty of value on the bases. His bat will need to improve moving forward.
Allan Cerda almost didn’t get mentioned here. The outfielder was non-tendered following the season and removed from the 40-man roster. That also made him a free agent. Cerda, though, quickly re-signed with the Reds and remained in the organization. The 22-year-old began his season in High-A Dayton and hit .219/.370/.488 in 62 games while walking 42 times and striking out 91 times. Despite hitting for a low average and striking out 37% of the time he was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga at the midpoint of the season. With the Lookouts he also played in 62 games. His strikeout rate dropped to 30% and his walk rate remained identical, but the hitting stats didn’t follow as he managed a .198/.350/.401 line.
Between the two stops Cerda hit 24 home runs and added 22 doubles and a triple to that, showing off plenty of pop in his bat. Defensively he’s a strong defender with a plus arm. The tools are there, and he’s already using the defensive ones and his power in games, but the struggles making contact and hitting for average are areas that he’s got to improve on.
Michael Siani began his season in Double-A Chattanooga and the improvements he showed in the Arizona Fall League in 2021 carried forward into the 2022 season. Siani hit .252/.351/.404 with 64 walks, 90 strikeouts, and 49 stolen bases for the Lookouts in 121 games. The Reds promoted him to Triple-A Louisville for the final two weeks of the season and he picked up two home runs there, giving him 14 for the season – matching his career total entering the year. He also added three more stolen bases to push his total to 52 on the year. If the season ended there it would have been a good one, but the Reds called him up to the big leagues late in September and he got into nine games with Cincinnati.
The improvements made at the plate were a big step forward for a player who has long been known as one of the best defenders in the Reds organization. With plenty of speed and athleticism to go along with a strong arm, Siani’s defense has always stood out. His game became a bit more well rounded last year and while his time in Triple-A and the big leagues was limited, he’s close to being able to contribute at the highest level.
Cincinnati only drafted two outfielders in the 2022 draft and only signed one of them. They selected Justin Boyd in the 2nd round – 73rd overall – out of Oregon State. While he played mostly right field at Oregon State he’s viewed as a potential center fielder as a professional. He only played in 22 games after the draft, hitting .203/.277/.270 with four doubles and five steals. The tools are there for him to play center as he shows above-average speed and an above-average arm. Questions do remain about how much he’ll hit for both power and average.
There’s a lot of upside with this group. But there’s also a whole lot of question marks from top to bottom with this group, too. There’s a legitimate prospect that should be manning center at each stop in the farm system when 2023 begins, and four guys will be Top 25 prospects in the organization.
B-. The upside is definitely here with the group as all give players discussed could profile as every day big leaguers and several of them as above-average ones if things work out. But as noted in the overview, every single one of them has some questions that they need to answer, too. No one in the group looks like a sure-fire starting caliber center fielder right now. Three of the players flat out struggled to hit in 2022 – though Cerda did show plenty of power and he walked a lot. Hector Rodriguez did a whole lot of hitting, but he’s barely played in A-ball and the profile he has may be one where he’ll have to continue to show he can be aggressive with hit high-contact approach at each level. Siani is close to the big leagues and is the safest player among the group – he could probably be a solid 5th outfielder today on a roster if a team were to put him in that role. The defense and base running ability would provide value on it’s own. How much he’ll hit – and there are still some questions there – will determine just what kind of role he ultimately finds himself in.
Center Fielder Stats