In this week’s piece in the series we are going to look at the corner outfielders for the Cincinnati Reds. With the entire outfield in Cincinnati currently without a for-sure starter on the 40-man roster there is both a need and plenty of opportunity for guys in the farm system to step up and step in.
Starting down in the Dominican Summer League there were two guys that jumped out in their debut seasons. We’ll start by talking about Carlos Sanchez. The 17-year-old saw action at third base as well as right field, but he posted a .788 fielding percentage at third base so there’s reason to think there’s a decent chance he winds up as an outfielder down the line. At the plate is where he really stood out in 2022, hitting .355/.506/.442 with 14 stolen bases, 40 walks, and just 28 strikeouts in 182 plate appearances. It’s the lowest level of professional baseball, but Sanchez also had one of the best debuts we’ve seen from an international signing in recent years (and there have been more than a few good ones).
While Carlos Sanchez wound up putting together an outstanding season, it was Esmith Pineda that was turning heads early in the year for the DSL Reds. One of the bigger signings in the Reds 2022 international signing class, Pineda hit .367/.456/.592 in the first three weeks of the season with seven walks and nine strikeouts in 57 plate appearances. But that’s also the point where his season came to an end as he suffered an ankle injury that would cost him the remainder of the season.
Out in Arizona it was Reds 19th rated prospect Ariel Almonte that stood out in the corners. He was one of the Reds big international signings in 2021 and after a good debut season that year he came out and hit better this past year. With the team out in Goodyear he hit .286/.390/.493 with 17 extra-base hits, 21 walks, and 49 strikeouts in 164 plate appearances. He spent all of his time in right field when he was playing defense (he was the designated hitter a few times during the season). Reports out of Arizona were good for the most part, though he’s going to likely need to cut down on the strikeouts some.
When the season began in Daytona Austin Hendrick found himself back with the Single-A Tortugas after spending his season there in 2021. In some ways things went better and in some ways things went worse. He matched his home run total in 36 games (versus 63 games in 2021), but he hit just .205/.297/.402 and saw his walk rate drop off big time while his strikeout rate remained through the roof (40%). Despite those struggles he was promoted to join High-A Dayton in late May. Things didn’t improve there for the ten weeks as he hit .207/.271/.402 with 11 walks and 75 strikeouts in 181 plate appearances. But when August rolled around things started improving and over the final six weeks of the season the 2020 1st round pick hit .247/.373/.526 with 18 walks and 32 strikeouts in 118 plate appearances. Six weeks is a small sample size compared to his career to this point, but it’s the first stretch he’s shown an ability to make contact at an acceptable rate, and he did so while showing off big power and drawing plenty of walks. It’s worth keeping an eye on for 2023 to see if he can continue with those improvements.
Rece Hinds, the Reds #15 prospect, began his season in Dayton, and much like Austin Hendrick he struggled to put the bat on the ball. In April, Hinds struck out 33 times in 66 plate appearances and hit just .138. He was able to get things turned around a bit and over the next two months he hit .284/.351/.470 with 52 strikeouts in 148 plate appearances. That’s still a higher strikeout rate than you’d like to see, but it moved in the right direction. Unfortunately he missed two months after breaking his hamate bone int he middle of the season. When he returned in late August he hit .250/.292/.536 in the final 20 games of the year – including a call up to Double-A for the final week of the year. He’s struggled to stay healthy since being drafted, leading to less playing time than you’d like to see. Hinds is going to need to make more contact, but his power, speed, and arm strength are all plus tools that play well.
TJ Hopkins began the year in Chattanooga where he hit 17 home runs and put up an .800 OPS for the Lookouts in 101 games. The Reds promoted him to Triple-A for the final month of the year. Things were going well, as he hit .306/.367/.542 in the first 20 games, but a final week slump dropped his OPS down to .757. While he’s had some experience in center he profiles better in the corners where his range isn’t quite as stretched.
Yerlin Confidan was a Top 25 prospect entering the year but spent most of the season injured and managed just 103 plate appearances on the season – hitting .241/.359/.391. In 2021 he won the MVP of the Arizona Complex League while leading the league in home runs and posting an OPS of .932. There’s good power in his bat, and his walk rate took a big jump this season in limited action.
Jack Rogers crushed the ball in his final two seasons at Sam Houston State, posting an OPS of 1.148 and 1.170 before the Reds selected him in the 9th round in 2021. In 2022 he struggled in April with High-A Dayton, hitting just .097 in 21 games. Cincinnati sent him to Daytona where he’d play the rest of the year. He turned things around in a big way, hitting .285/.357/.510 with the Tortugas and posting high exit velocity numbers while doing so. He’s a bit older than you want to see for a guy who has struggled in High-A, but he’s worth keeping an eye on as a potential break out guy in 2023.
The corner outfield spots have plenty of upside throughout the farm. There are plenty of unanswered questions with a lot of that upside, too.
B-. Just like the group in center – there are a handful of corner guys here that could profile as big league starters if things go right in their development and a few who could be above-average players. But between the guys who are still in rookie ball and the guys with big time question marks in full season ball there’s no one who looks like a for-sure big leaguer here, either. With the Reds in need of outfielders the 2023 season could be big for anyone who can step up and take their game to the next level.
Corner Outfielder Stats