2012 Reds

Left Field

What should the Reds do with left field? That’s the glaring hole that remains on this roster; well, at least, it’s the biggest hole.

That question precisely is the focus of this piece by Dave Cameron. We all like Chris Heisey, but Cameron points out why the Reds need to be looking for an upgrade:

They’ve done well so far, but while the roster is almost done, they still have a pretty glaring need in the outfield. Their 40-man roster currently only contains four outfielders, and one of those is Denis Phipps, a 26-year-old who spent most of last season at Double-A. Not only do they lack depth behind projected starters Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and Chris Heisey, there’s a good case to be made that they should be looking to get better production in left field than what Heisey could give them.

Heisey has some positive attributes – most notably his power and athleticism, which translates into solid defense in left field – but he’s also got some notable flaws. The most obvious thing holding him back is his contact rate (72.3% for his career), which is among the worst in baseball. The only players who got 500+ plate appearances in the Majors and made contact less often than that last year were Mark Reynolds, Miguel Olivo, Mike Stanton, Ryan Howard, Carlos Pena, Kelly Johnson, and Corey Hart. Now, that seems like a pretty decent list of comparable players, but they all (besides Olivo, who is a catcher) do something Heisey doesn’t do – draw walks.

I like Cameron’s suggested solution, as well:

So, what are the options? Heisey’s presence as a right-handed hitter with power (ignore his reverse platoon splits – they’re meaningless in this kind of sample) create a natural opportunity for a platoon in left field, giving the Reds the chance to acquire a guy who can hit RHPs but could use regular days off when a southpaw is on the hill. And, because they are running low on cash after signing Madson, they could use a player who doesn’t come with a big salary.

Lucky for them, that exact player is on the market – the Colorado Rockies have been shopping Seth Smith all winter, and after their signing of Michael Cuddyer, he’s lost his chance to play regularly in Denver. His projected salary of around $2 million via arbitration fits into the Reds’ budget, and Smith could thrive as a platoon player in Cincinnati.

Go read the rest of the article; there’s much, much more food for thought in Cameron’s piece. My initial reaction is that platoon could be very effective. What do you think?

34 thoughts on “Left Field

  1. Yeah, I agree with Cameron here, too. The comments on this are especially astute and do a good job of showing why Heisey is unlikely to continue with his reverse-platoon splits. I think a platoon in left would be great.

  2. I would welcome the platoon if theres a clear upgrade(i.e. seth smith) but would not with someone who is the same or worse(i.e. all those free agent bums). To be honest though, i’d rather give heisey the benefit of the doubt, give him the everyday job. If he succeeds most of the time, hes a 6-8 hole hitter with power, and thatd be stellar. If he falters, we have time for our minor leaguers to gain steam as prospects, the 8 million in reserve, and teams that begin to have clear losing seasons and want to unload players(i’m looking at you L.A. Dodgers). Also, if we give heisey time and he does well and theres something else that goes wrong, like an injury or an unexplainable(or expected, in rolens case) decline in performance, then maybe we’ll be able to make a deal for that whole.

    Reiteration: I’d be more than pleased with Seth smith, Brett Gardner, Emilio Bonifacio, Adam Jones or B.J. Upton(Smith and Jones are the only two i know are available). Other than one of those trades, i’ll trust heisey unabashedly and wait to see what unfolds. That 8 mil could be real nice in July, especially if Heisey plays better than expected.

  3. Even if you think the Reds should give Heisey a fair shot–and I’m inclined to agree with that approach–they still have to make some move, even if minor. They need another OF for the roster, plain and simple.

  4. I think that Heisey’s reverse platoon splits are definitely a small sample size mirage, but I still don’t know if I want to bother with Seth Smith. He’s a decent ball player, but I really don’t like the idea of trading away a prospect or two for a guy who is a platoon player. If he was an FA, I’d be okay with signing him to a reasonable deal. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

  5. @per14: Frazier is more than capable. no one considers him an of, but he can play lf effectively. Whenever one of our OF need a day off, put frazier in left, heisey in one of the other two spots. They dont NEED to make a move.

  6. One thing that I KEEP reading is about Phipps being a prospect. He’s had 1 decent season in the minor leagues after 5 horrible ones. I’m a long way from believing that he’s a prospect (at 25), but I do hope he proves me wrong this season.

  7. I’ve said all along that I think they need to go all in again for a big bat which in all likelihood would would be a LF on the defensive side of the bat. All I am going to offer here for now is more of an explanation of why I believe that.

    The Latos deal was what I would call a two way deal. It was good for now and also for the future. However the Marshall deal and the (presumptive) Madson signing are clearly one way transactions. They are were made only to enhance the Reds chances in 2012.

    So, if a team has taken a course which guts their farm system and leaves themselves short of MLB depth, based on hopes of moving deep into the playoffs this year, it makes no sense not to finish the job by fixing the LF sink hole.

    Also a team going all in needs Chris Heisey where he can do the most good; and that is as the fourth OF and with his pinch hit heroics off the bench. In this sense they could actually make the team weaker at two positions because if they use Heisey as the starter, then they don’t have him to spot into leverage situations off the bench; and they are not likely to replace him with some as skilled in that role if they use him as a starter.

    So while I would like to seem them make a world beater move for a big bat, at the least they need someone who would be just as good as Heisey every day or some who could deliver off the bench like Heisey.

  8. What about third base? Rolen was injured half the year and put up pretty crappy numbers at that. Isn’t anyone concerned about what is going to happen there? As for me, I think we have too many hitters who strike out 1/4 of the time.

    • What about third base? Rolen was injured half the year and put up pretty crappy numbers at that. Isn’t anyone concerned about what is going to happen there? As for me, I think we have too many hitters who strike out 1/4 of the time.

      Completely agree. 3B will be filled by Francisco when Rolen isn’t available, but playing a guy like Heisey every day is going to put the lineup into strikeout overload. Seth Smith or Kosuke Fukodome are the only names that have come up in the last week or so that I could support joining the Reds.

  9. @Truman48: I agree 3B is a concern but I feel like they have reasonable depth there in a mix of Cairo, Frazier, and Francisco. If they do end up making a trade for a LF bat however, the likelihood is that one of the latter two may end up in that deal.

    Neither Frazier nor Francisco are Rolen in the field but they aren’t that bad (a lot of folks need to get over seeing EE when they look at Francisco. At this point he has done the work and progressed beyond that level).

  10. @TC: Maybe if I didn’t leave out words 😀

    My eyes are misbehaving this week. so pardon my garbage and omissions. Hopefully the point is getting through.

  11. Chris Heisey hit .271 and 17 HR against righties. Against lefties it was another story: .197 and 1HR.

    Seth Smith hit .299 and 14HR against righties. Against lefties he it .217 and 1HR.

    This is not a good platoon.

  12. @Gregg: That was only 61 at-bats vs LHP last year. Heisey has not had that kind of problem throughout his minor league career, so I would consider his LHP “problems” so far in his ML career to be just small sample size issues.

    Heisey hit 339/418/506 against LHP in the minors (450 at-bats) and 285/357/446 against RHP (2006-2010.)

    AAA vs LHP: 310/402/507
    AA vs LHP: 372/464/574

    AAA vs RHP: 265/318/448
    AA vs RHP: 333/394/550

  13. I’m not sure how I feel about a platoon situation in LF. It has worked in the past I suppose but I’d really prefer an every day guy. Someone already said this, I don’t recall who, but it bares repeating: if you are going to further empty your farm system to trade for a left fielder, it doesn’t make sense to get a platoon guy.

    IMO, Seth Smith is the best candidate, though I must confess I’m making that judgement purely from his stats. I don’t recall seeing him play. But if they trade for Seth Smith, I would prefer he be the every day LF and Heisey be the 4th OF which I’ve said time and time again, is the position he most helps the team.

  14. It’s funny how analysis for a so-called expert can change so many minds. A week ago OhioJim and Al were the only ones says this. Their arguments brought me around. Now it seems most agree. Very strange but I like that it also means most of the people here are thoughtful and careful about their judgements.

    I enjoy arguing with you fellows.

  15. @TC: The only problem is the Seth Smith has proven over multiple years that he cannot hit LHP. That’s why teams, Rockies included, are only looking at him as a LH option.

  16. I wouldn’t trade Frazier for Smith. You’d still just have 4 OFers on the projected 25-man roster, and Phipps is still your 5th.

    I agree with Bill on Phipps. Would like to hope his year last year was repeatable, but I’m going to have to reside in Missouri on his chances of repeating that in AAA (let alone the majors.)

    If the price & Reds budget agree, I’d prefer to see them get Fukudome in free agency and retain Frazier.

    Given that there are still SP avaiable in free agency, and the LF players are fairly weak, the Reds could persue something like trading Homer Bailey for a starting leftfielder (you may have to include a AA prospect like Gregorius), then turn around and sign Roy Oswalt for Bailey’s rotation spot. I’d imagine that would stretch what’s left of the budget, according to Jason’s post last week, but I’d bet signing Oswalt (and depending on who the LFer was) would give a little boost to season ticket sales.

    I wouldn’t trade Bailey for Smith. The teams were talk Volquez for Smith earlier in the offseason, and IMO Bailey > Volquez.

  17. Here’s the other problem w/ Seth Smith that no one has mentioned yet:

    Smith (career, in Coors): .296/.366/.559
    Smith (career, on road): .257/.332/.418

  18. For some reason in my gut I don’t hate the Seth Smith idea. I would even welcome that trade, in as much as I wouldn’t openly complain right away, if it were to happen. However, I still say we wait. Patience has helped us so far. If we wait and Adam Jones becomes available, I’d rather wait and let that happen. There will be options available in middle July, we’ll have names we’ll be able to sell high on, and the money to swing a deal. Patience has been the word thus far. Keep it up.

  19. @Dan: Uhhh, that’s very interesting. Nice find.

    @hermanbates: What have you heard about Adam Jones? I’d love to have Adam Jones. That would have the team complete in my mind.

  20. Adam Jones is not available. The O’s want a whole championship team as balance for a trade. The asking price is too high. Whoa, you got me exciting for a second though.

  21. I think what they need is a RH bat that can strike a fear in other teams. Votto is obviously in a class of 4 or 5 in all of baseball but there has to be a RH stick around good enough to force the opposition to pitch Votto honestly or still pay the price. Rolen was that for half a season in 2010 and look at the difference it made.

    In a year or two Meso may be that kind of bat but he doesn’t figure to be this year; and since they are on the win now plan. they need that bat now. Cody Ross’s occasional power probably fits that bill (especially at the GABP) or they could make a really big trade.

  22. @TC: I’m saying wait. If the Orioles are way out of it by mid July, and we offer a Bailey and a hot prospect or two after the draft? It’s unreasonable now. But if in 6 months they’re still bottom feeders…it’d be intelligent for them to move him. And we could be patient and snatch him up.

  23. So Cameron writes that Heisey’s athleticism and defense are a plus, right? But that he’s concerned about strikeouts? …

    Welcome to the Reds, but let me introduce you to Drew Stubbs. He has batted leadoff predominantly despite a strikeout rate that stood last year, I believe, at 30 percent of plate appearances. It seems like if we’re going to really worry about strikeouts, we might look there as well.

    In checking some numbers, Chris Heisey’s strikeout-to-plate-appearance rate has stood at about 25 percent for both of his seasons, despite having many of his at-bats come in pinch-hit or late inning replacement scenarios where he rarely sees the same pitcher twice in a game. ………Stubbs’ strikeout rate has gone from 25 percent to 28 percent to 30 percent as his plate appearances per season have increased.

    In power numbers, Heisey’s home-run-to-plate-appearance rate went from .035 to .058 from his first year to his second. Those numbers for Stubbs have gone from .040 to .038 to .022.

    Now, generally, guys that hit for a lot of power tend to strike out a lot, no? I think maybe we’re overreacting to Heisey’s strikeout numbers when considering the offense we might be asking him to provide as the everyday left-fielder.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it: If we find a clearly better option as an everyday left-fielder, sure, I’m all in favor. But some of the platoon talk, especially if we’re gonna give up talent in trade to get a platoon partner, seems like a reach. I’d like to see a full season, or at least a solid few months of Heisey, before I decide what he can or cannot do. ..

    I might even suggest that, if Stubbs can’t get any better at the plate, maybe the Reds look at moving him and putting Heisey in center field. Stubbs covers more ground because he has more pure footspeed, but he’s been known to get twisted around going for flyballs as well. And I’m not sure the difference in defense he might provide over the course of a season would counter the better offense we could get offensively.

  24. Why the platoon talk at all? Heisey has had enough ABs against righties to give reason to believe he is capable of putting up those numbers. I agree that the sample vs lefties is too small, and it is very likely that he will hit better against them given more chances. So can’t we at least reasonably believe that he may be a decent everyday player?

  25. realistically, what LF could the Reds get via a big trade. not any of the free agents. whether it be now or closer to the deadline?

  26. Gerardo Parra is without a doubt a proven Gold Glove IN 2011. COMPARE: Parra 12 assist with 5 double plays,Bruce 10 and 1. Stubb 8 AND 2DP in 160g.Heisey got 2 assist and 0 dp. At bat compare:
    x lefties x righties total
    G. Parra .277 .296 .292
    J. Bruce .240 .263 .256
    C. Heisey .197 .271 .254
    D. Stubbs .319 .226 .243
    it is a .36 % above the rest and last yr.salary 425,000. He is not a power as Bruce by far much contact. He is the best including Set Smith and FA.
    A trade for Nick Masset is solid. We have excess pen.

  27. @Greg Dafler: Then look at his 89 AB in 2010 where he batted .169 vs lefties and .320 vs righties. It’s a pattern. In over 150 AB against MAJOR league lefties, he is batting below .200.

  28. @Gregg: Still too small of a sample. 150 at-bats is still barely a month and a half in total. If he had trouble against lefties in the minors, too, then I’d agree about the reverse platoon splits.

  29. 150 AB is an entire season against left handed pitching. Look at Votto last year. He played 161 games and had 174 AB against lefties. It’s not a small sample against left handers. If I were a betting man, I would take a sample of 150AB from the last 2 years against major league pitching over a sample of 400+AB from 2005-2009 from all minor league levels.

  30. The # of appearances in a particular split is not what makes it a large or small sample. There are plenty of splits in a single season, or even multiple seasons, that don’t comprise a large enough sample. IMO, he didn’t consistently crush LH minor leaguers at a much greater clip then rh minor leaguers, then have the opposite problem in the majors.

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