In the days leading up to Opening Day, we’ll be previewing The State Of The Reds at every single position on the field. Check out the previous installments of our Redleg Nation 2018 Season Preview series:

Catcher
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop
Center Field
Bullpen


Heading into the offseason, the Reds outfield appeared to be ripe for trading away excess talent and freeing up a position for Jesse Winker. Naturally, no one was traded but rather a veteran outfielder was signed to a minor league deal and has been added to the mix in spring training. Unfortunately, the signing was Ben Revere and not Ichiro, as some Reds fans had been hoping for. Regardless of who was signed, the team continues to have a surplus of warm bodies who can play in the outfield and there are still only three places to put them, one of which is right field.

2018 Starter(s)

The two candidates for the starting right fielder job are the incumbent, Scott Schebler, and the rookie, Jesse Winker. In 2017, Schebler accumulated 1.4 fWAR as the starter while Winker showed promise in the little time he was given. Winker did not qualify as a rookie and remained a top 100 prospect in the eyes of most rankings. He has been working towards the show for some time now and appears to be over the minor leagues after five-plus years.  However, Schebler is no scrub and showed top-notch power last year (.252 ISO) as well as improvement with getting the ball into the air, a good combination. If you factor out the month of July and his wRC+ of 20 that was driven by a bum shoulder, his season looks much better and makes one think twice about simply handing Winker the job.

Enter Bryan Price, who has openly discussed that he intends to utilize a four-man outfield rotation throughout the season. This will allow Winker the opportunity to get his first full-season’s worth of playing time while also providing the veterans with adequate rest. This may not be the perfect situation but it is certainly better than throwing Schebler in right field every single day and letting Winker ride the bench. Winker has the potential to be a cornerstone type player in the long-term and this is the right move to continue his development. At the same time, Schebler has shown he should not be overlooked as a key offensive piece in 2018 and has earned a share of the playing time.

2018 Backup

Given that the four-man outfield essentially takes up a bench spot, the Reds will presumably only spend one additional roster spot on an outfielder. That spot is currently being contended by the recently signed Ben Revere, Phillip Ervin, and Patrick Kivlehan.

Primarily a left fielder in 2017, Revere is a 2007 first round pick who has put together a handful of decent seasons while playing for six major league teams in seven years. His value is driven almost completely from defense and baserunning, which may sound similar to another current outfielder. Revere has accumulated -1.2 fWAR over the past two seasons and figures to be on the outside looking in for a roster spot.

Phillip Ervin is the Reds’ 2013 first round draft pick and slashed .259/.317/.448 in his 28-game cup of coffee with the big-league team last year. Unfortunately for Ervin, his minor league production took a step backward as he slashed .256/.328/.380 in 99 games with Louisville. The fact that he can play centerfield helps his case a bit, but keeping Ervin on the Reds bench this year would not do him as much good as getting regular time at AAA. If he shows improvement, he can certainly work his way back into the conversation and could be a solid backup outfielder down the road.

That brings us to last year’s fourth outfielder, Patrick Kivlehan. In 204 plate appearances last year Kivlehan produced an 83 wRC+ and -0.2 fWAR. He provides above average power which is good to have on the bench, but his calling card is his defensive versatility. Although he didn’t excel at any of them, he played all outfield spots along with 1B and 3B last year, which would help bolster the bench given the four-man outfield rotation. This seems like the safe bet that the Reds are destined to go with.

The Future

Down on the farm there are a few players who could make their way to the majors within the next couple of years. Sebastian Elizalde has cut down on strikeouts since his A-ball season but has lost almost all of his power. He was a below average hitter last year in AAA and will need to improve to have any chance at a backup role in the future. Tyler Goeddel played all over the outfield last year as he did well in Pensacola and held his own after a mid-season promotion to Louisville. He would also do well to find some power, as he only managed one homerun in 214 AAA appearances. Aristedes Aquino was added to the 40-man roster following his breakout 2016 in Daytona (.273/.327/.519) but followed that up with a dud performance last year in Pensacola (.216/.282/.397). Still considered a top-20 prospect in the Reds’ farm system, Aristedes has the most potential of this group and could become a major league contributor.

Ultimately, all this does is bring us back to the top and the fact that Jesse Winker has made it to the majors and is here to stay. He has performed at every level of the minor leagues, despite the drop in power at AAA. His plate discipline is super strong and helps give him a future value Hit Tool of 70 according to FanGraphs. It also doesn’t hurt that he will get to spend more time around Joey Votto, who seems to make everyone around him better. I expect Winker to have a strong rookie showing and earn the full-time job for 2019 and the foreseeable future.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Matt ironically became a diehard Reds fan while living in Pittsburgh and experiencing the 2013 Wild Card game. He is currently living in the land without baseball, Portland, OR, where you can find him exploring the great outdoors whenever he is not watching the Reds.

Join the conversation! 17 Comments

  1. The future could include Siri or Aquino, too. If Siri and Trammel both progress as prospects, I could see an outfield with Winker in LF, Trammel in CF and Siri in RF as he has the best arm of those 3.

    Aquino will need to improve at the plate or he’ll fall off the prospect lists by the end of the season.

  2. Does MLB know something the Reds don’t? I see, in a story they list WJ as Cardinals executive advisor.

    • Could it be that WJ is advising both the Reds and Cardinals? It’s time that our recently appointed GM have full management responsibilities.

  3. Nice read Matthew.
    However, in your hyping up of Scott Schebler, you didn’t take into account that he struggles mightily hitting in a hitter’s park, GABP. You mentioned his shoulder injury and attribute it for his July struggles. When Schebler came off of the DL he played in 12 games in 2 weeks in August and hit to the tune of .351/.432/730 in 44 PA’s. But for September, Schebler hit to the tune of .202/.263/.427 in 99 PA’s with 33 K’s. He was healthy, I don’t recall any news of re-injuring his shoulder. What do you attribute to his absolutely horrible September? He wasn’t injured.
    How do you explain Schebler’s not being able to hit at GABP? He hit .198/.298/.387 in 258 PA’s at GABP. He hit .182/.309/.390 in 191 PA’s vs. RHP at GABP.
    How do you account for Schebler having a SLG% -.183 lower at home and an OPS -.199 lower at home? Schebler plays 81 games in GABP.
    Some may want to cite that Schebler is hitting .475 in spring training so far this year. But guess what? Goodyear Park is not Great American Ball Park.
    Get this straight.
    Jesse Winker is the Right Fielder. Scott Schebler is the 4th Outfielder.

    • Small sample sizes.

      How do you account for him hitting worse at home than on the road?

      • It is hard to come up with an answer. Sometimes some players just struggle in certain venues and excel in others. In 2016 with a few hundred less PA’s his splits were almost the opposite. So, there is a glimmer of hope.
        I know this though, if I am the opposing manager in a game at GABP, if Schebler is starting, I’m throwing a RH pitcher. And I am also employing an infield shift against him almost every time he comes to bat. What good is a 98 mph exit velocity if it is hit straight into the teeth of the shift? Lots of 4-3 put outs and 4-6-3 DP’s.
        My worry with Schebler was his September. Two weeks after coming off of the DL for 3 weeks and being fresh and healthy, the wheels fell off for him. There was no playoff pressure in September for the Reds. No known injury or re-injury. No being worn out at season’s end, he just came off of a 3 week vacation.
        Schebler has been worth exactly a 2.0 fWAR in his 1 1/2 seasons of PA’s with the Reds. Heck fire, I would want my big hitting RF to put up a 2.0 fWAR in half a season or so. Winker will surely come close to that.
        I hope I am wrong about Schebler and he has a good year hitting. That will be good for the team. But I see more of the .233 hitter who gets on base less than 31% of the time. If he gets his BABIP up, maybe he is a .250 hitter with power.
        When Schebler plays CF, what will be the over/under in each game on the times we’ll say, “Hamilton would have had made that play or throw”? I have this feeling it is going to be more often than most think it’ll be. I am not looking forward to Schebler in CF. I fear the day Senzel is playing SS or 2B and Schebler is in CF, a short pop up is hit behind 2nd base and everyone is going full tilt for the ball.

    • You keep beating this drum and it’s getting a little silly. Asserting that a 200 PAs of bad home performance mean he’ll never his at GABP is just weird. Schebler is probably going to muster something just north of an .800 OPS assuming he’s healthy all year. Like all high strikeout hitters, he will likely have large in-season swing in productivity. (See: Jay Bruce and Adam Duvall) There is absolutely no reason to take one partial season of home/road split and extrapolate. Spring stats are more meaningful than those splits and spring stats don’t mean anything.

      • If this was St. Louis, they would have already traded Schebler. The Cardinals seem to have a handle on evaluating their own in-house talent fairly competently. They don’t have to go outside their own organization for that.

        • Did Scott Schebler steal your puppy or something?

          It seems to me you’ve used flimsy evidence to support a decision you’ve already made about a player.

          I don’t think anyone here thinks Schebler is an all-star, but he’s probably better than Adam Duvall and certainly good enough – in the face of last year’s injuries – to get 400+ plate appearances with the Reds this year.

    • Seriously? For virtually EVERYTHING you just said, the total opposite happened in 2016. In 2016, Schebler torched the ball at GABP, and didn’t hit on the road.

    • I am not saying he is perfect but I think he is an above average right fielder and considering Winker’s small sample size in the MLB so far I think it is fair to view them at the same level. For now at least.

  4. One thing about Schebler that I’ve noticed is this….he would suck at poker. He does not have a poker face like most MLB players. I heard him say that he struggled with confidence in 2016. I’m sure that happens to most young players, but they can hide it better then Schebler. That plus his long swing is going to make him super streaky. If he can master that elusive confidence then watch out because he’s 27.5 and right in his prime. Personally I’d play him in CF as much as possible. I’d give Winker 500+ atbats and maybe 400 apiece for Duvall and Schebler. Billy/Ervin get the rest.

  5. Nice write-up. Glad you mentioned the 2016 stats in your comment to balance out the 2017 per hitting at GABP. I can’t imagine there’s any real reason why someone would hit worse at GABP than anywhere else. Plus his stated determination and practice hitting the opposite way should help reduce the shifts that teams used on him. Looking forward to an offense that includes Scheb, Winker and Duvall MOST of the time (and hope that Price makes that happen).

  6. The power that Kivelhan provides against LHP is valuable for this 18′ team and maybe beyond 18′? Hopefully he is the one that gets one of the 2 or 3 available roster spot’s and Phil Ervin gets daily ab’s in AAA.

    Hopefully the outfield rotation will be handled well, not holding my breath though.

  7. Nice work, Matt. Enjoyed this post.

  8. Good write up. It seems that this year Schebler and Winker will get almost all of the playing time in RF. But I don’t see Winker there long-term; he’s a left fielder in my eyes because of his defensive limitations. Because of that the future in RF seems murky — Schebler could plant his flag their for a few more years with a solid, healthy season. Or maybe the Reds finally get smart and play their best defensive corner outfielder — Adam Duvall — there and he has a breakout year. Could Senzel move there? Or Siri if Billy stays in center? Will Aquino regain form this year? There are lots of questions surrounding the 2nd corner outfield spot in the years ahead.

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About Matthew Habel

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Matt ironically became a diehard Reds fan while living in Pittsburgh and experiencing the 2013 Wild Card game. He is currently living in the land without baseball, Portland, OR, where you can find him exploring the great outdoors whenever he is not watching the Reds.

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