Hello Redleg Nation and welcome to 2019 Reds baseball. I may not be Ty Pennington but I wanted to use my first post this year to take a look at one of the most revamped units on this Reds squad: the outfield. Last June I wrote about the rock bottom depths of offensive production that the team has gotten from the outfielders, which included this extremely telling and depressing graph.

This graph is essentially saying that the 2014-2018 outfielder produced the 4th lowest wRC+ in baseball history over a 5-year span. WAR tells a slightly better story thanks to the defense, but not by much.

For all the talk of the 4-man rotation to start 2018, an Adam Duvall decline/trade paired with Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler injuries left last season’s group in much worse shape than expected. And not to put all the blame on Chad’s adulthood hero, but Billy is the common denominator across this entire time frame.

Looking ahead to this year, however, Billy no longer plays for the Reds. It was a somewhat surprising move given there is not a true replacement on the current roster, but it signaled a new direction for 2019. And while most of the focus this off-season was on improving the pitching, the front office did not forget about the outfield. They made some key acquisitions, as well as an internal move, to give the outfield a much needed refresh.

Fresh Faces

The headline acquisition from a position player aspect is undoubtedly Yasiel Puig. Puig had always been a love-him or hate-him type of player. But now that he wears the wishbone C, he is much easier to love, especially after looking at his numbers. No, he is not going to hit like his first season and a half (160 and 147 wRC+, respectively). And yes, he has had some struggles and injury issues the past few years. But through all the ups and downs he still holds a career slash line of .279/.353/.478/.831, which is good for a 129 wRC+. His ZiPS projection for 2019 is a 118 wRC+ (one of the more conservative projections) along with 2.7 WAR.

Without even going into his defensive value (he has a laser arm) or his entertainment value (bat flips and bat licks), Puig is a great addition to a Reds roster that was in dire need of a refresh. He may not be a long-term solution as he is in his final year of team control, but he will almost certainly make a positive impact in 2019.

Another new face to the outfield came over in the same trade as Puig, and that would be Matt Kemp. Kemp is a bit of a different story, entering his age-34 season as a 13-year veteran. He has had his ups and down as well, including his first below average offensive season in 2017 with Atlanta. He followed that with a comeback reunion in Los Angeles last year, posting a 122 wRC+ in over 500 plate appearances.

While Reds fans should not expect quite that level of production, Kemp has shown good durability and few signs of serious aging decline. His defense and base running will not be good, as shown in his ZiPS WAR projection of 0.1. His offense, however, should still be above average, especially if he can hit the ball hard and keep it off the ground as he did in 2018. The move to GABP will only help his cause there as well.

New Positions, New Roles

Another (potential) addition to the group came not from another team, but from another position group. Nick Senzel has been working in the outfield and is trying to join the committee or possibly even replace Billy Hamilton as the starting center fielder. Despite not having any previous experience in center, our own Doug Gray thinks that Senzel can handle the defensive aspects of the job. New skipper David Bell has also been supportive and stated that it is “very possible”, even more recently doubling down and stating that Senzel “has the ability to do it”.

Meanwhile, Senzel’s offense is not in question. He could be anywhere from good to Joey Votto (okay, maybe not that good). He has torn up the minors the past two-plus seasons despite missing substantial time due to injury. ZiPS projects a modest but solid rookie campaign to the tune of a 108 wRC+ in over 330 at-bats. But if things break right for Senzel in 2019, it is very possible to see him in the running for Rookie of the Year. And if he does end up in the Reds outfield, it will add another new face with a potent bat.

In regards to the returning outfielders, Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler are both poised to make contributions through somewhat different roles. A healthy Winker is projected to post a 116 wRC+ (another conservative projection) and should be starting every day. Though there was a dip in power last year, his .405 OBP and BB/K rate of 1.07 are truly Votto-esque and highlight an ideal hitting approach. With Duvall and Hamilton gone, Winker should be a staple in the corner outfield.

Scott Schebler is no slouch himself and projects to be good for slightly above average offense. He has had some very strong stretches of play in prior years but has also been affected by injuries that led to prolonged slumps. While his role might diminish slightly with the additions of Puig and Kemp, he will still get a chance to be a key contributor.

A Much Improved Unit

It is quite a different story from a year ago, and it is one that will surely bring massive improvements to a previously detrimental aspect of the team. This doesn’t even consider the possibility of utilizing Michael Lorenzen as a position player, an idea that has gained traction after his strong performance at the plate last year. All in all, the numbers are very promising for this overhauled group.

By combining all the ZiPS projections for potential outfielders, 2019 has the potential for a nearly 25% improvement over 2018. The Reds outfield will be better and could be, even without Billy Hamilton, more fun to watch as well.

10 Responses

  1. matthew hendley

    Reds outfield is going to dominate, I am high on Kemp and think .1 war is too low. Not saying a starter, but definite time needs to bee seen.

  2. Indy Red Man

    Bell has his work cut out for him! Puig, Winker, Senzel, Schebler, Kemp, Lorenzen, and Ervin? That’s a lot of talent! Maybe too much? Personally I would try to trade someone for a dependable arm in the pen. When Hughes, Hernandez and Duke get old then it’ll happen fast. I would also platoon Winker/Peraza at leadoff or Winker/Senzel.

    • Indy Red Man

      Also wanted to add Lorenzen is probably the best defensive CFer on the roster. I could see the big bats putting up a 5-3 lead in the 7th then running Lorenzen out to CF and Senzel to 2B.

  3. Michael Smith

    @indyredman

    I appreciate your hope but Lorenzen would have to really hit to be in the same class as the other guys not named Ervin.

  4. Shchi Cossack

    The improvement in the 2019 OF should be significantly more dramatic than any of the projections. I anticipate 3 consistent starters (Winker, Senzel & Puig). All 3 can easily put up an .800+ OPS & 125 wRC+, but all 3 are also capable of putting up a .900+ OPS and 140 wRC+. Then the utility OF need to be factored into the equation. The utility OF provide the team’s primary LH (Schebler) & RH (Kemp) high-leverage pinch hitters. Both of those players have a proven record of being dangerous at the plate.

    Better players make those around them better players. For 2019, the reds top 6 hitters can compete with anyone in MLB. Pitchers simply won’t have easy outs and with the anticipate bench of Kemp, Schebler and Dietrich, the pitcher’s position can’t be taken for granted. I also expect Peraza to be a tough out during the 2019 season. If Barnhart (.700 OPS), hitting in the #8 hole, is the weakest hitter in the lineup, I am going to relish watching opposing pitchers struggle against the Reds 2019 offense lead by the OF.

    As an additional factor, Senzel is playing CF for the 1st time in his career, but he’s a baseball rat. At the end of the 2019 season, I can see the Reds having a tough decision regarding Senzel’s best defensive position going into the 2020 season. Do they keep him in CF or move him back to the IF?

  5. jbonireland

    I don’t see the season beginning with everyone on the roster. It would surprise me to see a multiple player trade of an outfielder and some of the surplus pitching suspects in an attempt to add a proven starter or some bullpen help. However looling at the bullpen I’m not sure where we could add as we have 6 or 7 spots filled already and Herget on the door step. Next three weeks are going to be interesting.

  6. WVRedlegs

    This year’s OF will certainly be improved in the batters box. They will be a force to be reckoned with. But it only will last for one year.
    Think the OF looks different today. Wait until this time next year getting ready for 2020.
    If Puig doesn’t re-sign with the Reds. RF is then wide open.
    If Senzel is moved back to 2B. CF will be open. Don’t want to see Senzel trying to be like Billy in CF diving for too many baseballs. Hate to see him get hurt again this early in his career. So I am hoping the CF experiment only lasts 1 year.
    Kemp is most certainly gone some time between now and the end of the season.
    Schebler might not survive a 2019 roster crunch. Could be traded at any time between now and the beginning of next spring.
    That is why it will be imperative for Winker to establish himself in 2019 with a whole season of what he did last year. A very steady and consistent Winker will do wonders for the Reds going forward. Even then though, the Reds could be on the market for 2 OF next winter. Puig may or may not be back. And if Senzel is moved back to 2B, CF becomes a glaring need again next winter. If Puig is brought back, or an equivalent type free agent signed, the Reds could fast track a young prospect for CF in 2020. Having 2 rookies breaking into the Majors in the OF in 2020 wouldn’t probably be a good idea (Trammell and Siri) if they plan on contending for a division title. The anticipated CF market next winter is looking to be very, very weak. Not that great on the corners either. That might make an extension with Puig all the more important.

    • Shchi Cossack

      With the 1-year window for the current OF alignment, I can’t see the Reds moving Schebler. Puig being extended is pure speculation at this point. I believe Schebler slots into CF in 2020 unless a CF prospect makes a significant leap in development during 2019. I don’t think Siri will be ready. The Reds tried to fast-track him into AA last season and he struggled significantly. I don’t think the Reds want to rush Trammell thru AA and AAA unless he just destroys the baseball this year. While Trammell has been successful (top 10) in A and A+, he played an entire season in both leagues, but he didn’t dominate in either league.

  7. j reis

    Good article Matthew. I think the Senzel experiment in center is pretty much over if you listen closely to what Bell is saying. He could potentially, possibly, maybe, if we pray hard enough be a good centerfielder EVENTUALLY. It just doesn’t make sense to risk him playing a year in center unless he was a natural like Eric Davis or Geronimo. Especially with talent in the outfield in the minors that we have.

    2019 reds outfield will be Puig in rt, Schebler in center and Winker/ Kemp platooning in left. they are going to hit a ton but this could be a historically bad defensive outfield. I actually think defensively we are going to be real bad as a team and that will probably prevent us from getting above .500