2012 Reds Depth Charts: Outfield

What it looks like if you're 'bowed to the ground by Drew Stubbs.

Though center and right field are spoken for by two homegrown first round draft picks, left field is perhaps the field position with the greatest uncertainty on the roster entering the season (all injury risks being equal). It's been near the top of that list ever since Adam Dunn was traded.

Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick have gotten roughly the same number of plate appearances during spring training to date. But Ludwick has gotten the prestige starts, getting written into the lineup with mostly Opening Day starters. This might mean nothing at all, but it could also be a decent hint that he'll enter the season as the primary starter. At 33, having racked up around 550+ PAs in each of the last four seasons, "Ludwi C.K." profiles as Dusty's veteran of choice. Meanwhile, Chris Heisey has made nearly half of his major league appearances off the bench. He's lazy, I guess is what I'm trying to say?

With the other 2/3 of the outfield settled and Heisey likely to spell Stubbs and Bruce, it will be interesting to see what "fifth outfielders" will get playing time - potentially more interesting than it should be. If the Reds go North with Francisco on the roster and their infield healthy, the 5th OF role will be filled by Miguel Cairo, Wilson Valdez or Francisco himself. If, however, things open up with an injury or surprise trade, Frazier or Phipps are likely the next up, along with Harris or Daryl Jones (if they stay in the system).

Phipps and Frazier the most major-league ready of any outfielders currently on the 40-man. They are also kind of the only other outfielders on the 40-man. Both are having good springs. Phipps is capable of playing across the outfield and while Frazier has no business in center field - and probably not much in right - he's plenty good enough for left. In fact, there's some argument to suggest it's his best defensive position. While his bat has never smacked enough home runs to identify him readily as a LFer, there's not much standing in his way as soon as an injury or bad half-season comes from one of the regulars.

Left field

Rank
Name
Age (2012)
40 man?
Zips projected OPS+
S/BU? PT (%) Expected level on OD 2012
1
Ryan Ludwick
33 Y 104 S 60% MLB
2
Chris Heisey
27 Y 102 S 30% MLB
3
Todd Frazier
26 Y 94 S 5% AAA
4
Willie Harris
34
N 89 BU 5% AAA
5
Denis Phipps
26
Y 76
S <1% AAA
6
Daryl Jones
25 N 77 BU - AAA
T7
Daniel Dorn
27 N 91 BU - AAA
T7
Donald Lutz
23 Y 92 S - AA

CF and RF after the jump, along with a look at the Reds' projected top five in playing time

Center field

Rank
Name
Age (2012)
40 man?
Zips projected OPS+
S/BU? PT (%) Expected level on OD 2012
1
Drew Stubbs
27 Y 88 S 90% MLB
2
Chris Heisey
27 Y 102 S 10% MLB
3
Denis Phipps
26 Y 76 S <1% AAA
4
Daryl Jones
25
N 77 BU - AAA
5
Wilson Valdez
34
Y 70
BU - MLB

Right field

Rank
Name
Age (2012)
40 man?
Zips projected OPS+
S/BU? PT (%) Expected level on OD 2012
1
Jay Bruce
25 Y 116 S 98% MLB
2
Chris Heisey
27 Y 102 S 2% MLB
3
Denis Phipps
26 Y 76 S <1% AAA
4
Willie Harris
34
N 89 BU - AAA
5
Todd Frazier
27
Y 94
BU - MLB
6
Daryl Jones
25 N 77 BU - AAA
7
Donald Lutz
23 Y 92 S - AA

Jay Bruce

2012 ceiling: 99% of MLB starts

Bruce should have his fan section banners bolted in and the right field grass custom-fit to the contours of diving patterns. Just barely 25, his contract says he won't be going anywhere, Walt help us, until at least 2016 (with a team option for 2017).

Projection systems generally agree that Jay will be the Reds' 2nd most productive offensive contributor this season. How you rate his defense might influence whether or not you see him as more valuable than BP or the front end of the rotation, but he gets high marks across the defensive metrics in each of the last three seasons, with especially rave reviews for his 2010 season. We have the necessary multi-season data to say Bruce is a good fielder and he might still be a great one. His offseason fitness regime has the potential to correct some of the sluggishness reflected in his fielding last season.

Drew Stubbs

2012 ceiling: 95% of MLB starts

It's a true fact: Stubbs' K-rate went up for the second season in a row to an improbable 30% for 2011. But even looking beyond the strikeout derangement syndrome, Stubbs took a step back last year. He got on base less and hit for less power (lower ISO) than he ever has in the majors, somehow while benefiting from his highest BABIP in the majors and higher LD% than in 2010.

The disagreement over Stubbs seems to be around how well he needs to hit as a regular centerfielder. He's elite in defense and speed, having stolen the most bases last season of any Red since '97. Those skills should hold steady in his Age 27 season. In my mind, that alone spots him almost enough to be league-average. if he can find away to see the ball better - particularly the breaking ball - he can build on a BB% rate that he's kept up the last two seasons (close to 9.5%) and reach "possible All Star" status again.

Since he doesn't have a big problem chasing pitches, more of the balls he should be hitting are going to be in the zone, so improvements in contact could boost his power. Perhaps the most important thing to bear in mind about Stubbs as Hitter is that, while contact will probably be a chronic problem throughout his career, he's only completed two full major league seasons. His hitting profile, especially his BABIP and other measures of balls in play (and over the fence), is not fixed.

Ryan Ludwick

2012 ceiling: 75% of MLB starts

Ludwick is too far away - and on the wrong side of 30 - from his excellent 2008, for it to be any kind of reference point. The biggest source of optimism over Ludwick, who is worse defensively than Chris Heisey, are his splits. Alongside a complementary player, his .272/.339/.464 career line against righties would be pretty OK. His away splits over the last two seasons while at PetCO don't suggest his offense has been depressed by the stadium, but if it did generally affect his swing, there could be room for improvement there. Especially with Latos on board, it's probably best just to avoid any discussion of PetCo from here on out.

Chris Heisey

2012 ceiling: 55% of MLB starts across outfield

It's probably too late for Chris Heisey to avoid being typecast as a fourth outfielder. He plays good defense at each OF position, but his skills - power, range, arm - don't line up strictly under one position. Meanwhile, his his lack of prospect pedigree and much stronger performance as a pinch-hitter make him easy to back-burner. Hi-Z will have to play better when he has the chance to start -or at least decide which kind of platoon player he is - in order to give Dusty a better idea of how to use him and earn a role as a co-starter.

Todd Frazier

2012 ceiling: 40% of MLB starts

Give him a shot, wouldya?

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