Reds Blog Roundtable: Answering the LF question

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Here's our second installment of the Reds Blog Roundtable, where we ask representatives for Reds blogs a question and they respond with their best answers. This week's question:

How should the Reds handle the LF situation? Keep playing Heisey most of the time, play Paul more, or even use another option like Robinson, a minor leaguer, or a trade?

Now, obviously, this was asked before the Heisey injury happened, but it still isn't really decided at this point.

-ManBearPig, Red Reporter: Since the Ryan Ludwick injury, left field has been and probably will be continue to be the Reds biggest weakness with regard to the lineup this season. Chris Heisey looks like he's not really capable of handling everyday duties, and the Reds are much better served with him as a PH/LIDR than a starter. So, here's my outside the box idea that will likely never happen.

When Heisey returns, send down Donald Lutz and Derrick Robinson, and call up Henry Rodriguez to platoon in left field. I know that Hank Rod has not played a single inning in the outfield in his professional career, but let's be honest, playing left, especially in GABP, is not that hard. Left field is the second lowest position on the defensive spectrum for a reason, and if Adam Dunn and Jonny Gomes can hack it out there, Hank can probably fake it for a few months.

The biggest reason I'm advocating for this thing that won't happen, is that Rodriguez could be a solution to the 2-hole conundrum that the Reds currently face. Neither Cozart nor Heisey are natural fits for the secod spot in the order, with their low OBP, and Xavier Paul isn't much better. Hank is one of the best pure hitters in the Reds system right now, owning a .299/.346/.429 line in 530 minor league games. He knows the strike zone, and has had a steady batting average on balls in play so far in his career. As a switch hitter who's better from the right side, Hank would provide a decent platoon partner with Paul. Rodriguez could play every game against left handed starters, with he and Paul splitting time against righties.

Basically, I'm joining Cy in the "throw shit at the LF wall and see what sticks" camp.

Amanda, Red Hot Mama: When this question was initially asked, the options seemed like Heisey or Paul or (if you're the kind of person who calls sports radio talk shows) Billy Hamilton. But now Heisey is hurt and it sounds like Donald Lutz is going to be filling the void in the short term. With Ryan Ludwick scheduled to come back at the All-Star Break--and we all know that's not a sure thing--the Reds need a longer-term solution, and none of these guys is it.

The answer is clear: it's high time we brought back Adam Dunn.

Sure, you may point out that Dunn is currently .143/.234/.345 with the White Sox. But to me that just says that he needs a change of scenery and that we could get him at a good price.

You might say that his power has faded as he's gotten older. But he hit 41 home runs last year, and the 5 he's already hit this year would be the second-most on the Reds' roster right now.

You could posit that investing in Dunn at this point in his career would be high risk. But that's not the point. Sure, it would be risky, but more importantly, it's just silly. After all, it's not like Heisey's offense is going to be that hard to replace; Paul, with occasional spells by Lutz, ought to be plenty good enough.

Jason Linden, Redleg Nation: In an ideal world, Billy Hamilton would be magically tearing it up in Louisville and the Reds could call him up and shift Choo over to left and everything would be sunshine and roses. That isn't happening. Not they can platoon Heisey and Paul (I know, I know, Heisey has a reverse split. I think it's an aberration, though I guess I could be wrong) or they make a trade.

I, for one, would love to see a trade. The Reds certainly have an over-abundance of pitching prospects (if that's possible) and it's hard to believe that some package couldn't be put together that would result in improved performance from left. Even if Ludwick comes back this year, the nature of the injury makes me worry that he'll have no power for a while. Given that basically his entire value comes from his ability to clear the fences on a semi-regular basis, I really think it's a mistake for the Reds to go any longer without addressing the situation. Heisey is an excellent 4th outfielder, but he's not an everyday player.

Oh, and if Heisey is hurt and has to be out for an extended period of time. They have to trade right now. Right. Now.

Kevin Mitchell Is Batman, Red Reporter: If Shin-Soo Choo was hitting .344/.492/.559 in LF, would we really be worried about what Chris Heisey and Xavier Paul were producing from their CF spot? Having one light-hitting OF is OK to me given the relative production of the rest of the lineup, and the Reds just seem to be opting for that player to be in LF while most other teams end up having that player be in CF.It's not conventional, no, but it's effective enough.

Mixing and mashing Xavier Paul, Chris Heisey, and Donald Lutz (apparently!) is obviously less ideal than having 2012 Ryan Ludwick in LF, but it’s a perfectly decent excuse for a group that forms a team’s weakest link. It’s not like that’s the rotation for who bats 3rd in the lineup as the team’s best offensive player; having them bring up the rear of the 25 man roster still makes it a better roster than most of the Reds’ competitors.

So, I’m saying the Reds don’t need to be brash in an attempt to ‘solve’ this situation. I would probably play Xavier Paul more against RHP and Chris Heisey less (and vice versa against LHP), and I suppose I would spot start Donald Lutz a time or two while he’s up for Heisey. What I would absolutely not do, however, is toss more prospects into the trade machine in an attempt to bring someone else in from outside the organization. Ludwick, while he’ll likely not ever be what he was in 2012, will be back at some point this season and is signed for $8.5 million for the next, and I don’t feel the need to double up on that. Also, there’s no reason to rush Billy Hamilton to the big leagues before he’s ready (though a late season call-up to have him on the playoff roster wouldn’t be outlandish).

While the collective LF line of .202/.259/.298 this season is ugly, so is the .253 BABIP. They’ll get better, and I’m willing to ride it out.

Steve Engbloom, Blog Red Machine: There's no clear-cut solution to this. Being a month into the season, if Walt pulls off a deal, some would take that as a sign of panic. Regardless of who gets the playing time, if he struggles, there will be calls for one of the other two options to get the nod. I also don't see any option from the farm.

Of course, with Heisey tweaking his hamstring, Paul will get more time, but I wouldn't be shocked if a Paul/Robinson platoon sets in until a Heisey return. You know that whole matchup lineup thing...

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