by Will Ovcrton
There is no shortage of talent or potential in the Cincinnati Reds outfield, however there are still a lot of questions surrounding the group. For starters the Reds outfield consists of four potential guys when there is only room for three. Second, the Reds outfield crew which is strong on talent, still has a lot to prove in terms of showing it on the field. In 2011 we saw some signs of breakouts coming from a couple and regression from others. Now the question is what does 2012 hold.
I am sure at some point this offseason our esteemed Professor will take a look at a couple if not all of these guys on an individual basis (and you can of course purchase the draft guide which is on a Black Friday pre-sale today), but I want to look at the group as a hole and try and determine which of these four are on the rise and which might be on the decline.
This is where I will probably spend the least amount of time because for the most part we know what we have in Bruce. Unlike some of the other we know what the floor for Bruce is. Even in Bruce’s worst season he’ll probably hit .240 and clear 25 HR’s. The real question that we have yet to see is what Bruce’s ceiling is. I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that Bruce has the power potential to hit 35 – 40 HR’s per season and do it consistently. What to expect in terms of average is a bit more of a mystery, so fari n four seasons Bruce has posted averages of: .254, .223, .281 and .256. Bruce hit .300 or better throughout his minor league career and many expected the same in the majors. Some question whether or not Bruce might be swinging too much for the fences. Whatever it is Bruce can and should be hitting .275 or better, now it’s just a matter of whether he does it. Bruce could push his way into the top 10 outfielders at some point in the next couple years, maybe even this season.
Stubbs has become somewhat of an enigma in the fantasy world turning himself into a bit of a B.J. Upton type player. When you look at the power/speed combination you start thinking potential top 10 outfielder, but then you see the average and cringe. Another problem is that Stubbs took a step back in the power department in 2011 as well. Stubbs had 22 HR’s in 2010, while he regressed to just 15 in 2011 despite nearly 100 more AB’s. Stubbs didn’t show big power potential in the minors and many saw 2010 as an aberration. However 15 – 20 HR’s consistently is ok if Stubbs if the other numbers are there.
Stubbs biggest draw is his speed which had brought him steals totals of 30 and 40 in his first two full seasons in the big leagues. And it has also brought him across the plate 90+ the last two seasons. However to take the next step and lock himself in as a surefire everyday player Stubbs has to raise the average and lower the strikeouts, two things which must go hand in hand. Stubbs has BABIP’s of .330 and .343 the last two seasons yet batting averages of .255 and .243. This happens because Stubbs strikes out far too much. Stubbs value is largely tied to his being the Reds leadoff hitter and while he is the most qualified guy on the team for the job he won’t keep it if he keeps striking out at this pace. Cutting down on the K’s should not only cement Stubbs as a no doubt everyday outfielder on this team, and the leadoff hitter, but could help him realize his top 25 outfield potential.
While Drew Stubbs has both the potential to blossom as well as bust and fall out of the starting lineup, ultimately the battle for the third outfield spot will come down to these final two guys, Heisey and Yonder Alonso who we’ll look at next. Heisey has real power with 18 HR’s in 279 AB’s last season which is quite impressive. Some might consider Heisey as having the least potential of the four men in the mix, but he should not be underestimated. Projecting last season out as a full year playing every day and Heisey would have been looking at 30/90/90 as well as a little bit of speed, possibly low end double digits. Essentially Heisey is the opposite of Stubbs with high end power potential and a little bit of speed. And just like Stubbs his biggest downfall is the excessive amount of strikeouts and the low average. If Heisey wins the left field job he’s a deep league sleeper, the same if he winds up on another team. However with the playing time uncertain and the risk of batting average harm you have to take a wait and see approach right now.
Alonso has been a hot prospect in the Reds farm system for a while now and after his stint in the majors last season he looks ready for a full season in the big leagues. He is a natural first baseman, but he won’t be taking that spot on the team anytime soon, so he’s going to have to beat out Chris Heisey for the Left Field job if he wants regular playing time. Alonso is the most unknown of the group, but the potential is certainly very tempting. In his brief time in the majors last year he hit .330 and had 5 HR’s and 15 RBI in 88 AB’s.
Can he sustain that kind of success over a full season though? Alonso only hit 15 HR’s in 2010 as a minor leaguer. However he has the build to be a big league slugger and has improved every year in the power department. Alonso likely won’t come right out and hit 30 – 40 HR’s his first full season, but he should steadily work his way to the 30 mark consistently. And while the .330 average might be extreme, he has .300 potential, something the other outfielders in Cinncy aren’t showing. The biggest hindrance for Alonso right now if his glove, and while that doesn’t matter to fantasy players, it might keep him out of a job. The Reds tried Alonso in Left Field, but he’ll have to show significant improvement at the position next spring to see regular playing time there. While Alonso’s potential makes him incredibly appealing, especially in deep leagues, he is the odd man out right now and unless it looks like that will change, you have to proceed cautiously with the high potential player who is struggling to find a position.
That’s an abbreviated breakdown of the Reds outfield situation from a fantasy perspective. What are your takes on this foursome and their fantasy potential or lack thereof? Who are you buying into in 2011 and who do you think will be overrated?