Three weeks ago we looked at the stories from the pitchers side of things as we head into spring training. Today we are going to tackle things from the position side of things.
There are two players that stand out as ones to really keep an eye on above the others as spring training gets underway and they are both outfielders. Yorman Rodriguez and Jake Cave both represent different, but similar issues when it comes to how the roster could be shaped.
Yorman Rodriguez, the 23-year-old Venezuelan outfielder is out of options and must stick to the 25-man roster or the Reds will risk losing him to another team. In 2015 he got out to a rough start, hitting just .218/.250/.378 over the first five weeks of the season for the Triple-A Louisville Bats. He turned things around over the next nine weeks though as he began to make adjustments and hit .302/.343/.460 in 202 plate appearances. Unfortunately on July 21st he played his last game of the season as he suffered a leg injury. He returned to play winter ball in Venezuela for a few weeks in November.
Jake Cave was the first of two Rule 5 draft picks that the Reds made in December. The outfielder has to stick to the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the New York Yankees. He spent all but the final week of the season in Double-A Trenton in the Yankees system. His April and May were strong, hitting .293/.382/.377 with 25 walks and 34 strikeouts in 223 plate appearances. The next two months were a real struggle though as he hit just .230/.268/.282 with just 12 walks and 43 strikeouts in 229 plate appearances. Things did rebound well from there over the final five weeks, thanks partially to a .429 BABIP, hitting .336/.388/.464 with nine walks and 29 strikeouts in 140 plate appearances.
Those two guys both have a shot to play center field or either of the corner spots. They represent different types of players with Rodriguez being the more toolsy kind of player with lots of upside, while Cave is less toolsy, but perhaps a little bit safer to be a 4th outfielder.
Of course, there’s another outfielder that may will have their eyes on. Jesse Winker isn’t on the 40-man roster, and he’s got no Triple-A experience under his belt. With that said, he’s also the teams top position prospect just about everywhere that you look and in some places he’s already projected to be the teams second best hitter in 2016 behind Joey Votto. For service time reasons, despite the fact that the Reds absolutely have a need at the position that he plays, it’s highly unlikely that he breaks north with the team. If he does have a strong spring though, his time in Triple-A could be cut short if the team finds a need to cycle someone else into the outfield.
Less heralded, but possibly quite valuable to the roster could be Scott Schebler. He came over in the Todd Frazier trade. He struggled in Triple-A in 2015, but has hit the cover off of the ball in previous years and performed well in a September call up that was limited to just 37 plate appearances. He’s got some good power in his bat and that could certainly play well in Great American Ballpark. He has options remaining, which could come into play, but he’s a left fielder with some pop in his bat and could certainly fill a need on the roster with a good showing in the spring.
Tyler Holt joined the Reds in September after being claimed from the Indians and managed to get into five games. Outside of 21 plate appearances in the big leagues with Cleveland, he spent the 2015 season in Triple-A where he hit .302/.386/.370 with 50 walks and 62 strikeouts. He’s a contact oriented hitter who has had success in the minor leagues, but he’s struggled in the Majors with that approach on a limited basis over the last two years. The one thing that plays into the favor of Holt is that he’s probably the second best center fielder coming into spring training behind Billy Hamilton and the team may want that kind of defender on the roster just in case.
The last guy that will have a bunch of eyes on him will be Jose Peraza. The infielder was acquired in the Todd Frazier trade, but currently seems to be blocked on the roster by Brandon Phillips at second base, or Zack Cozart at shortstop if the Reds wanted to try and slide him back over to shortstop to see if he can make that position work. Among the offseason trades, Peraza is the highest ranking prospect and while there’s some concern about how his game will translate, the tools are there for him to be a valuable every day player. With his being blocked, it’s unlikely that the Reds will bring him north as a 22-year-old utility player and are far more likely to send him to Triple-A to play every day and be ready to step in if the opportunity arises.