The blockbuster trade with the Dodgers was a move Reds fans have been waiting for since the rebuild began. It was a sign the front office is serious about competing in 2019 and will make the moves necessary to improve the club. While Alex Wood fills a void in the starting rotation, the deal didn’t fill all the holes on the roster. The most glaring one that remains outside of acquiring an ace is in center field.

The Billy Hamilton era is over, and there aren’t any obvious candidates on the roster to replace him. Taylor Trammell is a possible center fielder of the future, but he has yet to play above High-A. Until he’s ready for the big leagues, who will be the quarterback of the outfield? Nick Senzel will certainly get a shot. Scott Schebler has played there during Hamilton’s off-days the last two seasons. Whether either player can handle the position on an everyday basis is up for debate.

The trade with the Dodgers introduced another candidate into the mix in Yasiel Puig. For the majority of his career, Puig has been a right fielder. He has, however, logged some time in center. Granted, he hasn’t played the position since 2016 and hasn’t had any significant playing time there since 2014. While he doesn’t have the recent experience at the position, he does have the athleticism to play it. Can he handle it on an everyday basis, or does his defensive skill set suit him for a backup role similar to the one Schebler played for the Reds in 2018?

Aside from shortstop and catcher, no position is more important and difficult to play than center — even if Hamilton made it look elementary for the last five years. A few important components go into playing center field well. Speed and a good first step make up a player’s overall range and determine his ability to track down balls in the largest area of the park. Because a center fielder is further away from home plate, a strong throwing arm is a plus as well. How does Puig measure up in each of those categories?

Speed

The best calculation of foot speed comes from Statcast. Although it’s calculated on the basepaths, it provides a fairly accurate estimation of a player’s ability in the field as well. Because there are many situations when a player isn’t in an all-out sprint on the bases, it attempts to measure only those plays where maximum effort is given. That essentially boils down to two plays: a weakly hit grounder that the hitter has to run out and a run of two bases or more (excluding home runs and runs from second to home on extra-base hits).

This is similar to the effort an outfielder has to make to chase down a fly ball at the wall or a line drive in the gap. Thus, it gives a solid baseline to gauge whether Puig has the raw speed to hack it in center field.

Puig topped out at 28.2 feet per second in 2018. That’s well above the league average of 27.0 ft/s. It’s a bit below average for a center fielder, but it does put him in the range of players such as A.J. Pollock (28.2), Aaron Hicks (28.1), Ender Inciarte (27.9), Jackie Bradley Jr. (27.8), and Kevin Pillar (27.8). Three names in that list (Pollock, Inciarte, Bradley) are Gold Glovers. The other, Pillar, is an annual finalist for the award.

Playing in a small outfield would further help Puig if he was moved to center field in 2019 and cover up some of his deficiencies. Great American Ball Park ranks in the bottom half of all MLB stadiums in terms of both overall outfield area and center field area. There’s less ground to cover, which can make up for a lack of elite speed. The Reds tried a similar experiment with Shin-Soo Choo back in 2013 that went well. The idea was that Choo would provide more than enough value at the plate to offset his below average defense in center. Could the team take a similar approach with Puig in 2018?

First Step & Overall Range

Straight-line speed helps, but it clearly isn’t everything. Inciarte has won three straight Gold Glove awards without elite speed. Mallex Smith is one of the fastest players in the game but is merely an average center fielder. Good range also means reading the ball off the bat and having a quick first step. While there’s no publicly available data that shows the average reaction time from each fielder, several metrics can give an idea.

The most commonly known defensive metrics are UZR (ultimate zone rating) and DRS (defensive runs saved). Both are used to measure a player’s range relative to others at his position. These metrics were split on Puig’s ability as a right fielder in 2018 (-3.6 UZR, 6 DRS). In 2017, however, he was a Gold Glove finalist at his position with a career-best 18 DRS and 11.8 UZR. That season, unfortunately, seems to be an outlier given his career results and regression in 2018.

UZR and DRS don’t paint a full picture of a player’s defensive ability for two reasons. The metrics often disagree because of the way they’re calculated, and they only compare the given player to others at his position. That means we can’t gauge Puig’s overall range and, thus, his ability to play center field from those stats. He has only 500 innings of time in center field during his career, and they’re so spread out between seasons that using the DRS and UZR data would be a fruitless venture.

Outs Above Average can fill in some of the gaps. It’s a relatively new statistic introduced by Statcast and compares a player to all outfielders rather than positionally.

Here’s MLB.com’s definition:

“Outs Above Average (OAA) is a range-based metric of skill that shows how many outs an outfielder has saved over his peers, accounting for not only the number of plays an outfielder makes (or doesn’t), but also the difficulty of them.”

OAA is particularly helpful in determining whether Puig can man center field day in and day out. Unlike UZR and DRS, it does not account for position. Instead, it compares a player’s range to all other outfielders, regardless of position. That makes OAA useful when trying to determine a player’s overall range and whether they could play the most important position in the outfield.

The tracking system calculates the statistic by using Catch Probability, which is the likelihood a fielder will make a catch based on the time needed to get to the ball (the measurement starts when the pitcher releases the ball), the direction they’re moving, and the distance they need to cover. Thousands upon thousands of plays (i.e., data points) are used to calculate this percentage and make it as accurate as possible.

So how does this figure into OAA? If the Catch Probability is 45%, the fielder will gain .55 “points” toward their Outs Above Average measurement should they make the play. If the fielder doesn’t fails to make the catch, they lose .45 points. A running total is kept throughout the season for each outfielder.

For context, let’s look at where some notable players ranked last year. Inciarte and Harrison Bader were the league leaders last year at 21 OAA. Hamilton was fifth with 16. Schebler was considered average with 0 OAA.

That brings us to Puig and to the first big strike against his ability to play center field. He came in at -5 OAA for the season, which puts him in the neighborhood with Jesse Winker (-6). Winker’s sprint speed (26.0 ft/s) is nowhere near Puig’s. What conclusions can we draw from this? Either Puig is slow to get a read on fly balls compared to his peers, or it takes him a while to reach his maximum speed. In other words, his first step isn’t quick and can prevent him from reaching balls with a lower catch probability.

Statcast also breaks this metric down into segments based on direction. Naturally, some outfielders are better than others at catching balls directly behind them. Some thrive at racing into the gaps to rob extra-base hits while others struggle. Directional Outs Above Average breaks each player’s range down into six segments to give a more precise look at their abilities: in, back, in left, back left, in right, and back right.

For reference, here’s what an elite center fielder’s (Inciarte) directional OAA looks like in each direction:

Inciarte is elite at moving to his right and cutting off balls headed for the gaps. He’s above average but not elite moving in other directions.

And here’s Puig’s performance in right field, a position that isn’t nearly as difficult to play:

There’s another reason to wonder whether he can handle center field. Puig’s OAA in every direction was average or below average. It’s hard to read much into the back right measurement because a right fielder doesn’t have much ground to cover in that area. But the lackluster numbers in other areas aren’t promising.

Throwing Arm

Almost any way you slice it, Puig has one of the strongest throwing arms in the game. This aspect of his defense would play well in any position.

The Reds wouldn’t miss a beat in this area. Hamilton has one of the strongest arms in the game and is among the league leaders in outfield assists every year. Puig is always on that list as well. Since 2013, the year of his debut, he’s 10th among all outfielders in assists with 49. He ranked ninth in 2018 with 10 assists.

While there aren’t many advanced metrics for arm strength, Puig rates highly in the ones available. Outfield Arm Runs (rARM) calculates how many runs an outfielder saves by throwing runners out or preventing them from advancing to the next base. Puig also ranks 10th in this metric since breaking into the majors in 2013 (18).

Conclusions

Just as Schebler and Senzel aren’t obvious answers in center field, neither is Puig. The Reds should explore the possibility, as Puig’s athleticism could make him a passable defender in the most vital outfield position. Any shortcomings would become easier to overlook if he can produce at the plate. However, it’s questionable whether he possesses the natural instincts and first step to man the position on a daily basis. With his arm strength allowing him to throw runners out at any base, he figures to stay in right field with the Reds — although it wouldn’t be a shock to see him fill in from time to time if the Reds want to get Puig, Winker, and Matt Kemp in the lineup at the same time.

70 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    Thanks for laying out the advanced stats in a way even an old-school guy can understand. It appears Puig could do a passable job, especially given we’re talking half the games at GABP. I’m curious to know where the other parks in the NL Central rate since those are the next highest number of places we’ll play.

    In any case, he appears to be a possibility, even if he isn’t the final solution. Plus he’s in a “contract year” and will likely give significant effort so show value to the FA market for 2020.

  2. Bill

    The outfield is getting interesting for the upcoming year. There have been comments made that Senzel could handle CF, Schebler has done it in the past, now throw in the possibility of Puig. We have heard Winker was moving to RF, which doesn’t seem to be the best fit for him. Kemp is not the star that he once was, but capable of backing up either corner.

    I still think there are more moves to come, but if nothing else is done I would assume Senzel is held in the minors until Gennett is gone. Of course those other moves could include trading Gennett, Schebler, Winker, or Senzel.

    • ToBeDetermined

      I hadn’t heard that Winker was moving to RF, I thought he was going to LF. Is this something that you’ve seen since the trade. I’m just asking.

      Because I agree. Winker should play LF not RF

      • Shchi Cossack

        The only reference I recall regarding Winker’s move to RF, was a comment by Sheldon in his article about Winker’s recovery…

        “After he played both left and right field last season, Winker is likely to be the regular right fielder in 2019, with Schebler moving over from right to left.”

        The comment was not attributed to anyone and appeared purely as speculation to the Old Cossack.

      • reaganspad

        did jimmy riggs think puig could bunt?

  3. Matt Hendley

    Simple enough to admit that any combination of the bats are far superior to any combination you could have had with Hamilton out there. Who ever they decide on must be decided on prior to spring training so they can get maximum practice reps. Intrested to see what they go with. As the ‘unofficial’ break for Christmas is over as well, intrested to se if there’s is any future moves to be made.

  4. Drew B

    Have to disagree with you about Hamilton’s arm strength. Hamilton has one of the weaker arms in baseball but ranks near the tops for assists due to the amount of opportunities he gets when runners try and are instructed to take an extra base on him.
    Puig could rank low in assists due to the lack of opportunities because of the threat of his arm.

    • Matt Wilkes

      I wouldn’t say Hamilton has one of the weakest arms in the game. Maybe saying he has one of the strongest arms in the game is slight hyperbole, but it’s not way off the mark. Back in 2015, he had a throw of over 100 mph: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-outfielders-who-threw-100/

      Plenty of other outfielders get tested by other teams all the time and don’t rack up assists like Hamilton. I think that’s a testament to his arm strength and accuracy. Granted, assists are not the best way to evaluate a defender. I think it’s easy to think he has a weak arm because of his stature, though.

      I definitely agree with your theory about Puig has fewer opportunities because teams know not to run on him. His arm is stronger than Hamilton’s.

      • LWBlogger2

        Hamilton’s arm, from where I’ve been sitting, is relatively average for a MLB OF and that 100 MPH throw surprises me quite a lot. What I have noticed about Hamilton’s arm is that he has a very quick release, almost like an IF and his throws are generally very accurate. It’s not a great idea to run on him as the assist totals seem to indicate.

        Puig has a cannon but isn’t as accurate and takes some time to let it go. He has plenty of arm for CF. His other OF skills are iffy though.

      • Big Ed

        I think Hamilton’s strength was getting to balls faster than other outfielders, which he coupled with a quick release to nail more runners than you would expect. In other words, he made up for his average arm by getting the throw off faster.

        The arm power of Puig is in another class. It is more like Dave Parker’s are or Dwight Evans’s arm. Cespedes has one like that, too. An arm like that has a “don’t even try it” quality to it that is hard to quantify.

      • Mark

        Y’all, Hamilton hit 90 on radar gun from mound in high school. His arm is real.

      • ToBeDetermined

        I think Hamilton’s are was above average for a centerfielder. Also, having played outfield on softball teams over the years, I can tell you If you can play shallow you obviously don’t have to throw the ball as far.
        Which makes his arm appear even better.

        And Hamilton played about as shallow a centerfield as anyone.

  5. CFD3000

    It’s clear that Puig is not the center fielder that Hamilton is. Very few are. He’s probably not even as good as Schebler. And on the arm, I agree with Drew B. Hamilton had an average but accurate arm, so was frequently tested and had many chances for assists. Johnny Bench rarely threw out would be base stealers, but that’s because they very rarely attempted it knowing they would likely be caught. Puig’s arm will keep runners from taking the extra base more than it will create more outs.

    But the more important question is not where does Puig play, but where does Senzel play? Unless there are early, significant injuries, the Reds now have too many outfielders. I’ve long been in the trade Gennett camp, and this makes Scooter even more expendable. That would open up 2nd for Senzel. Otherwise Kemp, Schebler, and/or Puig needs to be packaged for pitching to clear space and create room in the outfield for Senzel.

  6. Hotto4Votto

    I think part of the Reds “more moves to come” needs to be acquiring an actual CF and trading off one of the corner OF’ers. I’d prefer they trade Kemp, but it would likely be a salary dump/swap situation. They’d probably be able to get something valuable for Winker, and Schebler may act as a nice secondary piece in a trade.

    I think it’s obvious that neither Schebler or Puig are going to be good defensively in CF, although both could probably be passable considering their offense. That’s fine, but Winker is a below average defender already and so is Kemp, so it’s really going to put a strain on the defense, who is already below average up the middle in the INF. Eventually defense has to factor into decision making.

    Keeping all 4 corners and mix-matching CF comes with it’s own issues.
    In an ideal world you have two RH hitters and two LH hitters for the corners making natural platoon options. Except Puig’s splits aren’t typical. He had an OPS of .921 vs RHP and had a .628 OPS vs LHP in 2018. His career splits are more favorable, .859 OPS vs RHP against .757 vs LHP, but it’s still atypical. So giving him an off day against RHP goes against playing him to his strengths. But he’s probably a guy you try to play almost every day so his splits are just a minor factor.

    Yet with so man OF’ers you think some sort of rotation may come into play. In general I’m not a big fan of OF rotations. They can work sometimes but not for all players. Duvall never got going last year with the rotation, and maybe he was just due for regression. Winker was slow to get going playing sporadically, and was almost the odd man out at one point, in May until the FO overrode the manager’s decision. In April and June Winker received 21 starts apiece and had an OPS of .804 and .944 respectively. In May he had 17 starts and had an OPS of .525. Some players need to play regularly to get in a grove, especially those just breaking into the ML.

    Which brings me to Senzel. In general I like the idea of a super-utility guy who plays every day giving most of the regulars an occasional day off. I’m hesitant to do it for a guy who’s trying to get established in the ML. Zobrist was established when he was moving around everyday. Senzel would not only be trying to play positions he’s never played as a professional (the OF), but he would also be trying to establish himself at the highest level for the first time. That’s a tough ask. Plus, adding Senzel to an OF mix where 4 guys could make a legitimate case for regular playing time already, not to mention Ervin who is our player who came up playing CF, complicates an already complicated OF mix.

    Not that it can’t be done. It’s just complicated and I’m not sure it puts everyone in the best position to succeed to have that many options in the OF. I feel more confident in Bell’s ability to navigate it than either of his predecessors. That said, I still think a trade of one of the four corner guys makes the most sense.

    • LWBlogger2

      Everything you said makes perfect sense to me.

  7. LWBlogger2

    I think Puig could do it here and there as a fill-in just like Schebler. He has a better arm but likely a little less range as it seems Schebler reads the ball much better in CF than he does in RF.

    I don’t think Puig is a good answer for the bulk of the time in CF because the Reds also don’t get particularly good OF play at the corners. If you have Puig in CF, where he is very likely to be below average defensively, Winker in LF where he is very likely to be well below average defensively, and Schebler or Kemp in RF who are average at best defensively, you have a pretty poor OF defense. I don’t worry so much about the balls hit over their heads at GABP but the balls hit into the gaps and the little Texas Leaguers that fall in front of them are problems at GABP. I really don’t think Puig should be in CF.

    I haven’t seen Senzel play the OF so I really have no idea. I’m sure Ervin could do it but not sure his bat allows him to be a starting CF. If I were still sorting, I’d probably have him in CF most days but since we’re not supposed to be sorting anymore, I think the Reds need a guy who can play at least an average defensive CF and be an improvement over Hamilton at the plate. There are still a few guys that fit that description available on the FA market and probably via trade. That guy isn’t on the current roster in my opinion though.

    • doofus

      If we want to attract FA pitchers to Cincinnati we do not want to have Puig in CF.

  8. Wesley Jenkins

    A telling comparison:

    Odubel Herrera, the worst everyday centerfielder by UZR/150 (Charlie Blackmon was worse by just UZR), recorded 0 OAA in 2018. He had -2 on balls in front of him and -3 on balls behind him but was able to make up the difference moving into the gaps.

    I think Puig’s right field OAA numbers may be moderately suppressed because centerfielders usually call off corner OFs and both Kike Hernandez and Cody Bellinger, the primary Dodgers CF, had positive UZRs and OAAs .

    • Wesley Jenkins

      My point being: I think Puig’s range numbers will actually look better if he slots full time in CF , especially if the lead-footed Winker and Schebler are his corners.

    • Matt Wilkes

      That’s definitely a point worth cconsidering, and this is a flaw of defensive metrics. The CF calls off the RF on balls in the gap pretty often, and it’s why I’d like to see Puig at least get a shot to play CF in spring training.

  9. WVRedlegs

    I hope the Reds answer in CF is not on their roster at this time. The fun will wear off quickly with any of these 4 corner OF the Reds have playing CF full time.
    The Reds could make deal with the Indians for a SP in which they take Jason Kipnis back and play him in CF. He did play CF in college. This could be the place to send Kemp on a sort of salary neutral trade. Kipnis to get $14.5MM in 2019 with a team option for 2020 at $16.5MM with a $2.5MM buyout. That would be $17MM owed to Kipnis for 2019 plus the buyout.
    Now if the Reds want to go under the radar for CF, they could look to Oakland and trade for 24 year old Ramon Laureano. He played 48 G’s in Oakland and hit .288/.358/.474. He also had 9 OF assists and 1 error in those 48 G’s. Oakland needs starting pitching and cost-controlled pitching which the Reds have. RStephenson, Reed, Romano, or Sims could land a CF. Well, maybe 2 from that group.

    • Matt Hendley

      Sims… forgot about him. Does he still have an option left

    • ToBeDetermined

      Ouch, Jason Kipnis in CF.
      Do you actually think he would be better than the Reds current choices ?

      • doctor

        Kipnis should be at least as “average” as Choo was in 2013. lol.

    • LWBlogger2

      I don’t think Kipnis is the answer in CF, mostly because the Tribe don’t think that Kipnis is an answer in CF. They played him out there some and removed him from games for defensive reasons. Like Puig or Schebler, I think Kipnis could handle CF in a pinch for a game here or there but he’s not a CF in MLB.

      You’re getting creative with Laureano. I don’t know if 2 of the group of pitchers you’re talking about would get it done because the A’s obviously value Laureano. That said, it’s the kind of move the Reds should be looking into. There’s obviously some risk as there is with almost any prospect, that he may not be able succeed in MLB, but if the Reds think 2020 is much more likely than 2019 for being competitive, he might be worth 2 of those pitchers on your list.

      • WVRedlegs

        The problem is it looks like Laureano may be in their plans to be their regular CF. They also have Dustin Fowler in CF who is about 6 months younger than Laureano. Both got time in CF last season, but Laureano got more in September in a playoff run.
        It would take staring pitching to pry him away. Nice speed and a little power. A RH hitter. And 6 years to go on team control. I didn’t want to include Mahle in that group, but it might take that.

  10. Tom

    I think Puig or Schebler can man CF until Senzel is ready to come up. Senzel is athletic enough that an average CF shouldn’t be a problem.

    Now, the Reds do have an option as a late inning sub in CF who’s almost as fast as Hamilton and 10x as yoked…. Lorenzen.

    • ToBeDetermined

      Interesting . Lorenzen as a late inning replacement in CF.

      Lorenzen could come into the game in the 6th or 7th. Pitch a couple of innings.
      Then go to CF when the “Closer” comes in.

  11. doofus

    How about an article entitled can Ervin, Friedl, Siri or Trammell handle CF?

    Why not evaluate the ability of these 4 to play CF in Spring training? I believe that Winker and Puig should be set in LF and RF, respectively. I was surprised to see that Ervin only played 24 innings in CF last season.

    Why not see if Friedl or Siri can make the team out of ST to play CF and be a bridge to Trammell?

    I’ve always thought that Schebler is a 4th outfielder.

    • LWBlogger2

      By most accounts, including Doug’s if I’m not mistaken, it is believed that Ervin could handle the position. As far as guys who are on the roster right now, I think Ervin would be the best bet to play CF every day. I’m not sure he’s going to hit enough but he’s a former 1st round pick who had a fair season at the plate last year in AAA and MLB. He’s also a RH hitter. If the Reds don’t sign anyone, I’d rather he gets a shot than Schebler or Puig every day. I’m fine with either of those guys making spot starts but I don’t think either could handle the defensive rigors of the position full time.

      I have hopes for Trammell, Siri, and Friedl but wouldn’t want to bring them on too early and I think it’s too early for any of them.

      • LWBlogger2

        Spot starts in CF I mean. I think Puig, if not traded, needs to play RF almost every day.

  12. Frogem

    I believe Center Field is too physical a position to risk Puig. I prefer we use him in right field where he is accustomed, then we can sit back and enjoy what happens with the realization of Puig being full time in a small park where defending extra base attempts of runners becomes more fruitful and interesting.

  13. jreis

    not many true centerfielders in the majors anymore. Jose Siri I feel is one but he is not ready yet. that is why I didn’t quite understand the billy Hamilton move. may as well kept him one more year for a relative low cost for a prime defender.

    my preference of cf with the guys we have now are 1. Ervin. 2 schebler 3. Puig. 4. Peraza 5. senzel ( with injuries and vertigo etc, I really think he just needs to be at 2b where he is comfortable.

  14. RedsFaninPitt

    Get your CF for 2019 and future RF after Puig leaves doing the following free agency signing and trades:
    After signing Grandal to 4yr deal.
    Trade Gennett/Schebler/Barnhart to Indians for T. Bauer and Yu Cheng Chang. Trade Chang to Yanks for Clint Frazier. Frazier plays CF in 2019 giving Friedl/Siri/Trammell a yr to see which one is ready to take CF in 2020.

    • LWBlogger2

      That’s a lot of moving parts. I’m not sure the Indians would make the move especially considering that Gennett and Schebler are rentals. Of course Bauer only has 2 years of control.

      • RedsFaninPitt

        Schebler isn’t a rental – he has 4 yrs of control left still and will still be paid the league minimum in 2019. Barnhart is under control very cheaply for 3 more yrs. They are the key pieces in this deal to meet Cleveland’s low payroll needs. The Reds are essentially getting a long- term RF (5yrs of control) with a high ceiling and Bauer (a #2 imo) for 2 yrs and giving up a cheap average catcher + a cheap slightly above average LF and a not cheap all star 2B for 1yr. This fills many Cleveland holes with mostly cheap good talent and fills Reds short and long- term needs. The Reds have no clear RF talent in their system right now. Puig fills that need for 1 season.

      • LWBlogger2

        That is correct on Schebler. I flaked for some reason… Still a lot of moving parts but sometimes that is what is needed to get the parts that a team needs. No idea how feasible such deals would be but the kind of moves the team should be looking at.

  15. Kettering Reds Fan

    From my perspective, a lot of this seems moot.

    What I expect to see is a lot of sorting and churning. Between basic platooning, batting order adaptations vs specific pitchers (RH v LH), finding out what we have, who’s hot/who’s not, the usual run of injuries and non-availability and the prospect of a flip or structural trade, it could easily take the bulk of the season for a stable outfield regime to establish itself.

    Too many moving pieces, too many questions and the only way to resolve is to run through (most of) the permutations.

    • doofus

      Nice insight. Agree, the OF will not be settled until later in the year.

      • greenmtred

        Yes. The current outfield seems like a temporary iteration to me. Some might yet be traded this year, and Senzel hasn’t been identified as an outfielder, really. He might become one, of course, but what he’s mainly been is a third baseman.

    • Corky Miller

      Best assessment I’ve read yet. Puig will play every day, either in CF or RF, so they can showcase him for the deadline.

      If I had to guess: Winker, Puig and Schebler left to right vs righties; Kemp, Ervin, Puig left to right vs lefties.

      Senzel is in AAA to start the year.

      • LWBlogger2

        Puig has a strange career platoon split. He hits RHP better than LHP. Not sure he’ll be in there as opposed to Schebler or Winker. It’s possible though as he still hits LHP better than either. Caveat is Winker’s sample size is small. He’ll need to play more if we want to find out how well he hits LHP.

  16. Old-school

    Nick Senzel should be cleared for baseball activity by now. Jesse Winker gave an interview at Redsfest that his final step is to be cleared to hit the first week of January.

    Will Senzel be in CF with Eric Davis in January or taking grounders at 2b? One thing’s for sure. Once Senzel is cleared… He will be working every day at a position.

  17. Old-school

    I could see a scenario where both Senzel and Winker are not on the Opening Day roster. Senzel gets a month to prove health and ” learn” his position at AAA as the Reds gain a year of control. Winker gets an additional month to rehab and get every day at bats.

    Kemp starts in left. Schebler starts in CF and Puig in RF.

    • Matt Hendley

      This could work….it would also offset any “kemp would be better” rumors or statements.

      • Old-school

        DW has used the term flexibility. Injuries happen and will again. The reds got 2 proven pitchers. Outfield depth and infield flexibility is good.

        Ryan Madsen hit Votto on the knee and wrecked a month Pittsburgh broke Suarez’ hand and ruined 6 weeks. Schebler ran into a wall in St Louis and couldn’t throw the rest of the year. Scooter had nagging injuries. Winker was #2 in the NL in OBP till he had a season ending shoulder injury. Senzel had vertigo, then finger surgery, then elbow surgery.
        More moves are coming but no one can predict injuries. Matt Kemp might be a nice emergency first baseman and 5 hole hitter for 3 weeks .

  18. Klugo

    Good question. One factor playing to his advantage is the small ballpark. One thing playing to his disadvantage is that Redleg Nation has come accustomed to Super Man playing CF. Those are big shoes to fill on that side of the field.
    I’m glad we’re finding out though.

  19. Steve Schoenbaechler

    We need to consider some things. First, from the first several lines, one can directly imply that Hamilton was an ace at CF. “Defensively”, yes. And, few if anyone is going to be able to replace Hamilton. But, “offensively”? We could get a AAA or even probably the AA CF up here and do better. Overall, Hamilton was a “serviceable” CF, in my opinion.

    As for who we have, I believe their defense will be “serviceable”. And, the FO has stated they aren’t done yet. So, we still may get a CF. But, even if we didn’t, I can still take what we have.

  20. TR

    With his strong arm, speed and good offense I think Yasiel Puig, backed up by Ervin, can adequately handle center field until the prospects mature in the minors. Another solid starting pitcher should be the #1 priority.

  21. Mason Red

    Pete Rose started his professional career at 2nd base. He then moved to left field. And then to 3rd base. He spent the final years of his career at 1st base. And we’re not talking about an outstanding athlete yet be played all positions very well. My point is why get all in a dither about if an athletic player like Puig is capable of making the move from right to center? There’s more important concerns with this team especially starting pitching.

    • doctor

      Don’t forget he won 2 GG in RF as well.

      • Hotto4Votto

        For his career Pete Rose had negative value at every position he played but the OF corners. It was great he had flexibility but it was his offense that kept him on the field, not his defense. I think that’s what people are saying about Puig. His offense (and defense in the corner OF) is a great addition, but it becomes less of a positive if he is moved to CF. Would the obvious uptick in offense outweigh having an average defender in CF? Probably, but that’s going to be a very porous OF defense with none of our OF’ers expected to be above average. I get why it’s a concern, especially as our INF defense up the middle is already a liability.

      • Michael E

        Yes, but Puig is not the problem with the 2019 OF. It’s Winker, who has no business playing any OF position, who will be the big detriment. I think Puig will be just fine in CF if given the chance. Just put him there in ST and don’t jerk him around.

  22. doctor

    Given how much the Dodgers loved moving position players around, from the outside perspective it seems to be telling that Puig has not really played CF since 2014. Given the Reds current OF mix, I think the current options are combo of Schebler and Ervin getting most time in CF with Schebler starting and moving to LF when Ervin enters for defense, leave Puig to be RF for most starts

    However, its likely this will be shook up again with a trade of at least one of Winker/Puig/Schebler for more pitching.

  23. doofus

    The best hitting OF is Winker. Why would we want to trade him?

    Presently, Senzel is an infielder, capable at 3b and 2b. He’s not yet proven he can play in the OF. I imagine he will be capable in the OF.

    The best defender is probably Ervin. At 26 years old, it seems that it’s taken a long time for him to come around; and, I’m not sure if he will be anything but a 5th OFer.

    ST will be an important time to evaluate what the Red’s have in the OF.

  24. sixpack2

    I believe Puig will be in RF, Schebler/Ervin in CF, and Winkler and Kemp in LF. Maybe Kemp is traded to AL and Gennett traded anywhere to open up 2nd for Senzel. A lot of the moves I have read trade some of our future and I do not think that will happen for an all or nothing 2019.

  25. REDSMAN

    Funny, no one has suggested putting Senzel at ss. Without having seen him play there, I hate to say this, but having watched Peraza perform as our starter there last season…let’s just say Senzel probably has a higher ceiling there. Furthermore, having seen Peraza play CF the previous year…that seemed to be his best position. Isn’t this possibility the simplest answer to the problem?

    It further simplify’s the OF glut by having Wink in LF, where he clearly belongs, and leaves Puig in RF, his best position. I really like the possibilities of this solution and hope someone in our brain trust has already considered it. Based on the recent events, my guess is, they have and we can look forward to this playing out during ST.
    IF, we can get by that little service time issue with Senzel!

    • greenmtred

      People have been suggesting Senzel at shortstop for months. My recollection is that the Reds–among them Barry Larkin–concluded that he wasn’t a viable option there, but I never heard why not.

      • LWBlogger2

        I haven’t heard the exact reasoning either, however, I am of the belief that if the Reds personnel people don’t think he’s really a regular MLB SS, then he probably isn’t. If they feel that Peraza is a better option at SS then he probably is. The scouts back when he was drafted saw him at 3B or 2B.

        It was mentioned that he played some SS in college, filling in due to injury of the team’s regular SS. When the team’s regular SS returned, Senzel went on to 3B. Why? Likely because the defense with the other guy at SS and Senzel at 3B was better.

        His college coach said he thought Senzel could play SS every day as a pro but really, what is he supposed to say when asked that question? I trust the Reds on this one when they say that Senzel isn’t really a fit as a MLB starting SS.

  26. Steve

    I would stay with Schebler in CF, ( I know, very adequate, but I love they way he plays the game, and he did hit 30HR a year ago when healthy) Puig in RF where he feels comfy and I just love watching Winker hit. Lineup,
    Schebler
    Puig
    Votto
    Scooter
    Suarez
    Winker
    Tucker
    Peraza

    • Gonzo Reds

      I think Winker’s OBP is wasted at 6, like him better at 1 or 2.

  27. Preach

    This is modern baseball: what if Puig isn’t comfortable and doesn’t want to play CF?

  28. Michael E

    I played baseball, as did many on this board I expect, and I found CF barely different from LF or RF. If you can field one, you can field them all. CF is a bit more demanding physically of course and you are the BOSS of the OF (mental, but hardly taxing), but overall it’s not a big leap. The differences are getting a read on a laced roped or a heavy-spinning slice fly that is tailing away from you as fast as you can run.

    WAY too much is made of oh, it’s CF, not RF or LF. We won’t have a gold glove in CF (or LF or RF for that matter), but Puig will likely be as good as any of the others if left to play CF. Just don’t be jerking them all around multiple positions is all I ask. CF only becomes tough if you’re playing it intermittently mixed in with LF or RF duties.

    • TR

      Routine and stability are the keys. If the decision is Puig to center field for the next couple years, he’ll get it done. Just don’t move him back and forth.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Agree routine and stability are important. It’s why I mentioned above that I’m not a big fan of OF rotations, as I don’t think it allows guys to get in a groove. If they hit a slump it’s more pronounced, they may look over their shoulder and apply more pressure on themselves, while also not having the same amount of consistent opportunities to hit their way out of a slump.
        With that said, I think it’s most important that the Reds would find that same stability with Nick Senzel. He’s going to be a part of next year’s team and the Reds should do what they can to make that transition smoother. I think they need to find him a spot and stick with it. As the Reds are constructed now, that spot is CF.
        Winker, Senzel, and Puig are the best options across the OF, and it should be very good offensively. Come Spring Training if the roster is still the same they should set it and forget it. That way everyone knows their role and guys can get accustomed to playing with each other. Kemp, Schebler, and Ervin can prepare to be used off the bench and everyone else knows where they’re going to line up most days.

  29. Streamer88

    Does an aggressive shifting strategy make CF easier to play?