The Reds have one corner outfield spot locked up through at least 2016 with Jay Bruce, though they are currently in the market for another guy for left field, though they could fall back on Todd Frazier and attempt to find a third baseman.
The top corner outfield prospect, who is clearly in a group all to himself, is Jesse Winker. The Reds selected Winker in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft and despite being just 18-years-old he went to the Pioneer League and put up in most years what would probably have brought home and MVP award as he hit .338/.443/.500 with 40 walks and 50 strikeouts. Offensively, he has good tools across the board. He has a strong hit tool that plays up due to his outstanding plate discipline that helps him pick good pitches to swing at and his power is more in the potential than a current stage, but he has solid power potential that should develop as he continues to make his way through the minors. Defensively, he is limited to a corner outfielder because of his foot speed being average at best. His arm may place him in left field in the long run, but for now he is splitting time between both left and right.
Jeff Gelalich struggled in his professional debut after being drafted in the supplemental first round. He dealt with hand injury after showing up to Billings and it sapped a lot of his hitting ability as he posted a .244/.336/.378 line. While the hand injury may have sapped some of his hitting ability, 14 walks to 42 strikeouts was a bit concerning and will be something he must improve on in the future. Defensively he should be an above-average defender.
Donald Lutz spent 2012 getting his feet wet in left field after spending most of his career at first base. He split his time between Bakersfield with the Blaze and in Pensacola as a Blue Wahoo. While in Bakersfield he showed off big power as he slugged .561, but he only posted a .325 OBP while walking 19 times and striking out 71. In Pensacola his power dropped off, but his plate discipline improved with 13 walks and 32 strikeouts. Power is his calling card as he has plus power potential and above-average current power. Plate discipline could be an issue that keeps him from fully developing as a hitter though, as he can be very aggressive at times. On the defensive side of things, he has the speed and arm to play left field just fine, but he needs more time to get better at reading the ball off of the bat and running routes.
Josh Fellhauer spent his entire season in Pensacola, though he played almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. That likely limits him to being a platoon partner, but he performed quite well in 2012 in that role as he hit .314/.409/.420 with as many walks as strikeouts. While Fellhauer projects for below average power, he has a solid hit tool, good plate discipline and good speed. That speed helps him defensively in the corners where he shows above-average range and a good arm.
Kyle Waldrop made big improvements during the 2012 season at the plate as he drastically improved his plate discipline to hit .284/.346/.421 with 38 walks and 77 strikeouts in 469 plate appearances for the Dayton Dragons. A solid athlete, Waldrop has some solid tools, though his above-average power potential could be what separates him from a group of solid-average guys if he can develop it moving forward. His arm strength is average, though he could play both left or right field.
After those guys there is a drop off to the next group of guys. Louisville has two fringe guys in Felix Perez and Denis Phipps. Both guys have things working for them, but also have several questions to their games. Perez hit .301/.348/.401 with the Bats, but at age 27 he has questionable plate discipline and very little power. Defensively he has a strong arm that racked up 16 assists in just 101 games, but likely profiles more as a 4th outfielder or platoon outfielder. Phipps got his feet wet with a September call up for the Reds as he logged 11 plate appearances. He really struggled in his time with Louisville as e hit just .221/.293/.401 with 33 walks and 103 strikeouts. Like Perez, he has questionable plate discipline, but also strong defense that could make him an extra outfielder in the Major Leagues. Unlike Perez though, Phipps may have average power to bring to the table as well, but his hit tool isn’t quite as good either. Juan Silva spent most of his time in left field for the Dayton Dragons in 2012. Like Kyle Waldrop he didn’t show much power during the season, but has a little bit of power potential that may come forward over the next few seasons. He has strong plate discipline and hit .271/.380/.413. Defensively he is currently an above-average defender in the corner outfield, though his arm is merely average at best. How his power develops will determine just what his role in the future will be.
There is some solid depth at the position, with three Top 25 prospects and several other good prospects beyond that. Jesse Winker is the cream of the crop and you can argue that he is the best hitting prospect in the system. Beyond him though, there probably isn’t much upside as most of the rest of the group project at their top end to probably just be an average every day starter for one reason or another. With a premium level prospect and a good set of guys who profile to as potential starters I would grade the position as a solid B.
For other State of the Farm posts, check out the series here.