Looking at the Future: Cincinnati Reds Center Fielders Doug Gray March 13, 2014 17 Comments Today is the last article in the series where we Look at the Future by position. The final look is at the center field position. The Reds have handed the position over to Billy Hamilton for the 2014 season and if things go as well as they hope, the next six years. While it may seem a bit similar to the State of the Farm series, the purpose here is to look at the current Reds and the contract status of the players at each position and get into potential internal replacements for when those current Reds contracts expire. Expires after the 2014 season: No one Billy Hamilton is going to get a long leash and is under contract for quite a while being that 2014 is his rookie year. There are some questions about how his bat will play, but the rest of his game is very well rounded so if he struggles at the plate the rest of his game could get him time to adjust. If he struggles for the full season or an injury arises, the position may open up. Potential center fielders to come up during or after the 2014 season: Ryan LaMarre, Yorman Rodriguez and Bryson Smith. Ryan LaMarre could be the favorite here as he is on the 40-man roster and will likely find himself in Louisville to begin the season. He is the best on the defensive side of the ball among this group and turned things on with his bat in the second half of 2013. Yorman Rodriguez is the toolsiest of the group and is also on the 40-man roster but he is also the youngest. He has the least amount of experience in the upper minor leagues with just half of a season in Double-A. Bryson Smith is a career .308 hitter in the minor leagues but is coming off of a very bad injury where he broke his leg on a play at the wall. He isn’t on the 40-man roster which could put him at a big disadvantage. Most likely to take over: Ryan LaMarre This is a bit of a toss up, but LaMarre being a bit closer and the better defender gets him the nod. LaMarre will need to carry forward his offensive second half though to get the call if the opportunity arises. Wild card pick: Yorman Rodriguez At just 21-years-old Rodriguez could put things together and really break out as a prospect. If that happens he could get the call if the team has a need. Expires after the 2015 season: No one Billy Hamilton will still be under contract after the 2015 season. Unless he loses his job or an injury arises there won’t be an opening. Potential center fielders to take over after the 2015 season: Phillip Ervin and Junior Arias. Phillip Ervin is the favorite here because of his well rounded game. His game doesn’t seem to have a weakness as he is average or better across the board. Junior Arias is among the toolsiest players in the entire system, but his plate discipline has held back his offensive tools from reaching their potential. Most likely to take over: Phillip Ervin While he was drafted just last year he could move quickly through the system with a well rounded toolset and advanced approach to the game. Wild card pick: Junior Arias If Arias could figure out his plate discipline he could put his offensive tools to use with his defensive ones. For more from this series, click here. 17 Responses Sultan of swaff March 13, 2014 Wouldn’t it be amazing if everything breaks the Reds way over the next year or so and Hamilton/YRod/Ervin all pan out? 3 dynamic guys with skill sets very different from each other, and we haven’t even mentioned Winker. Counting Jay Bruce, all of the sudden you’re looking at 5 guys for 3 spots. First world problems, indeed, but if I had to trade one to fill a need (say SS or 2B), Winker would be the guy (position limited due to athleticism). Would you guys hold them all or make a trade, and if so, who? MK March 13, 2014 If you assume they keep Votto and Bruce and that Hamilton is successful then who you trade of the three would depend on the bats of Mesoraco and Frazier. If they do not hit, as we assume they should(average and power) then the keeper has to be a right handed power guy, then Winker would be the guy to move. I think Juan Duran could work into the story as well. Stock March 13, 2014 I read an article on Billy Hamilton at MLB.com yesterday. I was surprised to read that on his bunt hit vs. the Rangers their 1B was playing 70 feet from home plate. However, Billy dragged a bunt in which the 1B had to take a step to his right to field. That was enough to ensure he had no shot at beating Billy to the bag. Maybe this won’t happen during the regular season but teams are doing several thing to try and stop Billy. One team had their 2B play close enough to the 1B bag that he could be on first to catch the ball fielded by the 1B. This has to open up a huge hole between the 2B and the SS. Another team had the 2B on the infield grass to field the bunt and let the 1B man the bag. They say playing the infield in adds 100 points to your batting average but this is pulling the 2B even closer than that. Managers are telling their pitchers to get off the mound quicker and be prepared. Well if I am a pitcher and I have a follow through that throws me off balance consistently then the only way around this is to throw a 90 mph fastball instead of a 94 mph fastball. This could explain why Billy has only struck out twice in 27 plate appearances this spring. Maybe pitchers understand Billy is going to bunt and they throw him high and tight fastballs early in the count (this is what I would do). If he lays off these and puts the pitcher in the hole with a 1-0 or 2-0 count early he has the advantage and that could explain his 18.5% walk rate this spring. Again, I say Billy will succeed this year because his feet will create the bat. I have never seen this before but Billy’s hard work this year on bunting may just ensure that. I know this is just ST and teams are trying different things to see what works. What they do now they may not do in June. However, if Billy is successful on 50% of his bunt attempts when they are doing insane things this spring, how can they possibly revert back to what they do with everyone else because he should bunt every time if that is the case. In short it seems that Billy’s bunting prowess is forcing teams to adjust how they position their infielders, adjust how the pitchers throw to Billy and adjust the location of the pitches Billy sees. You may not be able to steal 1B but Billy’s legs will without a doubt enhance the chances of him arriving their safely. Sultan of swaff March 13, 2014 You make a strong case, and I’m not inclined to disagree. I don’t think the baseball world is quite prepared for what they’re about to witness. It’s visual stimuli on a whole different level, you know? So weird, having the 2 most freakish athletes in baseball on the same team. Too bad one of them is just a shiny hood ornament. Stock March 13, 2014 The cool part is I see this as merely the beginning. If you have the 1B and 3B playing 70 feet from home plate then a slug bunt over their heads could regularly turn into a 100-150 foot double. Doug Gray March 13, 2014 Triple-A was well prepared for it. wanderinredsfan March 13, 2014 So, How many times did Hamilton attempt a bunt for a hit last season? How many times did he succeed? I’m inclined to be a little more positive about Hamilton’s ability to bunt continuously for a hit, especially after watching him do this exact thing this spring against competition. Even if Hamilton goes to the plate looking to bunt first, I think he can be successful 25% of the time. If Hamilton hits north of .250/.300/.300, I think he will do just fine as a lead off hitter. Given that I see this as his ‘floor’, I think we should all be very optimistic at Hamilton’s arrival in Cincy this season. Doug Gray March 13, 2014 23-51, though there were 5 sacrifices in there. He was quite successful, but it wasn’t otherworldly and the defenders aren’t as good. I think he will hit at least .400 on bunts for a while as long as he doesn’t over do the bunting. I think .310 is a break even point for him being able to hit leadoff well enough. If he posts a .350 OBP like Josh says, he will post a 5 or 6 win season. MK March 13, 2014 Thinking back to 2007 the Reds had a young man named Norris Hopper who hit .329 in 307 at bats and bunts were a major part of his game. Now Norris did not have the athletic abilities of Billy and that eventually caught up with him but he did hit pretty well and bunting either got him the hit or helped set it up. Josh March 13, 2014 Hamilton will hit .275 with a .350 OBP. Gold glove defense in CF. 100 runs scored. 100 SB. Rookie of the Year in 2014. DaveCT March 13, 2014 let’s not forget the overall hit tool and billy’s make up, which seems to be quite good. in other words, i don’t think billy will rest until he strengthens his overall hitting, plus he has a history of making adjustments once he gets exposure to a new level. Mel March 13, 2014 In all of my years in Baseball I must say I have never ever witnessed anyone quite like Billy Hamilton I have seen guys like Henderson Mcghee, and Vince Coleman but none of the guys I mentioned have the raw speed that Billy has. Henderson was a freak of nature and might very well go down as the best ever in the leadoff spot but Billy can be a whole different type of players that the mLB has never seen wanderinredsfan March 13, 2014 So, How many times do we expect Hamilton will reach base via error? I’m going to set the over/under at 30 (given a full season of 600+ PAs). Reaching via error is not included in OBP, which suggests that he could get another 20 steals or runs beyond what his OBP would predict. Doug Gray March 13, 2014 I will take the under. I would take the under if you set it at 15. Last season it was 7 times. Krozley March 14, 2014 Officially reaching base via error will be less than 30, but advancing an extra base due to throwing errors may reach that number. There will be instances where the fielder/catcher rushes his delivery and throws it away. Because of Hamilton’s speed that will make any play “close”, the official scorer will give him a hit (or steal) and then an error on the throw if he advances, That is something that won’t show up on his stats. Jim H. March 14, 2014 He will not reach base via error as many time as others. His speed will rule it a hit more times than not. MK March 13, 2014 Adames, Taveras and Sanchez released yesterday.