Friday, December 20, 2013

CBS Sports writer: Reds have 'giant weakness' in center field

There is no denying the Reds will sorely miss Shin-Soo Choo in center field and at the leadoff spot next season. No player was better at getting on base in 2013 than Choo was (outside of teammate Joey Votto). So it is safe to assume that his replacement has extremely big shoes to fill and probably won't be able to fill them completely.

As it stands now, it appears speedy prospect Billy Hamilton will take the reins over from Choo. Although Hamilton's speed has become legendary, his ability as a top-of-the-lineup hitter is still in question, and that has some around the baseball community concerned on behalf of the Reds. In this case, Mike Axisa of CBS Sports.

Here is a snippet of Axisa's recent feature piece on the matter at hand:

The big question about Hamilton is his bat, not his legs. He hit only .256/.308/.343 in 547 Triple-A plate appearances this past season and he's struck out 100+ times in each of the last three years, not a typical trait for a leadoff man. Baseball America recently noted "pitchers were able to overpower him at times last year" and "his bat has not convinced scouts he is ready for the leadoff spot." 

The steals are great! Having a leadoff man who swipes 60+ bags a year is awesome. But an on-base percentage hovering around .300? With a .340-ish slugging percentage? Ewww. That's production fit for the number nine hitter (or number eight in the NL), not the leadoff hitter of a very good, contending team.

Axisa adds more reasoning to his argument by providing 2014 projections for Hamilton as the Reds leadoff man. Of the four projects from four different sources, the best case scenario puts Hamilton's slash line at .250/.304/.335 with 76 stolen bases, while the worst case scenario puts Hamilton at .232/.289/.323 with 66 stolen bags. These numbers would obviously be a far cry from the .285/.423/.462 line Choo posted a season ago.

To remedy the potential problem, Axisa suggests the Reds should seriously consider acquiring either Brett Gardner from the Yankees or Alejandro De Aza of the White Sox, both of whom have a more proven track record of getting on base at a high rate.

But if all else fails, Axisa concedes that Hamilton might very well develop into a serviceable leadoff hitter sooner rather than later, which would make the worries about his productivity a moot point. Until then, the Reds should continue to explore bonafide options to stick in center field and leadoff while Hamilton takes time to develop. Otherwise, Cincinnati could be severely hurting themselves in their bid to be strong contenders for a pennant and world title.

Photo Credit: USA Today

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nope.. sorry Hamilton is ready for this challenge.. and its only the Reds no one expects votto to run the team without choo eaither way ur 5th in ur division in 14