After the signing of Seth Smith by the Oakland Athletics, it looked like the Cincinnati Reds would be hard pressed to find their elusive fourth outfielder. The next thing you know, Walt Jocketty signs free-agent outfielder and former employee with the St. Louis Cardinals, Ryan Ludwick.
A veteran outfielder is what the doctor ordered. Is Ludwick the right man for the job? What does the signing mean for the development of Chris Heisey?
Allow me to express my opinions please: If it was nearly anyone but Dusty Baker doing the lineup writing, Heisey would be in left field and Ludwick would be his able replacement.
However, Baker is not cut out to deal with young players, generally. That being said, you can count on Ludwick being the left fielder until he goes down with some type of injury.
Another reason he will not take a back seat to Heisey is the fact that he is right-handed as well and can't hit lefties very well either. He does, however, hit them about 57 points better than his soon-to-be understudy.
In fact, Ludwick hits right-handers better than lefties—just like Heisey. That being said, any shouts for "platoon" should be soon squelched. Why would you bring in a guy with the same hitting deficiency?
A first look at the two reveals that Heisey hits homers more often, but he also strikes out more. Basing their career performances on 162 game seasons, Ludwick gets 50 more hits than Heisey (141 to 91). Surprisingly, Ludwick smacks more round-trippers as well with 24 to 19.
Who do you think will start in Left Field?
I realize that their lengths of career are far apart. I also realize that much of Ludwick's stats are blown up by his overachieving year of 2008. He had a MVP-type year, but finished at No. 16 in voting. His numbers that year were .299/.375/.591/.966 with 37 HR and 113 RBI. He also scored 104 runs.
He had a decent 2009, but after that, his statistics dovetailed each year.
The OPS-plus of the two are nearly identical, with Ludwick squeaking out a slight edge of 110 to 108.
So, who would you play, keeping in mind that it looks like the Reds are "all in" for 2012?
Would you go with 33-year-old Ludwick whom you just paid $2.5M with incentives, topping it off at $3M, or 27-year-old upstart Chris Heisey who still hasn't learned how to hit left-handers? Did I tell you that Heisey is basically being paid minimum wage, approximately $419K?
Ludwick has only signed a one-year deal with Cincinnati, and he is one of the "good ol' boys" from Jocketty's days as Muckety Muck for the Cardinals.
In my opinion, Heisey will be lucky to have the 308 plate appearances he had in 2011.
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