The baseball gods aren't wasting any time at testing the Cincinnati Reds' 2013 season.
With Ryan Ludwick’s injured shoulder after three innings on Opening Day, the Reds have to adjust.
The club entered the season with one of the soundest lineups they’ve had in past decade. But now, the Red’s have to look elsewhere for Ludwick’s replacement.
Parallel to Joey Votto’s injury last year, the Reds look for a power replacement very early in the season. Ludwick is expected to miss three months, and with that much time away from the team someone needs to step up.
Ranking from least to most likely, here are the top five Cincinnati Reds likely to step up in Ryan Ludwick’s absence.
All 2013 stats courtesy of mlb.com
All 2012 stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com
Xavier Paul was set as the Reds' fifth outfielder for the season. After Ryan Ludwick’s injury, he was immediately bumped up to Chris Heisey and Shin-Soo Choo’s backup.
Paul has already flashed some signs of power with a grand slam this past weekend.
In just nine at-bats this season, Paul has four hits and six RBI. Paul is becoming a very tough out in the Reds lineup.
In 2012, Paul collected a .314/.379/.465 slash line in 86 at-bats. He’s proven himself to be a great player off the bench.
With Ludwick’s injury, expect Paul to see a lot more at-bats. Batting from the left side gives Dusty Baker options with his power.
If Xavier Paul can repeat anything from 2012, he should be a noticeable replacement off the bench while relieving Heisey and Choo.
Ironically, it could be seen as time for Joey Votto to step up this season much like Ludwick did in Votto’s absence in 2012.
While Votto hasn’t necessarily knocked the cover off the ball yet, I’d still anticipate Votto’s numbers to hide the absence of Ludwick.
Votto has six hits in 25 at-bats with only one extra base hit. However, it’s only two weeks into the season.
Votto is already viewed as a force in the lineup as he’s received 10 walks in seven games.
With Choo at leadoff and Brandon Phillips being moved to cleanup, Votto will still have great hitters surrounding him. His opportunities to knock in runs won’t be significantly altered with Ludwick’s absence.
What likely will happen is Votto’s walk total will rise. Pitchers will avoid Votto more as Ludwick’s .346 OBP and 26 home runs (2012) are not in the lineup.
However, with Phillips in the cleanup spot, Votto will still have the chance to step up in the lineup.
Jay Bruce is another important player to keep the lineup stable. He has a little more pressure to be the power source at the middle of the lineup.
Although Bruce is without a home run yet in the young season, he has done a great job at putting the ball in play.
Bruce’s 10 strikeouts on the season might tell otherwise, but he has 11 hits in 34 at-bats so far. With four doubles and five RBI, Bruce is working as a bit of pick-up for Ludwick’s power.
His inconsistency is a bit worrisome for the club since he hit .296 in March/April, .229 in May, .253 in June, .213 in July, .290 in August and .233 in Sept/Oct. last season.
If Jay Bruce is able to put up three months of consistent hitting, the Reds will barely miss Ludwick’s bat.
Defensively, Chris Heisey will be an upgrade from Ryan Ludwick. With Drew Stubbs now gone, Heisey is one of the fastest players on the team.
Heisey has already displayed some great defense in left field.
However, where Heisey is most needed is in the two-hole in the lineup. Anyone batting before Joey Votto will likely see better pitches, but Heisey has to make the adjustment to keep the lineup dominant.
In his 26 at-bats, Heisey has recorded five hits, three RBI, one home run and nine strikeouts. Early in the season, his plate discipline could use some improvement, but there’s a ton of upside if Heisey can put up decent numbers in the two spot.
With the on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo batting before him and the 2010 NL MVP after, Heisey will face a lot of important at-bats while filling in for Ludwick.
Heisey possibly could be the most important player to hide Ludwick’s absence, but his offense will have to be steady for Votto and the rest of the lineup.
Batting cleanup shouldn’t come as anything new for Brandon Phillips. He had 287 at-bats while batting fourth in the lineup in 2012—the most for any lineup spot.
Phillips also had the best slash line at .303/.344/.460 while batting fourth last season.
If there’s anyone to step up in 2013, it’s Brandon Phillips.
So far, Phillips is doing just that. He currently has 11 hits, two home runs, seven RBI and four doubles in only 32 at-bats.
With Joey Votto gathering a ton of walks early in the season, pitchers are showing they’re more comfortable facing two-time all-star.
Phillips importance comes with maintaining the cleanup spot in Ludwick’s absence. His power will be desired a bit more and that shouldn’t be a problem as Phillips has stepped up in this cleanup role before.
If Phillips continues his offensive tear, it will make the middle of the lineup less vulnerable to opposing pitchers.