Ryan Ludwick is still going to be the opening day starter for the 2014 season. However, Chris Heisey has made a solid case for himself in the discussion of who the everyday left fielder should be.
Heisey has had opportunities to start in the past, but he has never quite been able to capitalize on those opportunities and has largely functioned as a fourth outfielder for most of his career. This year, though, the 29-year-old came into camp with a new stance, and it looks to have paid early dividends.
Over 42 at-bats, Heisey is slashing .333/.333/.810 with five home runs, five doubles, 11 RBI and eight runs scored. While this looks great on paper, it is still just spring training, and some things haven't changed.
Over his four-year career, Heisey has struck out at an above-league average rate, and that trend looks to have continued into spring training. Heisey owns a K/BB ratio of 7:0.
Obviously, that K/BB ratio won't continue into the regular season, however, it still points to the larger trend of striking out far too much.
Even so, it's worth keeping an eye on Heisey during the season's early stages.
No player in the Reds camp has been a bigger surprise than Roger Bernadina. The 29-year-old was picked off the scrap heap after flopping out of Washington last season, but you'd never know it from his spring performance.
Through 26 at-bats, Bernadina boasts a lofty slash line of .462/.600/.808 with one home run, two triples, two doubles, four RBI, 10 runs scored and a 4:6 K/BB ratio.
Bernadina has outperformed nearly every player on the Reds roster, but the likelihood of him making said roster is slim. The team has a set outfield with Ludwick, Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce in left field, center field and right field, respectively.
After those three, Heisey has a firm hold on the fourth outfield spot, while newcomer Skip Schumaker provides additional outfield depth.
The likelihood of the club carrying a fifth outfielder is slim but not implausible. With Jack Hannahan, a likely member of the Reds bench, working through an injury, a spot could become available should he prove unable to start the season with the big league club.
Should this situation arise, Bernadina would be the first player to get an extended look come Opening Day.
The Reds really could have benefited from the addition of a right-handed power bat. Instead, they went out and signed the utilityman Schumaker.
It didn't seem like the best move at the time, but Schumaker has done a lot to inspire confidence in Reds fans this spring. Over his first 32 at-bats, Schumaker is the proud owner of a surprisingly good .438/.500/.625 slash line, to go along with one home run, three doubles, six RBI, nine runs scored and a 2:5 K/BB ratio.
Schumaker brings with him the ability to play multiple positions, including second base and all three outfield positions. With relative uncertainties in left field and center field, Schumaker could prove to be a valuable piece for the Reds during the 2014 season.
Hamilton's going to get on base at a .400 clip in the regular season, right? Well, probably not, but he's displayed some improvements in his game during spring training that could result in a season that exceeds initial expectations.
Hamilton's OppQual rating clocks in at 9.0 this spring, so he's playing against a decent level of competition, and he's creating tremendous optimism with his late-spring stat line.
In 40 at-bats—the second most on the team—Hamilton's sporting a .325/.413/.450 slash line with one home run, two doubles, five RBI, 12 runs scored, a 6:6 K/BB and nine stolen bases. Hamilton was initially a fringe candidate for this list of players, but even in spring training, it's surprising to see him bat above .300 and get on base at a plus-.400 clip.
Beyond the numbers though, Hamilton looks far more comfortable at the plate than he did last season. He has done an excellent job of working counts and drawing walks, while pitchers are trying to throw strikes and get ahead in counts.
Brett Marshall's offseason was hardly typical. By the time he joined the Reds in February, Marshall was already on his third team and seemed destined for an assignment to Triple-A Louisville.
Despite the tumultuous nature of his offseason, Marshall has turned in an outstanding performance in the team's spring camp. Over nine innings pitched, Marshall has turned in a solid stat line, including a 1.00 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP, while averaging 11.0 K/9, 7.0 BB/9 and 1.57 K/BB.
Marshall's walk and strikeout rates will obviously come down during the regular season, but his strikeout rate could see an uptick this season given the increased velocity displayed in his fastball.
According to Brooksbaseball.net, Marshall's fastball averaged 89.48 mph over three games during the 2013 season. Over the pitches they've tracked this spring, Marshall's fastball velocity has averaged out at 94.25 mph.
The Reds are hoping right now that Marshall's increased velocity and subsequent spring performance are a sign of things to come, because the 23-year-old may be called upon much sooner than expected given the recent injury bug that's plagued the team's pitching staff.