'Simplify it': Siani working to boost bat in camp
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The best defensive outfielder in the Reds’ system, center-field prospect Michael Siani often appears in videos online that show him taking hits away from opposing batters with spectacular catches.
As important as defense is, the key for Siani to reach the Major Leagues will be to show that he can hit. The 22-year-old left-handed hitter hasn’t rated as highly with his bat since he was a fourth-round selection by Cincinnati in the 2018 MLB Draft.
But that could soon change. The organization’s No. 11-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, played for Surprise in the 2021 Arizona Fall League and slashed .300/.451/.450 with one homer over 14 games. In 51 plate appearances, Siani walked 10 times against nine strikeouts.
“I was trying to simplify it, not trying to do too much,” said Siani after Tuesday’s workout at Reds early Minor League camp. “I stuck to one kind of plan and trusted that the bat to ball is going to be all right. The strike-zone awareness needs to be where it is.
“Having more walks than strikeouts in the Fall League was a big deal for me. Those little things and being quick to the plate and having good discipline was important, especially in the Fall League. You’re going to see arms that are really talented, whether it’s high velo or really good spin. You have to take that into this season and go from there.”
Siani missed two weeks in the Arizona Fall League because of a right Achilles tendon strain, but he recovered in time to play a couple of games by the end of the season. Overall, the AFL experience was a plus after he batted .216/.321/.327 with six homers over 97 games with High-A Dayton in '21.
“It was definitely big to get out there and reset in a way,” Siani said. “I got to be around a lot of really good players and the staff was great. There’s definitely some changes I kind of messed around with out there and they started to develop pretty well. It’s a good starting spot to work off of for the season coming up.”
Siani has excellent speed, which enabled him to steal 30 bases for Dayton last season and 45 bases in '19. He’s not falling back to being a ground-ball hitter and outrunning defenses for hits, instead striving to be a gap-to-gap hitter.
“Hard line drives are where you have to live,” Siani added. “You’re going to hit home runs, but that’s not the goal. I want to be an extra-bases hitter -- doubles. Get on the bases and do what I can do. I want to continue to hit the ball hard all over the field. You don’t want to get shifted.”
During the offseason, the Philadelphia-area native continued to work at home and in Tampa, Fla. He also traveled to Pittsburgh with Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender -- a fellow Philadelphia resident -- to meet new hitting coordinator Jim Rickon.
Siani and outfielder Austin Hendrick -- Cincinnati’s No. 4-ranked prospect -- did some hitting for Pender and Rickon.
“He looks great, no complaints,” Pender said of Siani. “He said there’s still a little [Achilles] stiffness on occasion, but that might have been the [cold] weather.”
“Honestly, I’ve had a bunch of different hitting coordinators during my time here. It was good to get to meet him and get a feel for where [Rickon] is at and swing a little bit with Austin [and] see and talk to Shawn,” Siani said.
Defensive effort will remain vital to Siani, who likes working on reading balls off the bat and taking a quick first step in the outfield each day during batting practice. He also has solid instincts, a plus left-handed throwing arm and the benefit of 60-grade speed to make catches from center field.
Siani takes a lot of pride in playing strong defense.
“Obviously, offensively you want to continue to improve and get better. That’s what will take you to the big leagues. But defense is a big deal,” Siani said. “I definitely like laying out in the gap or reaching over my head for a ball. It’s just as good as getting an extra-base hit at the plate. You just try to help out your pitcher as much as you can.”