Hinds to OF? 'We'll see what I can do with it'
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- On Monday, the first day position players reported to the Reds’ early Minor League camp, third-base prospect Rece Hinds was doing what he’s often done before -- showing some impressive power during batting practice.
The ball often traveled far, easily clearing the fence on two of his last three swings. Earlier in the workout, however, Hinds was doing something less familiar to him by practicing with the outfielders.
The organization met with Hinds at the start of the day to let him know of its plans.
“It’s a little different. I feel good about it,” said Hinds, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati’s No. 7 prospect. “Honestly, whatever keeps me on the field as much as possible. I’ve had injuries in the past whether it’s because of bad luck, training purposes or being in the infield all the time. I don’t know what it is. Trying out the outfield and trying something different is going to be nice. We’ll see what I can do with it.”
Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender noted a position change was not set in stone. With Minor League games still three weeks away and Hinds being athletic with a strong arm, the organization wanted to expand his opportunities.
On Monday, however, Hinds didn’t have an outfielder’s glove and he had to borrow one.
“I texted my agent about it,” he said. “I’m getting one here, hopefully soon, and [I'll] see where it takes me.”
Raw power has helped Hinds stand out since high school at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. He was the Reds’ second-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft and signed for $1.797 million.
During a high school home run derby at Nationals Park in 2018, Hinds finished second to Bobby Witt Jr. -- currently the No. 3 overall prospect for the Royals. But Hinds impressed with multiple drives onto the ballpark concourse and one homer that he hit one-handed after getting caught on his front foot.
“Offensively, there is a lot of something there,” Reds special assistant for player performance Eric Davis said. “He is very athletic. He can run, he can throw and do a lot of different things.”
Growing up in Niceville, Fla., a smaller town on the panhandle about 90 minutes west of Panama City, Hinds took to baseball very young with his stepfather, Barry.
“I started when I was around 3 or 4. I dragged a baseball out one time and said, ‘Teach me this.’ Ever since from then, I just kind of played baseball my whole life,” Hinds said.
Hinds’ mother, Michelle, shut down any hopes of playing football.
“My mom made me quit,” he said. “When I look back, I wished I could have played all through high school and just enjoy it. But in hindsight, baseball worked out. There’s a lot more benefits in the baseball side of the world than football.”
The raw power wasn’t a big part of Hinds' game until he was in the middle of high school.
“When I was younger, I was the smallest kid. I hit a growth spurt my sophomore year and that’s when I tapped into my power,” Hinds said. “I realized I had more power than I thought I had. It just kind of increased from there. It’s a great feeling, just knowing preparation and the hard work I’ve put in, that I can connect with a ball like that. It’s what I’ve been working for.”
Hinds, 21, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds but injuries have been an issue since he turned pro. He was limited to three games in Rookie-level Greeneville in 2019. The pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, which he spent at the Reds’ alternate training site.
In 2021, with Low-A Daytona, Hinds was limited to 43 games because he tore meniscus cartilage in his left knee while sliding into second base. Overall, for the Tortugas, he batted .251/.319/.515 with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs. Six of his homers came after he returned from his two months on the injured list.
Cutting down on strikeouts is one area of growth for Hinds, who could begin 2022 at High-A Dayton. He struck out 52 times in 185 plate appearances -- or 28.1 percent -- last season while walking 13 times.
“Increasing my walks from last year is definitely a big goal,” Hinds said. “Obviously, if I work on the other things around it, the strikeouts will lessen. When I think about strikeouts, that’s when I start taking pitches more or just start swinging at everything. I focus on consistently getting my swing off on the pitches I should be hitting.”
There wasn’t a Major League city close to Niceville for Hinds to see games, but he did travel five hours to Atlanta to see a couple of Braves games.
“When I was younger, I always liked Justin Upton and B.J. Upton and Andruw Jones,” Hinds said. “It’s kind of funny, I was never an outfielder, but my favorite players were always outfielders.”
Now there’s a chance Hinds could become an outfielder himself. It could help him get to the Major Leagues.