CINCINNATI -- Whether they are in rebuilding mode or contending as they were in recent years, one thing that hasn't changed for the Reds is the unsettled position of left field. The spot often has been fortified with an acquisition -- such as Ryan Ludwick or Marlon Byrd -- on
CINCINNATI -- Whether they are in rebuilding mode or contending as they were in recent years, one thing that hasn't changed for the Reds is the unsettled position of left field. The spot often has been fortified with an acquisition -- such as Ryan Ludwick or Marlon Byrd -- on a short-term, stopgap deal.
Heading into 2016, there are no proven left fielders to plug into the lineup. But there is no shortage of candidates seeking an opportunity. Yorman Rodriguez, Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, Jake Cave and Kyle Waldrop are the top contestants for the position.
"Those are the guys," Reds general manager Dick Williams said. "Some of those guys can play multiple positions. There are guys that can play multiple outfield spots. [Juan] Duran will be in camp, and [Tyler] Holt. [Jesse] Winker, Waldrop and some of the younger guys, too."
Rodriguez, now 23, was signed for a then-record $2.5 million bonus out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2008. He has developed slowly and is out of Minor League options. Over his 85 games last season at Triple-A Louisville, Rodriguez batted .269/.308/.429 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs. But he did not play after July 28 because of a left calf injury.
The Reds gave the right-handed-hitting Rodriguez -- ranked as the team's No. 18 prospect by MLBPipeline.com -- a September callup in 2014, where he saw some action. He was briefly up again last season without getting into a game.
Duvall brings a lot of strikeouts but plenty of power potential. The 27-year-old, who was acquired in the July trade that sent Mike Leake to the Giants, hit 30 homers with 87 RBIs and 114 strikeouts over 541 plate appearances in 125 games at Triple-A.
In his limited Major League time with the Giants and Reds, Duvall has yet to establish himself as an everyday player. He's batted .204/.268/.409 in 55 career big league games. In 149 plate appearances, he struck out 46 times with nine walks.
Schebler, 25, came from the Dodgers as part of the three-team trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox last month. The organization's new No. 15 prospect, he batted .241/.322/.410 with 13 homers, 50 RBIs and 15 steals in 121 games at Triple-A last season. In 19 big league games in 2015 for the Dodgers, he batted .250/.325/.500 with three homers.
Not viewed as having a strong arm, Schebler is likely limited to left field but he brings a left-handed bat and the ability to make consistent contact without striking out too much (93 strikeouts in 485 Triple-A plate appearances last season).
The 23-year-old Cave is a Rule 5 selection from the Yankees, which means the Reds must carry him on the 25-man roster all season or risk losing him. He also hits left-handed and batted .285/.346/.391 in his four Minor League seasons. There is little power in his bat, but the No. 19-ranked prospect can play all three outfield spots.
Holt, who turns 27 on March 10, was claimed off waivers from the Indians in the final week of last season. While he had no homers at Triple-A in 2015, he batted .302/.386/.370 and stole 25 bases. He doesn't strike out much but he has yet to show he can stay at the big league level.
Waldrop, 24, has worked his way up the system since being a 12th-round pick of the Reds in 2010 and got a brief callup to the Majors last season. A left-handed hitter with power and ranked No. 23 in the organization, he hit seven homers last season combined at Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville. Like Rodriguez, he was selected to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Great American Ball Park last summer.
The contender Reds fans have probably heard about the most is Winker, the organization's No. 2 prospect and No. 27 overall. But because of his age (22) and the fact he has yet to reach Triple-A, he might have longer odds of making the team.
Winker overcame a slow first half at Pensacola to bat .282/.390/.433 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 123 games. He was named the Reds' Minor League Hitter of the Year. A left-handed hitter, Winker has drawn some comparisons to current Reds right fielder Jay Bruce in both tools and demeanor.
There is still a possibility that Winker could skip a level and earn the left-field spot, especially with a strong Spring Training.
"He's got a lot of talent," Williams said. "Our preference is to give these guys as much time as they need to develop in the Minors. With all of these other options, I don't see any reason we would force him. Our plan is there's a good chance he'll keep developing in the Minors. These other guys are older and closer. But you never know what can happen in Spring Training. Sometimes guys change the narrative a little bit."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.