The Cincinnati Reds have shown ingenuity and admirable commitment in the way they’ve dealt with trying to replace Joey Votto at first base and in the batting order.
Catcher Brayan Pena donned the first baseman glove for the first time in his career when Votto was unavailable the first time this year and slugger Jay Bruce availed himself well at first base this month by playing the position for the first time in his professional career. Todd Frazier had already proven he can field the position solidly in 2012 when Votto missed 49 games, and he has played first base again this year in Votto’s stead.
But the Reds are going to need more at first base and really need to keep Pena as a backup catcher, Bruce as their right fielder and Frazier as their everyday third baseman.
Barring a trade to fill the void left by Votto, the Reds will have a pair of familiar faces in the minors to consider calling up — Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto, both of whom have been with the big club already this year.
Soto broke Spring Training with the Reds, but played sparingly and failed miserably at the plate when he did play. Since returning to triple-A, the right-handed hitting Soto has hit .336, but hit just two home runs.
Lutz saw some big-league action in 2013 with 58 at-bats and had another 13 ABs in limited action this year with the Reds. As a left-handed slugger who can play first in addition to the corner outfield positions, Lutz is the better choice to replace Votto despite his struggles at the plate at triple-A (.214 batting average and just three homers in 112 ABs).
It’s time to see if the 25-year-old, 6-foot-3 and 250-pound Lutz can finally live up to the Brauner Hulk (Brown Hulk) nickname that reflects both his physical stature and his German background.