Until the Cincinnati Reds officially throw in the towel on the 2014 season, they probably won’t regularly start left-handed hitting slugger Donald Lutz (known as the “Brauner Hulk”), but they should.
Lutz has the look of one of the future faces of the franchise if he can prove he can hit big league pitching. So far, the 25-year-old has had limited opportunities over the past two years, and he hasn’t capitalized upon them. In 95 plate appearances, Lutz has just one homer and a .231 batting average. With only five doubles to his credit, Lutz’s OPS is a meager .582.
The minors tell a different story. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Lutz has hit for power and average. In 474 minor league games, he has hit 70 home runs and posted a career .810 OPS and 281 RBIs. His development and rise through the ranks has been slow, and he has just one partial season at the Triple-A level (2014), in which he hit just .236 with 68 strikeouts in 217 plate appearances.
More than any other position player who has been called up for September, Lutz needs to have the opportunity to show the Reds that he can develop quickly enough to become the team’s starting left fielder, not just a backup.
Unless the Reds opt to sign a free agent left fielder next year, Lutz will be in a battle for the left field starting job along with Chris Heisey and Skip Schumaker, provided that the Reds do in fact pay the $4.5-million buyout to send Ryan Ludwick on his way elsewhere.
Until the Reds better know exactly what they have in Lutz, they will be left in a lurch in left field. It’d be better to find out more now when the game results don’t matter, as opposed to next year when the Reds will get another chance to compete for a NL Central title.