COMMENTARY| German-raised Donald Lutz has proven one thing during his stint this season with the Cincinnati Reds: he is a big league player. The only question left unanswered about his big league certainty is not whether he'll keep his braunerhulk (Brown Hulk) Twitter handle, but, rather, when will Lutz be a starting big league player.
Since his first game action on April 29th, Lutz has hit .270 during his first 37 at-bats with one home run and 6 RBIs. He has struck out just five times in that span. Considering Lutz had just 250 Double A at-bats under his belt before his call up to the Reds, the sampling of major league hitting by Lutz is encouraging. He has quick hands and hits the ball hard.
Likewise, the 6'3", 250-pound Lutz demonstrated excellent agility and instincts in the field. He started five games in left field and one in right field, but that was enough to show that Lutz is destined to be more than just a first baseman in the field.
So why demote Lutz now, especially since the Reds starting left fielder Chris Heisey remains on the disabled list with a hamstring injury? The answer is simple: Lutz has shown he's good enough that he needs to play every day while he's still developing. As long as Reds manager Dusty Baker is intent on using Xavier Paul as the primary starting left fielder while Heisey remains out of action, Lutz should begin his Triple A development sooner rather than later, now that he's had a taste of playing with the big club.
Adding Lutz to the outfield of the Reds' Triple A affiliate Louisville Bats will cause the kind of glut in talent that every major league wishes it had at its highest minor league level. Corner outfielders Felix Perez and Denis Phipps may establish themselves as big leaguers one day, but it is the center fielder Billy Hamilton who is the center of attention not only in Louisville but in Cincinnati, as well. Sending Lutz down now would allow the Reds and Reds Country the opportunity to see just how the center fielder of their future is coming along with his conversion from infielder.
The Reds would be more than wise to include an early call up now as part of Hamilton's grooming to be the eventual replacement of Shin-Soo Choo. The Reds currently have Derrick Robinson as the backup center fielder to Choo in Heisey's absence, but the Reds would be better equipped to handle any unforeseen absence by Choo if Hamilton is able to get his acclimation to the big leagues out of the way now.
For his part, Hamilton has made great strides this year after a slow start in Louisville -- that is "slow" in terms of hitting for average and on-base percentage. There's nothing "slow" about the player who set the professional baseball record for stolen bases in a season with 155 last year.
Besides, there is plenty of reason to think that Hamilton is readier for his taste of the big leagues than Lutz was at the time of his call up. Even though this is Hamilton's first year at Triple A and playing center field, he's done enough to warrant a two-week call up before Heisey returns to provide another glimpse of the Reds future outfield.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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