first_img“The last couple years, I didn’t work hard because I still have a contract to go,” Puig said. “Now I think I’ll work hard more than any year in my life.”  MORE: Opening Day schedule for all 30 MLB teamsHere’s why that’s not a big deal: Puig is the headline maker, but he’s not the only story that could unfold in a remodeled outfield for Cincinnati. Billy Hamilton (Royals) and Adam Duvall (Braves) are gone. Puig and Matt Kemp, also brought over from Los Angeles, are in and will fight for time with Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler and perhaps even 2016 first-round pick Nick Senzel, an infielder who’s getting outfield reps in spring training.  So, who fits where?  Puig started in right field in the exhibition opener, and that would appear to be where he’s expected to start. The bigger question is where he can carve out a niche in the order. Puig hit mostly in the bottom third of the Dodgers’ order last season, but there will be an opportunity to move up a few spots with the Reds. This is a chance for Puig to be a star, and he needs to take advantage of it.  If he doesn’t, then the other outfielders will take advantage.  Schebler has the most experience from last season. He hit .255 with 17 homers as a regular in right field and hit .296/.333/.456 against lefties. Knowing Puig hit .209 against lefties and is .250 for his career, there could be a platoon of sorts that leads to an opportunity for more starts in center field.  Kemp is a sleeper to watch this season. He hit .290 with 21 homers and 85 RBIs last season, but that’s not why he’s interesting in Cincinnati. Look at his .289 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 36 career games at the Great American Ball Park. Kemp hit a homer in his spring debut hitting behind Joey Votto, and he has a chance to scrape out enough at-bats across all three outfield positions (although he hasn’t played center field since 2014) to be a key contributor in the top third of the lineup.  MORE: Sporting News All-Stars return in 2019 Topps Heritage setWinker, a 2012 first-round pick, hit .299 with seven homers and 43 RBIs last season. He is favored to start in left field. That leaves Senzel, who hit .314 across the minors the past three seasons and fared well enough in Triple-A that it won’t be long before he’s in the lineup.   The outfielders who stick will be the ones who can provide protection for Votto and Eugenio Suarez. The outfielders who consistently hit in the leadoff and No. 3 spots around Votto will be the best bets for success. For Puig, that means working into the top third of the lineup — even if he doesn’t have as much recent experience in those spots.  There are enough outfield options to make for some excitement around the Reds, who have finished last in the NL Central each of the past four seasons. Puig can be a catalyst for that — and there is an opportunity to be that exciting contributor he was early in this career with the Dodgers. Puig says he’s going to work hard. If he doesn’t, then he won’t be able to cash in on that contract year. And one of those other stories in Cincinnati’s outfield will be much more interesting. The Reds made some bold offseason moves heading into the 2019 season, and none made a bigger splash then bringing Yasiel Puig into the mix.  Puig is in a contract year with the Reds, and his comments to ESPN about his time with the Dodgers made their own splash this week. last_img

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