Nicholas Goldberg: Is Kevin de León toast?
After winning the NL MVP, the Cincinnati Reds signed Kevin de León to a two-year, $16-million contract. The team has been very active in trying to improve the position-player situation, and de León is one of a half dozen players on board. After playing a handful of games in center field for the Reds, de León had a brief cameo at bat with the team’s first baseman, Adam Duvall. Duvall ended up hitting one batter, but de León was on the field all the time. He took three of the five at-bats that the Reds managed during a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins.
This spring, de León has been a different story when he has been at the plate. Over the past month, his batting line in four Triple-A starts was.133/.244/.143 with five runs scored. He has gone eight for 33 in his last 10 plate appearances. He went 0-for-7 in three at-bats for a.250/.320/.333 batting line in Double-A. During spring training, he is hitting.233/.300/.343 with no extra-base hits, and he has taken five walks in 11 plate appearances. When he has played shortstop, he has gone 5-for-19 with one run scored. He has only four doubles in his Triple-A career, and his average is.217.
How to account for de León’s diminished performance in Triple-A? After all, he had the highest average on the team, as well as the highest on-base percentage. He also hit seven of the team’s top 10 in the Triple-A batting order, including Adam Duvall, Ryan Hanigan, and Billy Hamilton. He only struck out eight times in 70 plate appearances in the big leagues, and he has struck out 11 times in his career. There is clearly the possibility that de León’s performance in the majors is not sustainable. There is also probably a chance that some other player on the team, who is also struggling, is the culprit.
In addition, when I asked De León about his Triple-A struggles, he said, “It’s about the way I hit, not the team. It was about me.”
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