Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 28

Steve Selsky lasted until after the 30th round when Cincinnati picked him in the 2011 draft. The former University of Arizona outfielder arrived in the Reds system a polished hitter and his late selection hasn’t prevented him from hitting minor league pitching. Three years later he debuted at AAA and looks to return there for the start of 2015.

Steve Selsky has not been a high-profile prospect since Cincinnati selected him in the 33rd round of the 2011 draft. He had been drafted at a similar position by the White Sox the previous year, but opted to return to the University of Arizona for another season which unfortunately was short-circuited by an injury. The result of that was that he didn’t improve his draft stock and with college eligibility exhausted the Reds were able to sign him with a discount bonus. In spite of that there’s one thing that he’s continued to do since turning professional and that is hit.

He started off pounding AZL pitching after signing and started his first full season at Dayton the next year. In the second half of 2012 he put up monster numbers after a promotion to high-A Bakersfield forcing a trip to Pensacola the next season. After arrival he was slow coming out of the gate and demoted back to the California League after only 99 plate appearances. The Cali League has been good to Selsky and he salvaged his season with another strong showing there prompting another shot with the Blue Wahoos last season. He made good on that and the next time he left Florida it was a move to AAA Louisville where he acquitted himself well with a .359 OB% in 55 games.

That should be good enough to return to the Bats come opening day where he’ll have a shot to shed his “minor league filler” label and vie for an MLB debut. After dealing away Chris Heisey there’s not a lot of competition for reserve outfield spots with the Reds. Typically teams want two on their MLB roster. Cincinnati already has left-handed hitting veteran Skip Schumaker under contract for 2015 and should Selsky show he can hit AAA pitching he could force himself into consideration for a right-handed option.

One thing that could help his cause tremendously would be the return of his power stroke. It’s not unusual to see power numbers drop for prospects leaving the California League, but in his case he went from slugging 28 homers in 160 games at Bakersfield to a grand total of two last year. There’s good reason to expect improvement on that meager number because Selsky has projected plus power since he represented the state of California in an international home run hitting contest while in high school. Even if there’s not a big improvement he is showing he knows the way to first base with an on-base percentage more than .100’ higher than his batting average at Louisville last season which should get him attention if he can continue.

Defensively most of his action has been limited to the corner outfield spots and he doesn’t have much minor league experience in centerfield on his resume. He’s also spent some time at first base and could perhaps give the Reds an option for a fifth outfielder that could also provide a right-handed backup to Joey Votto. Right now the fifth outfield spot on the Reds roster is very much up in the air, but Selsky isn’t on the 40-man roster and not a candidate to win it by opening day, especially since he did not get a non-roster invitation to spring training.

Selsky is now 25 years old and ready for a return to the Louisville, which isn’t a bad situation for him. The top right-handed candidate for a backup outfield duty with the Reds is journeyman Jason Bourgeios. Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran are on the 40-man roster, but they both need more time on the farm. Ryan LaMarre is a non-roster invitee to spring training, but injuries limited his 2014 season to 17 games. Selsky did not appear to be overwhelmed by International League pitching last year and pending any additional signings a strong start with the Bats could put him in position for an MLB debut in 2015.

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