Reinhold Matay

Steve Selsky, Man of Mystery

It’s March 20th, so we’re going to talk about Steve Selsky.

A little exposition: he’s a 27-year-old career minor leaguer who’s been getting some at-bats with the Red Sox this spring. He hits and throws righty and plays in the outfield, for now. The difference between Selsky and 95 percent of the other players who don’t get to have their last names on the back of their #87 jersey is that in Selsky, the team seems to think they’ve legitimately found a useful major league contributor.

Nice! I’m soldsky. What does he do well?

To get a sense of what Selsky brings to the team, you have to take a look at his minor league numbers, as he’s only had 54 plate appearances at the major league level. As you can probably guess, that will get touched upon later, so let’s just look at his minor league numbers and make some questionable jumps in logic!

Selsky has shown flashes of being able to hit in the minors. He slashed .348/.420/.618 in 69 games (nice) for the Reds’ Single-A team in 2012 and then followed that up by hitting  .297/.388/.497 over 97 games the following year. He also flexed some power, hitting 28 home runs over that two-year span. He’s had up and down years since then, but is coming off a 2016 season where he hit .280/.363/.459 over 85 games for the Reds’ Triple-A team. So, the ability’s there. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal wrote about Selsky’s path to the team that touched on how the team views Selsky’s potential role.

Obviously, it’s telling that the team is giving him reps at third. There’s hardly any point in showing that level of commitment to a player of Selsky’s caliber unless the team sees something in him. As the Red Sox roster stands, there’s no real position that Selsky could make a realistic run at, even as a backup. The depth is intriguing though, and the team seems to think they have a versatile bench bat.

This is wonderful news! What a convenient story. What’s the catch? 

Where to begin?

– He’s had 54 major league plate appearances since getting drafted six years ago. Fifty-four. If he was a sure bet to even reach his relatively low ceiling, you’d think he’d be closer to reaching it by now.

– Sure, he’s had some good years. But he also hit .181/.281/.205 over 32 games at Double-A in 2013 and .240/.259/.339 over 55 games in Triple-A in 2014. He’s had some clunkers.

– He strikes out a LOT. Like, a lotttttttttt. His career K% hovers around 20 percent, and over 54 games with the Reds, that number shot up to 40 percent. I don’t care about your small sample size caveats; that’s so many strikeouts. You might even say it’s a lot with extra Ts.

– For being someone who supposedly brings some power potential, he doesn’t have that much power. After hitting 15 homers in 2012 and 13 in 2013, Selsky hasn’t reached double-digit home run totals since. In fact, outside of 2016, when he had nine homers (which is actually good news for Red Sox fans but we’re already past the good news part of this article), he hasn’t had more than two in a season since 2013.

– Even his major league numbers are misleading. .314/.340/.471 over 24 games is just enough time to be optimistically intrigued, but those numbers were never going to last. Over that time period, besides striking out 40 percent of the time, he also has an absurd .519 BABIP. He also only posted a 3.7 percent BB%. To recap: he was striking out half the time, never walking, and was abnormally lucky.

There’s probably not a lot there. He’s blocked by Chris Young, Brock Holt, Marco Hernandez apparently(!?), and Josh Rutledge on the bench. The end of the bench (coughjosh’sspotcough) could conceivably be a place where a strong spring could land him but, it doesn’t seem likely.

And that’s Steve Selsky. They can’t all be about Mookie Betts.

Photo by Reinhold Matay – USA TODAY Sports

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