Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 14

Lutz Coming off Impressive AFL Stint

While growing up in Germany Donald Lutz did not start baseball until his older brother got him interested when he was almost sixteen. A few years later the Reds signed him as a free agent and moved him to the rookie leagues. He's shown great power while moving defensively from first base to left field and should make a push for AAA action in 2013.

Of all the prospects in the Cincinnati system Donald Lutz was the least likely to pursue a career in professional baseball. He grew up playing hockey in Germany and didn't start the game until he was almost sixteen years old. He enjoyed the game, as most do when they see their hits sail over the fence, and was soon playing for the German Baseball Bundesliga and later the German National Team. In 2007 Lutz participated in a baseball academy in Italy for top European players and was signed by the Reds with an international free agent contract.

He came into the organization as a raw talent and spent the first three years working in the rookie leagues. He made it to Dayton in 2011 and had a splendid season, hitting .301 with 20 homers. Last year he started out strong at Bakersfield before a fouled pitch off the foot put him on the DL. At that time he was leading the California League in home runs and earned a spot on their All Star team.

Perhaps the injury affected his return which started off well enough, going 9-14 in a rehab at Arizona. After a promotion to Pensacola he struggled initially, but got back on track to finish with a .242 and rising average and 5 HR in 40 games for the Blue Wahoos. He didn't stop there, but instead torched pitching in the Arizona Fall League at a .397 clip before a hand injury sidelined him after eleven games. He is expected to be ready for a return trip to the Carolina League come opening day.

Now at the age of 24, Lutz has gone from a non-player to minor league masher in a short time and the Reds have included him in their 40-man roster to protect against the Rule 5 draft. There is some question about his position which has been at first base for most of his action. The Reds wouldn't have a problem with that had they not locked up Joey Votto long term, likely influencing their decision to play him in left field. There are concerns about his size (6'3"/235#) limiting his range in the outfield, but he runs well for a big man.

If Lutz keeps hitting he will force a decision about playing time somewhere. Even though he came into the organization considered a raw talent he's shown discipline at the plate to coax walks in 7.4% of his appearances to provide a decent .063' differential above his lifetime average (.276). His strikeout rate (22%) isn't bad for a mid-lineup run producer so long as it doesn't get exploited against higher level pitching.

On Lutz's Twitter account he's displayed his goal of being the first ever German to make it to the major leagues. He's on the Reds 40-man now and should be primed to make a case for a promotion to AAA in 2013. The game has come so naturally that he might already be wearing an MLB uniform had he started playing at a younger age like American kids. After a late start he's picked the game up quickly and it's clear the Reds want to see what comes next while Lutz is on their payroll.

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