Aristides Aquino set the baseball world on fire last summer. The Cincinnati Reds outfielder is ready to go as the potential of a 2020 season looms.
Aristides Aquino made Cincinnati Reds fans forget about Yasiel Puig very quickly. After tearing it up in the minor leagues, Aquino was called up to replace Puig in right field following a trade at the end of July last season. The Punisher made the most of his opportunity, and judging by a recent video posted to his social media account, Aquino is ready for the 2020 season to begin.
You can’t help but root for last year’s rookie. After seeing just one at-bat in 2018, Aquino spent the start of the 2019 season at Triple-A Louisville. Aquino played 78 games for the Bats and cracked 28 home runs in 298 at-bats last season.
Following Puig’s trade to the Cleveland Indians, one that netted the services of Trevor Bauer, Aquino took over in right field. At the time, not many fans had ever heard of Aristides Aquino despite the fact that the then-25-year-old had been in the Reds system since 2011.
Aquino spent a lot of time in the Reds minor leagues before making his big league debut in 2018. Aquino received just one at-bat, which turned out to be a strikeout. Aquino made sure that he’d receive more than just one at-bat last season.
After going 0-for-6 to start the 2019 season, Aquino slashed a single into the outfield against Atlanta left-hander Dallas Keuchel on August 3rd. Aquino’s first hit opened the flood gates, and The Punisher showed the entire baseball world why he earned that nickname.
Aquino homered in the seventh inning off Keuchel during that same game and never looked back. The right-handed hitting slugger used that game as a springboard to hit .340/.413/.814 for the remainder of the month of August while smashing 14 homers and racking up 33 RBIs en route to the National League Player of the Month.
Aquino’s September did not mimic his August, but almost any player would have a hard time maintaining that pace. Let’s not forget that Aquino had already played 78 games at Triple-A, and because of the record-setting August he enjoyed, Aquino became a fixture in right field, rarely receiving a day off.
The Punisher was in an odd spot heading into the 2020 season before play was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Cincinnati had signed two veteran outfielders, one of whom (Nick Castellanos), seemed like a sure bet to the Reds Opening Day starter in right field.
Given how Castellanos’ contract was constructed (opt out clauses after both the 2020 and 2021 seasons), one could surmise that Aquino is still thought of as the long-term option in right field. Heck, Castellanos’ presence on thee roster was more a matter of chance, as the former Detroit Tiger couldn’t find the right fit in free agency despite a stellar 2019 season.
A universal designated hitter is all but assured in 2020, and that will give Aristides Aquino plenty of opportunities. Whether Castellanos, whose defense is not as polished as Aquino’s, finds his way into that role, or The Punisher himself becomes a leading candidate to be the Reds DH, the likelihood of the roster change will offer Aquino more chances at the plate.
While his September numbers don’t look good, and his play in the Dominican Winter League and spring training were not ideal, don’t be so quick to dismiss Aristides Aquino. The Punisher is sure to find his way onto the field in 2020, and when he does, every pitcher who steps onto the mound will be put on notice.