Cincinnati Reds: Why isn’t Shogo Akiyama hitting leadoff?

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - AUGUST 19: Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds in action. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - AUGUST 19: Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds in action. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Shogo Akiyama was absent from the Reds lineup again last night.

It’s becoming painfully obvious that Joey Votto is not the answer as the Cincinnati Reds leadoff hitter. With Nick Senzel out of the lineup and David Bell’s strange aversion of playing Shogo Akiyama every day, Votto has become the Reds leadoff hitter. Over the past three games, the six-time All-Star is 0-for-10 with two walks. It’s time to switch it up.

Votto has racked up six games as the team’s leadoff hitter and he’s a combined 3-for-22 with no RBIs, no home runs and just one extra-base hit. To his credit, when Votto was hitting No. 2 in the Reds batting order, the 36-year-old was hitting .273/.400/.545 with three home runs and seven RBIs. The .400 on-base percentage alone is enough to move Joey back in the lineup.

So, without Senzel, where should Bell turn? It’s pretty simple to me; it’s Shogo Time! Akiyama is the answer atop the Cincinnati Reds lineup. Yes, the former Japanese star only has a .627 OPS while hitting first in the batting order, but that dwarfs the .390 OPS we’ve seen from Votto in 2020 while batting No. 1 in the lineup.

Shogo Akiyama has been terribly underutilized by David Bell this season. Akiyama (67) has about one-third the number of at-bats as fellow free agent signee Nick Castellanos (95). Why in the world would you spend $21M on a platoon player?

I know that Bell is big into the pitching matchups, and prefers to go right-handed heavy against a left-handed pitcher, but c’mon. Are you telling me that Akiyama was not an everyday player while overseas in Nippon Professional Baseball?

We’ve already seen Akiyama flash the leather on several occasions while playing left field, so it certainly isn’t for defensive purposes that Bell is keeping Akiyama out of the lineup. Last night, Phillip Ervin took over duties in center field. I’ll be the first one to advocate that Ervin deserves more playing time, but he’s hitting .094 and has struck out in nearly half of his at-bats.

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I thought the whole reason that Nick Krall and Dick Williams brought Shogo Akiyama to Cincinnati was to boost the leadoff the spot. After all, Akiyama has an OPS above .850 in four of his previous five season in the NPB. It’s time for Bell to come to his senses and insert Akiyama at the top of the Reds batting order regardless of who’s on the mound.