Shogo Akiyama showed his defensive prowess during his rookie season with the Reds.
Entering the 2020 season, Shogo Akiyama‘s place in the Cincinnati Reds lineup remained a mystery. After spending most of his time in Japan playing in center field, Akiyama split time between center and left field during his first season in Cincinnati. Akiyama is up for a Gold Glove with some stiff competition from last year’s winner David Peralta and Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill.
After signing Akiyama to a three-year/$21M contract last winter, the Reds were trying to fit the 31-year-old rookie into a outfield that included Nick Senzel, Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, and Aristides Aquino. Then spring training was shutdown due to COVID-19 hit, and the season was delayed for several months before finally returning during the summer.
Akiyama played specifically left field and center field for Cincinnati in 2020, and did not log a single inning in right field.While Akiyama has great range and a high defensive IQ, his weakness is definitely his arm strength, a necessity to be a successful right fielder.
Shogo Akiyama had some memorable plays in an up-and-down Reds season. On Opening Day, Akiyama raced back to the wall to make this over-the-shoulder catch. Then in August against the Pirates, he made one of the best catches of the year when he made a twisting, leaping grab while crashing into the left field fence and somehow holding on.
The positives for Akiyama were really solid. His most impressive feat, was not making a single error in 381 innings in the outfield this year. Akiyama registered an above-average 4 defensive runs saved (DRS) along with a registered zone rating (RZR) of 95.1%.
More than that, Shogo Akiyama passed the eye test in the outfield. He really moves well and showcases elite range, something the Cincinnati Reds really haven’t had since Billy Hamilton was roaming center field.
Both O’Neill and Peralta have similar statistics to Akiyama. While O’Neill led all left fielders with nine DRS per FanGraphs, he failed to record an outfield assist. Akiyama racked up two and his four DRS more than outpace Peralta who put up -1.
The Cincinnati Reds have not had a Gold Glove outfielder since Eric Davis, who won three straight from 1987-1989. Shogo Akiyama is definitely a plus-defender in left field, and he should be a more prominent piece of the Cincinnati outfield heading into 2021.