Cincinnati Reds: Aristides Aquino’s future hinges on minor-league options

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino (44) flies out in the second inning.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino (44) flies out in the second inning. /

Aristides Aquino had an impressive debut with the Cincinnati Reds in August of 2019. The Punisher blasted home runs, set records left and right, and looked to be on track to be a fixture in the Reds lineup for years to come.

However, all good things must come to an end, and since that performance that won him Player of the Month honors in August of 2019, Aquino has fallen out of favor with the Reds coaching staff and fanbase. The Punisher has not had a good showing this spring, but still may get the nod over more deserving players.

Aristides Aquino’s future with the Reds is not yet clear.

A forth-year option is on the table for a handful of Reds players, but according to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, Cincinnati General Manager does not yet know whether Aquino, José De León, and Cionel Pérez will be eligible for an additional option or not.

If those players are granted a fourth-year option, the Reds could send the trio up and down I-71 between Triple-A Louisville and Cincinnati this season without exposing them to waivers. Of the three, Aquino is in the most precarious position.

With the slew of injuries plaguing starters Sonny Gray, Michael Lorenzen, and Wade Miley, De Leòn could very well find a home in the starting rotation to begin the season. Pérez has been one of the biggest surprises during camp and could be on Cincinnati’s Opening Day roster. Aquino, however, has been outplayed this spring.

Two other Reds outfielders have outplayed Aristides Aquino.

Though he was just optioned to Triple-A Louisville, Scott Heineman had outplayed Aristides Aquino this spring. Heineman was 10-for-31 (.323) with a home run, five RBIs, and four stolen bases. Heineman can play all three outfield positions and man first base.

However, Joey Votto returned to the team today, and Heineman has minor-league options remaining. I expect we’ll see the former Texas Rangers outfielder with the Reds at some point this season, but it looks like he’ll start the 2021 season at Triple-A Louisville.

For those of you not paying attention, Mark Payton may be having the best camp of any position player on the Cincinnati roster. Last year’s Rule 5 Draft pick, who was sent back to Oakland and later returned via trade, is hitting .417/.517/.750 with two doubles, two homers, and seven RBIs. Payton’s 1.267 OPS is the highest on the team during Cactus League play.

Tyler Naquin may be Aristides Aquino’s biggest competition.

Tyler Naquin, a non-roster invitee, has played well enough to find a place on the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster. When the team acquired Naquin, it seemed like a fantastic fit. The former Cleveland Indians outfielder has a ton of major league experience and can play all over the outfield.

Naquin took a few games to get going, but he’s hitting .267/.353/.600. The 29-year-old does have 12 strikeouts in 30 at-bats, but also has eight hits, four RBIs, two doubles, and a triple.

In the end, I expect Aristides Aquino to find his way onto the Reds Opening Day roster, but if he does indeed have a minor-league option remaining, expect Cincinnati to use it. It does no good for Aquino to waste away on the Reds bench if he can get some meaningful reps with the Louisville Bats.

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The Cincinnati Reds need to play the long game with Aquino. I believe he can still be an effective player for the club, and Nick Castellanos exercises his opt-out clause following the 2021 season, Cincinnati will need a regular in right field.