Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Naquin becoming irreplaceable

When the Cincinnati Reds signed Tyler Naquin to a minor-league contract during the offseason, I thought it was a very shrewd move that could pay dividends for the team this season. In no way did expect Naquin to be leading the National League in RBIs at any point during the 2021 season.

Naquin went off last night, and it didn’t take very long. Stepping into the leadoff role for Jesse Winker, who missed a third straight game with an illness, Naquin tattooed a ball in the bottom of the first inning that left Great American Ball Park. According to Baseball Savant, Naquin’s homer came off the bat at 113.5-MPH and traveled 454 feet.

Tyler Naquin may take on more than a utility role with the Reds in 2021.

When Naquin signed back in February, it seemed like a good bet that the 29-year-old would make the Opening Day. After all, having two minor-league options remaining, the smart money was on Cincinnati at least breaking camp with Naquin in tow, as they could always option him to Triple-A Louisville as the season waned.

However, a hamstring injury suffered by Shogo Akiyama virtually assured Naquin of a spot on the team. When the Akiyama returns next month, I’m not so sure that the former Cleveland Indians’ outfielder will be the odd-man out.

While David Bell would typically prefer to carry a left-handed and right-handed hitting option off the bench, Tyler Naquin is not only showing himself to be a reliable bench bat, but he may be in line for a start or two per week; even when Jesse Winker and Shogo Akiyama are healthy.

Tyler Naquin’s production may force Aristides Aquino out the door.

Aristides Aquino put together one of the most impressive months in Cincinnati Reds history back in August of 2019. However, since then, The Punisher has been inconsistent at the dish. While he currently occupies a spot on the 26-man roster, unless Aquino outplays Naquin in the coming weeks, he may be outrighted.

Aquino is out of minor-league options, meaning if the Cincinnati Reds move him from the active roster, The Punisher would be exposed to waivers. It’s hard to imagine all 29 teams passing on the opportunity to add Aquino to their roster if given the opportunity.

While the future of Aristides Aquino appears uncertain, Tyler Naquin’s future in the Queen City seems secure for now. It’ll be interesting to see how Bell allocates playing time in the coming weeks, as it sounds as though Winker is almost back to full strength.