Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Naquin is forcing David Bell to platoon outfielders

April 9, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Reds' Tyler Naquin (12) celebrates with Jonathan India (6) after hitting a home run. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic
April 9, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Reds' Tyler Naquin (12) celebrates with Jonathan India (6) after hitting a home run. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic /

I think we all assumed, given the Cincinnati Reds‘ outfield depth, we’d see some sort of platoon this season. However, I don’t know that anyone thought Tyler Naquin would be part of it. The former Cleveland Indians outfielder has grabbed ahold of the brass ring, and he may not let it go.

Naquin started his fifth consecutive game last night in Arizona; this time in place of centerfielder Nick Senzel. Despite the former first-round pick coming off a 2-for-3 day with two RBIs and two runs scored on Wednesday afternoon, Senzel was sat in favor of Naquin who got his first start of the season in center field.

Reds outfielder Tyler Naquin is off to a white-hot start.

Now, let’s be clear; Nick Senzel was not benched. In fact, given Arizona starter Taylor Widener’s splits against lefties, David Bell would’ve been foolish not to start Tyler Naquin. For his career, Widener has shutdown right-handed hitters to the tune of a .534 OPS-against, but has allowed a slash line of .296/.377/.630 versus left-handed batters.

Naquin has just left opposing pitchers in his wake during the first week of the season. The left-handed slugger absolutely crushed a ball during the top of the fourth inning last night for his fifth round tripper of the season. The ball left Naquin’s bat at 111.3-MPH and traveled 454-feet according to Baseball Savant.

On the season, Naquin is ranked in the 99th percentile or better in average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrel percentage. In short, Naquin is absolutely crushing the ball right now and it’s hard to see Bell having any reason to remove the slugger from the lineup. The only player swinging a hotter bat right now is arguably Nick Castellanos, and even that isn’t a certainty.

What will the Reds do when Shogo Akiyama returns?

While we’re still probably a month away, the biggest question on the mind of Reds fans has been what will happen once Shogo Akiyama returns from injury. Last year’s prized free agent signee has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, but it sounds as if Akiyama will be ready to go by early-to-mid May.

Let’s pump the brakes just little bit, because a lot can happen between now and mid-May. While Naquin is swinging the hot bat right now, we’ve seen time and time again how quickly a red-hot bat can turn ice-cold. We saw it with both Castellanos and fellow outfielder Jesse Winker last season.

No one in Major League Baseball was swinging a hotter bat to begin the truncated 2020 season than Nick Castellanos. However, the Reds slugger quickly cooled off and finished the season with a .225 batting average. Winker hit .369 during the month of August last season, but returned to Earth in September, batting just .104 over the final 19 games of the season.

One thing is for sure, under no circumstances should David Bell find Tyler Naquin a permanent seat on the Cincinnati Reds’ bench. I have no problem with a starting outfield of Castellanos, Winker, and Nick Senzel, but Naquin needs to find his way into the starting lineup the following night.

Barnhart's bat could force the Reds into a corner. Next

Tyler Naquin currently leads the league in home runs (5) and RBIs (14). You cannot sit that man down until he consistently shows that he’s incapable of performing up to that standard night in and night out. In other words, Bell needs to ride Naquin’s hot bat until it cools down.