Reds: Shogo Akiyama shines with consistent playing time

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 09: Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds takes batting practice. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 09: Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds takes batting practice. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
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The term “everyday player” doesn’t mean what it used to. In a day when platoons and lefty/ righty matchups are all the rage among big league managers and front office personnel, unless you’re an elite player, regular at-bats can be hard to come by. Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama has found that to be very true, but has shined of late with consistent playing time.

Akiyama has started four games over the last nine days, and after Nick Castellanos was ejected in the first inning during yesterday’s contest for arguing balls and strikes, Shogo entered the game in the bottom half of the first.

Since his start against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 7th, Akiyama has gone 5-for-15 (.333) with four walks and a double. After falling behind 0-2 in his first at-bat during yesterday’s game in Philadelphia, Akiyama poked the next pitch down the third base line, scoring Sonny Gray and Jonathan India, and putting the Reds up 3-0.

Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama has shined when given consistent playing time.

No one throughout Reds Country is going to doubt Shogo Akiyama’s grit and determination. The 33-year-old plays hard every game, has a solid approach at the dish, plays above-average defense in the outfield, and hustles down the line whenever he makes contact.

The biggest problem for Akiyama is that his style of play doesn’t matchup well with how the game is played today, at least not in the US. Akiyama isn’t a power bat. He’s more of a slap hitter who puts the ball in play.

Unfortunately, with defensive shifts in place nearly every time a batter steps to the plate, if a hitter fails to get the ball over the infielders’ heads, it most likely results in a put out. Akiyama’s average launch angle, according to Baseball Savant, is 2. Compare that with his teammate who usually gets the start in center field, Tyler Naquin, who has an average launch angle of 9.7.

Now, I’m not that big into stats like launch angle and exit velocity, but the folks who make decisions are. But with Nick Castellanos’ recent stint on the IL, Nick Senzel rehabbing in Louisville, and Jesse Winker in and out of the lineup, Shogo Akiyama has received several opportunities to find success.

Akiyama is also a terrific defender in the outfielder, and he may be the Reds’ best defensive option in center field. Naquin is no slouch and Senzel is very athletic, but Akiyama takes the appropriate angles and is able to track balls very well off the bat.

According to Baseball Savant, Akiyama has 1 out above average while plying defense in the outfield this season. Naquin has -5 OAA and Senzel has 1 OAA in his limited playing time this season. Aristides Aquino, who’s also seen plenty of time in the outfield due to injuries, has -2 OAA this season.

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The bottomline is, the Cincinnati Reds are paying Shogo Akiyama $7M this season, and he’ll be owed $8M in 2022. Consistent playing time has yielded success for the former Seibu Lion, and with Nick Senzel optioned to Triple-A Louisville, you’d have to think that more opportunities will present themselves as the season continues.