Reds: TJ Friedl should start in center field for the remainder of 2021

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 18: TJ Friedl #29 of the Cincinnati Reds bats in the eighth inning. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 18: TJ Friedl #29 of the Cincinnati Reds bats in the eighth inning. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

TJ Friedl made his long awaited major league debut with a pinch hit appearance in the Cincinnati Reds 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday afternoon. With 13 games remaining and so many injuries in the outfield, it’s time to see what Friedl’s made of. The 26-year-old should be in David Bell’s lineup on a regular basis.

Friedl should be the team’s starting centerfielder any time a right-handed pitcher toes the rubber. When a southpaw is on the bump, I’m fine with Delino DeShields getting the start. With Tyler Naquin, Jesse Winker, and Shogo Akiyama all on the IL, you have to assume that left field will be a platoon of Aristides Aquino and Max Schrock.

It’s time for the Reds to give TJ Friedl a chance to shine.

The major league debut of TJ Friedl has been a long time coming. A longtime top prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization, Friedl was left off the team’s 40-man roster the last two winters, but no team ever took a flier on the left-handed hitting outfielder in the Rule 5 Draft.

Friedl finally made it to Triple-A this season and played more games (113) than anyone else on the Louisville Bats’ roster. Friedl led Triple-A Louisville in runs scored (59), triples (5), and walks (44). Friedl was second on the team in home runs (12), third in doubles (15), and fourth in RBIs (46).

Friedl is likely not an everyday player at the major league level, but he has some tremendous upside and could be a very nice rotational outfielder. Friedl has experience playing all three outfield spots, sneaky pop in his bat, and elite speed.

The Cincinnati Reds outfield has seen a myriad of injuries this season. Jesse Winker is likely out for the remainder of the season after re-aggravating  the intercostal injury that sidelined him for a month.

A hamstring injury has shelved Shogo Akiyama, likely for the rest of the 2021 season. Tyler Naquin suffered a rib injury after crashing into teammate Jose Barrero, and there’s no timetable for the former Cleveland Indians outfielder to return to the field.

The Reds have also been without centerfielder Nick Senzel since mid-May. The former first-round pick suffered a knee injury that required surgery and after a failed rehab assignment, Senzel was sent back to the team’s Arizona complex for a further evaluation. Senzel isn’t expected this season.

Who knows what the Cincinnati Reds outfield will look like next season? Outside of Jesse Winker starting Opening Day in left field, I have no earthly idea who else will be joining him on the Great American Ball Park next season.

Nick Castellanos will likely opt out of his current contract and find a new home in 2022. Nick Senzel may be traded this offseason. And Aristides Aquino is a non-tender candidate to be sure. It’s a pretty safe bet to assume that Tyler Naquin will be back with the Reds next season, but after a career-year, the 30-year-old will certainly be in line for a raise via arbitration.

Next. The Reds cannot overcome Winker's absence

Again, I do not believe that TJ Friedl is the long-term answer in center field for the Cincinnati Reds, but given that he’s the best available player this team has, David Bell might as well fill out his lineup card with the rookie occupying a spot on the outfield grass.