I think it’s safe to say, when the Cincinnati Reds‘ 2021 season began, you weren’t overly confident that David Bell’s squad was destined to be in the playoff hunt come September, were you? While it was not to be, the mere fact that Cincinnati was in the discussion with how little money the front office invested during the offseason is a testament to Bell and his players.
No, you’re not likely to find any members of the Cincinnati bullpen on this list, though I really like what I saw from Tony Santillan. However, there were a handful of players who exceeded any and all expectations you may have had for them this season.
You’re not going to find Nick Castellanos’ name among those listed here. And despite both he and Jesse Winker going to their first All-Star Game in 2021, the Reds left fielder isn’t on the list either. No, we’re looking at players who not only exceeded expectations this season, but crushed them.
1. Tyler Naquin, Reds outfielder
Now I’m sure, like me, you were very intrigued by the Cincinnati Reds’ shrewd offseason move, signing Tyler Naquin to a minor-league contract. And I’m sure, like me, you assumed he’d be a nice addition to the outfield and would provide the team with some depth.
However, Naquin responded with his best performance since his rookie season in 2016. The 30-year-old appeared in a career-high 127 games, and were it not for an accidental collision in the outfield with rookie Jose Barrero, Naquin likely would have finished with 20-plus home runs.
Instead, the former Cleveland Indians outfielder slashed .270/.333/.477 with 19 long balls, 70 RBIs, and 52 runs scored, all of which are career-highs. Naquin also saved Reds Country from the likely platoon of Shogo Akiyama and Aristides Aquino in center field.
After Nick Senzel left Opening Day with a shoulder injury, Tyler Naquin was given an opportunity to start. Naquin went on a tear during the first 12 games, going 11-for-48 (.262) with six home runs and 15 RBIs. Naquin finished second on the team in stolen bases, fourth in doubles, fifth in RBIs, and sixth in home runs. Naquin will likely be in the lineup on Opening Day next season.