3 young Reds players teams could buy low on during trade talks

Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl (29) prepares to bat.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl (29) prepares to bat. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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The Cincinnati Reds have a lot of young talent on their team. While the franchise's marquee names are on the wrong side of 30, several young players made their debut in 2021 or were elevated to the highest level in the team's minor league system.

The Reds have quite the collection of minor league talent, but only 26 spots on the active roster. Not to mention the fact that prospects like Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Graham Ashcraft are looking to make a push to land on Cincinnati's Opening Day roster. You've also got Jose Barrero and Tyler Stephenson, both of whom will take on expanded roles in 2022.

The influx of talent could cause the Reds' front office to move on from certain players quicker than they'd prefer. A handful of former top prospects, or players who've done all they can in the minor leagues, may be forced off the roster in favor of Cincinnati's young prospects who possess an incredibly high ceiling.

The key for the Reds, should they look to move on from these players, is to get value in return. After seeing Raisel Iglesias dealt to the Los Angeles Angels last offseason and the battery of Tucker Barnhart and Wade Miley let go late last year, Reds Country has little faith in team's front office tto make the right move. Let's look at some of the Cincinnati Reds buy-low candidates.

1. TJ Friedl, Reds outfielder

TJ Friedl made his long awaited major league debut in 2021 after languishing in the minor leagues for what felt like a decade. Friedl played in just 14 games near the end of last season, but still put up solid numbers in just 31 at-bats. The former UNLV star hit .290/.361/.419 with a home run and two RBIs.

Friedl's best position on the outfield grass is center field, but in all likelihood, Nick Senzel will be given the reins once again with the idea of proving he can man the position and stay healthy. The former is not the issue, but the latter might be difficult. Senzel has finished two of his first three seasons on the IL and spent half of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season out of the lineup with an injury.

Friedl is gritty, high-energy player who'll leave all on the field. While he may not have the most power, in his five minor league seasons, the 26-year-old has maintained a .414 slugging percentage. In 114 games at Triple-A Louisville last season, Friedl posted a .779 OPS.

So why would the Cincinnati Reds give up so quickly on a serviceable, young outfielder? Well, with the trio of Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, and Tyler Naquin on the team, it's questionable if Friedl would ever really get the chance to find enough ABs in the bigs next season.

TJ Friedl is more of a rotational outfielder, but the Reds should not give up on the Pennsylvania native just yet. Friedl is still pre-arbitration eligible and won't reach free agency until after the 2027 season. Friedl still has three minor league options remaining, and Cincinnati should do everything in their power to keep him on the 40-man roster next season.

Cincinnati Reds infielder  Alejo Lopez watches from the dugout.
Cincinnati Reds infielder Alejo Lopez watches from the dugout. / David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

2. Alejo Lopez, Reds infielder

Alejo Lopez forced his way onto the Cincinnati Reds roster last season. After annihilating Double-A pitching during his 25 games for the Chattanooga Lookouts, Lopez was quickly promoted to Triple-A Louisville where he continued to shine.

Lopez is a versatile fielder with an aggressive approach at the dish. That said, he did not strikeout a ton during his time in the minor leagues last season. Lopez hit .320 in 96 between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville last season while posting an 11% walk-rate and 7.8% strikeout-rate. The bottomline was, Lopez was putting the ball in play.

Lopez could be kept in minors no longer and made his major league debut on June 28th as a pinch hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. Lopez promptly wasted no time, and, on the first pitch he saw, laced a base hit into the outfield.

So, why might the Cincinnati Reds look to move on from Alejo Lopez? Because the 25-year-old represents a redundancy that the team could do without. With Jose Barrero, at the very least, likely to platoon at shortstop with Kyle Farmer, Lopez's opportunities will be limited.

If Barrero becomes, as I believe he will, the Reds starting shortstop, then Lopez will be playing behind both Farmer and the left-handed hitting Max Schrock. The Reds also have Brian Rey likely to make his 2022 debut at Triple-A Louisville. Rey enjoyed a meteoric rise similar to Lopez in 2021, dominating opposing pitchers at both High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga.

With NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India firmly entrenched at second base, and the high-priced Eugenio Suárez playing the hot corner, it may be hard for Alejo Lopez to find playing time in the bigs next season.

Cincinnati Reds center fielder Nick Senzel (15) holds a bat.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder Nick Senzel (15) holds a bat. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

3. Nick Senzel, Reds infielder/ outfielder

Before we delve into this situation, can I first say that the Cincinnati Reds should not trade Nick Senzel. Say what you will about his durability, and there's certainly reason to question it, but the Reds used the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft to select Senzel, and they cannot afford to just sell-low on the 26-year-old.

Anyone who follows Reds baseball knows the issues surrounding Nick Senzel. It has nothing to do with Senzel's ability, but rather his avail-ability. David Bell cannot count on the former first-round pick to be an everyday player. But that doesn't mean Cincinnati needs to ship him off for some underachieving prospect.

We've seen this song and dance with the Reds before. Cincinnati hung on to former first-round pick Robert Stephenson (for different reasons) much longer than they should have. Why? Because the team invested a first-round pick and a lot of time into the former high school pitcher.

I think we'll see the same thing with Nick Senzel. Why some fans may question the sanity of Cincinnati's front office should Nick Krall and Company keep Senzel in the Queen City, it's not as though he's costing the Reds an arm and a leg. Senzel, in his first year of arbitration eligibility is unlikely to take home little more than $1M next season.

I said last season that 2021 was a make-or-break year for Nick Senzel; unfortunately, he broke again. I'd like to see the Cincinnati Reds utilize Senzel in a manner similar to how the Kansas City Royals use Whit Merrifield, the way the Los Angeles Dodgers use Chris Taylor, or the way the Arizona Diamondbacks use Ketel Marte.

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If I were running the Cincinnati Reds front office, none of these young players would be available in trade unless I was getting equal value back in return. Hopefully the Reds see value in these three players as well and refuse to sell low.