This Cincinnati Reds player may provide unexpected contributions in 2022

Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl (29) slides into home plate.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl (29) slides into home plate. / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

As it stands right now, the Cincinnati Reds outfield is a bit of an enigma. Nick Castellanos, while still a free agent, is unlikely to re-sign, and four of the Reds outfielders finished the 2021 season on the injured list. Keep you eye on the speedy TJ Friedl, who could actually be playing meaningful baseball this season.

Friedl finally got the call near the end of last season and made his major league debut on September 18th versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. The next night, the left-handed hitting outfielder got his first major league hit; a home run to right field.

Reds OF TJ Friedl is better than you think.

TJ Friedl is a bit of a unique story. The Pennsylvania native went undrafted in 2016 despite the fact that after playing his sophomore season at Nevada-Reno, Friedl was draft-eligible. Eventually teams got into a bidding war for his services and the Cincinnati Reds finally inked Friedl to a $735K signing bonus.

The 26-year-old has be toiling away in the minor leagues since 2016 and at every stop along the way, except for a a 48-game stop at Advanced-A Dayton in 2017, Friedl has posted a wRC+ above 100. Even with the Dragons in 2017, Freidl put up a wRC+ of 94.

Before getting the call to the big leagues last September, TJ Friedl spent the 2021 season with the Louisville Bats. In 113 games at Triple-A, Friedl hit .264/.357/.422 with 15 doubles, 5 triples, 12 home runs and 36 RBIs.

Perhaps of more interest to the Reds is Friedl's speed on the base paths. Friedl swiped 13 bags for the Bats last season, and has had double-digit steals every season. While stealing a base is a lost art, that type of speed is something that can't be taught.

TJ Friedl could see a lot of time in center field for the Reds.

Given the current state of the Cincinnati Reds outfield situation, there's a good chance that TJ Friedl could play a big role during the upcoming season. While Tyler Naquin got the lion's share of starts in center field last season, Nick Castellanos' likely absence will probably see Naquin slide over and play right field in 2022.

There's no way that David Bell can count on Nick Senzel to be the Reds everyday centerfielder in 2022. But perhaps a platoon between Senzel and Friedl could work. There's also the left-handed hitting Shogo Akiyama, but the Japanese outfielder was relegated to little more than a defensive replacement in 2021.

There is no young buck waiting in the wings at Triple-A, ready to take over center field next season. The possibility exists for Jose Barrero to get a chance to play the position, but we're more likely to see him at shortstop.

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TJ Friedl has had to get to the big leagues the hard way; through grit, determination, and leaving it all on the field. The blue collar fans in Cincinnati will be cheering Friedl on this season, and there's a good chance that he's better than you think.