Ranking the Reds in-house replacements for Jesse Winker in left field

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino (44) flexes.
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino (44) flexes. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 5

The Cincinnati Reds blockbuster trade with the Seattle Mariners on Monday has left a gaping hole in left field. Jesse Winker, along with Eugenio Suárez, was sent to the Emerald City in exchange for left-handed prospect Brandon Williamson, right-hander Justin Dunn, outfielder Jake Fraley, and player to be named later,

It appears, for now, that Mike Moustakas will be inserted into the lineup as the Reds everyday third baseman. I assume will see Kyle Farmer spend some time at the hot corner as well. But what about left field?

While Jesse Winker was a far-cry from an elite defender, the 28-year-old held his own in left field over the past two seasons. More than that, Winker earned his first trip to the All-Star Game following a fantastic 2021 season at the plate. So, who's most likely to replace Winker in left field?

5. Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino could replace Jesse Winker in LF.

Oh boy! Is Aristides Aquino still on the team? Well, then he's got a shot, I guess. All kidding aside, nothing would please me more as a fan of the Cincinnati Reds that to see The Punisher line up in left field on Opening Day. But there's a catch.

I want to see The Punisher that launched baseballs out of Great American Ball Park at an incredible clip in August of 2019, not the version that's put up pedestrian numbers ever since. Aquino has monster power, great speed and athleticism for a player his size, and a cannon for an arm. So why is Aquino not an everyday player? Because he can't hit a break ball.

Aristides Aquino feasts on fastballs. If you miss your spot as a pitcher when facing Aquino, you might as well turn around and watch the baseball enter the 26th row in left field. But something happened to Aquino between 2019 and 2020; pitchers figured out how to approach him.

Now, the free-swinging right-handed slugger is strikeout waiting to happen. Aquino posted a 36.8% strikeout-rate in 2021 in just 204 at-bats. On the flip side, The Punisher, as a part-time player, mashed 10 round trippers and posted a .408 slugging percentage. No one on this team, and possibly the entire Reds organization has more power than Aquino, but the strikeouts do not help his cause.

Cincinnati Reds left fielder Max Schrock (32) enters the field.
Cincinnati Reds left fielder Max Schrock (32) enters the field. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

4. Reds outfielder Max Schrock could replace Jesse Winker in LF.

Max Schrock appeared in 53 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 2021, and believe it or not, saw more time in left field than anywhere else on the diamond. Schrock was a regular in the Reds lineup down the stretch when Jesse Winker was sidelined with an intercostal injury.

An infielder by trade, Schrock gives Reds manager David Bell a sold, yet unspectacular, bat in the lineup. Schrock is going to give you quality at-bats every time he steps into the box. He is, as Reds play-by-play announcer John Sadek says, a "professional hitter".

Schrock appeared uncomfortable at times while lining up in the outfield, but one would think that the 27-year-old is wise enough to know that his best chance of making this team is by being as versatile as possible. To that end, I have to assume that Schrock got plenty of work in during the offseason turning himself into a solid defensive outfielder.

Now to the downside. While Schrock possesses very good bat-to-ball skills, a power-hitter he is not. But, while you're not going to see towering blasts off the bat off Schrock, he did post a .448 slugger percentage last season.

With Max Schrock, you're going to get hitter who takes every at-bat seriously and is not looking to "do damage" every time he steps to the plate. Schrock will lay down a bunt, advance the runner, hit a sacrifice fly, and do all the little things it takes to win. But he's not flashy. If the Reds are looking for an everyday left fielder, it's not Schrock. But I definitely expect him to compete for playing time.

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama (4) catches a fly ball.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama (4) catches a fly ball. / Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY NE

3. Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama could replace Jesse Winker in LF.

Well, this is it for Shogo Akiyama. Without Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos in the lineup, the former Japanese star has his best chance to become a regular contributor for the Cincinnati Reds. Akiyama had been reduced to a part-time player in 2021 despite raking in $7M in salary.

Akiyama has been a disappointment since coming to the Queen City, and while many fans throughout Reds Country will say it's not his fault, he's yet produce when given the opportunity. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic and shutting spring training in 2020 certainly had an effect on Akiyama's adjustment to the big leagues. Last season, Akiyama was slowed by injuries and the stellar play of Tyler Naquin.

Shogo Akiyama still does not have a home run in the big leagues. While he's not necessarily a power-hitter by trade, you'd expect a player who'd had three consecutive seasons of 20-plus homers in Japan to at least register a couple of round trippers, right?

The truth is, Akiyama is slap-hitter. Next season, when Major League Baseball bans the shift, Akiyama might hit for .325, but opposing defenses are going to play the 33-year-old to pull the ball to the right side of the infield, and until Akiyama learns to elevate the ball over the defense, he'll remain a part-time player.

On defense, Akiyama is one of the Cincinnati Reds best options. Despite his age, Shogo Akiyama might be the Reds best defender on the outfield grass. Akiyama was up for a Gold Glove during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and he may be again if he finds regular playing time in left this season.

Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl (29) catches a fly ball.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl (29) catches a fly ball. / Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content

2. Reds outfielder TJ Friedl could replace Jesse Winker in LF.

We only saw a glimpse of what TJ Friedl was capable of in Cincinnati Reds uniform last season. A longtime prospect in the Cincinnati organization, Friedl appeared in 14 games last season and only garnered 36 plate appearances. Friedl's first hit, however, was a home run.

There's a lot to like about TJ Friedl's game. He's kind of a jack-of-all-trades type of player. Think Kyle Farmer, only as an outfielder. You're not going to get many balls past Friedl in the outfield, as the 26-year-old has ridiculous speed. Speaking of which, Friedl can use that quickness on the base paths and has recorded double-digit steals in each of his minor league seasons.

Friedl has sneaky power as well. In 112 games at Triple-A Louisville last season, Friedl launched 12 round trippers, picked up 15 doubles, and five triples as well. Friedl posted a .264/.357/.422 slash line for the Louisville Bats last season and had a wRC+ of 111.

Is TJ Friedl and everyday player? Well, that's going to be the question heading into the 2022 season. I believe Friedl has the makeup to be an everyday centerfielder, as teams will oftentimes sacrifice power for defense up the middle. But typically, organizations want a player who can club 30-plus home runs playing the corners in the outfield. Funny, it seems like they had that with Jesse Winker.

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jake Fraley (27) participates in outfield drills during workouts.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jake Fraley (27) participates in outfield drills during workouts. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

1. Reds outfielder Jake Fraley could replace Jesse Winker in LF.

Strange as it may seem, it would appear that one of players included in the Cincinnati Reds' trade with the Seattle Mariners is the most likely candidate to supplant Jesse Winker in left field. Jake Fraley, who was one of the four players included in Monday's deal, has a good mix of speed and power and currently the Reds Opening Day starter in left field.

Fraley, much like Winker, can flat out hit versus right-handed pitchers. Against lefties, however, it's a completely different story. In 2021, Fraley slashed just .169/.306/.225 versus left-handed pitchers, but versus right-handers the 26-year-old had an OPS of .815 last season.

Where Jake Fraley would be a massive upgrade over Jesse Winker is on the defensive side of the ball. Fraley, much like the aforementioned TJ Friedl, has crazy-good speed. His ability to track down balls may find Fraley spending some time in center field as well. Fraley was worth 5 defensive runs saved in left field last season.

Let's be honest, no one in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse is going to replace what Jesse Winker brought to the table. His leadership was unquestioned, his excitement for the game was contagious, and his love for the fans in Cincinnati was undeniable.

Next. Jesse Winker claps back at Reds following trade to Mariners. dark

But, as it stands, Winker is now a Seattle Mariner and the Reds need to find a replacement. I would strongly suggest that Nick Krall and Co. take a good look at a right-handed bat on the free agent market, as the current makeup of the Reds roster is very dependent on left-handed hitters (Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, and Tyler Naquin).