The Punisher is getting one last chance to prove he's a major leaguer

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino (44) reacts.
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino (44) reacts. / David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Three years ago, Aristides Aquino was the talk of Major League Baseball. After dealing Yasiel Puig to the then-Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline, the Cincinnati Reds gave Aquino the opportunity to prove that he was a major league caliber outfielder.

Aquino did that and then some. After dismantling the minor leagues to the tune of .299/.356/.636 with 28 home runs while playing 78 games for the Louisville Bats, Aquino got his chance. It didn't take long for fans throughout Reds Country to see why Aquino was nicknamed The Punisher.

Aquino became the NL Player of the Month in August after a torrid streak saw him crush major league record after major league record. Aquino finished the 2019 season with a slash line of .259/.316/.576 and 19 round trippers to go along with 47 runs batted. Aquino looked like he was going to be the next big thing.

The Punisher lost his confidence during the pandemic-shortened season with the Reds.

Aristides Aquino had to enter the 2019-20 offseason on cloud nine. He'd asserted himself as one of the premiere power-hitters in the game and looked like a key piece of the Cincinnati Reds outfield for years to come.

But, the Reds invested heavily in the outfield during the offseason, and what looked like a sure spot in the Reds starting lineup quickly evaporated after Cincinnati came to terms on a four-year/$64M contract with Nick Castellanos.

Aquino was then relegated to a bench role. That, coupled with the cancellation of spring training and the abbreviated 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic didn't help matters. Aquino never got off the blocks in 2020 and hit just .170/.304/.319 as a part-time player who appeared in just 23 games.

Last year was more of the same for Aquino. He hit a meager .190 with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs, but was once again a rotational outfielder with the lion's share of playing time being allocated to Castellanos, Jesse Winker, and Tyler Naquin.

Aristides Aquino broke spring camp with the club this season, but the Reds finally moved on and reluctantly designated The Punisher for assignment. Aquino went unclaimed and rejoined the big league club before the team made their trip to Toronto in May. Aquino suffered an ankle injury and has been out of the Reds lineup for several weeks.

After the Cincinnati Reds traded Tommy Pham to the Boston Red Sox this week, Aquino was recalled from this rehab assignment and will be in the starting lineup versus the Miami Marlins tonight. There's every reason to believe the Reds will give Aquino every chance to find that same magic that helped him become a star overnight.

Every Reds fan would love to see The Punisher return to Great American Ball Park. Since beginning his rehab assignment during the middle of July, Aquino has hit .310 with four home runs and nine RBIs in 12 games with the Louisville Bats. Aquino is always going to strikeout a lot, but when he connects, the ball is going to travel a long way.

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