Why TJ Friedl should be the Reds Opening Day centerfielder

Cincinnati Reds outfielder TJ Friedl
Cincinnati Reds outfielder TJ Friedl / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Nick Senzel, if he's healthy, is going to have a battle on his hands this spring. After four years of underwhelming performances from the former first-round pick, it would appear that for the first time since his rookie season, Senzel will have to fight for his right to be part of the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day lineup.

Now, this isn't about Senzel's lack of production as much as it is about the Reds finally having enough talented outfielders to push the University of Tennessee product out of the starting lineup. After taking over in 2019, the only players who've even been part of the conversation were outfielders like Travis Jankowski, Shogo Akiyama, and Phillip Ervin.

But TJ Friedl may finally be that player who will push Nick Senzel to brink this spring. After a sub-par performance during the first-half of his rookie season, a tuneup in Triple-A helped Friedl right the ship and he'll be the mix to snag a spot in David Bell's everyday lineup.

Why TJ Friedl should be the Reds Opening Day centerfielder.

TJ Friedl's 2022 campaign did not start out how he would have liked. In and out of the Cincinnati Reds lineup from mid-April through mid-June, Friedl hit just .200/.250/.289 through 43 games with just 18 hits in his first 100 plate appearances of the season.

Friedl was sent down to Triple-A Louisville and made some adjustments to his approach. In 40 games with the Bats, Friedl posted a slash line of .315/.385/. 504 and a wRC+ of 115 according to FanGraphs. Friedl also kept his strikeout-rate below 20.0%.

Friedl's hard work paid off and the 27-year-old returned to the big leagues in mid-August and went on an absolute tear. He slashed .267/.354/.533 from mid-August until a hamstring injury in October prematurely ended his rookie season. During that stretch, Friedl posted a wRC+ of 139 and a K-rate of just 13.9%.

If TJ Friedl is able to maintain that level of production during spring training and is fully recovered from his hamstring injury, there should be no question as to who the Cincinnati Reds starting centerfielder is on Opening Day.

Next. Way-too-early predictions for the Reds 2023-24 offseason. dark