A lot has been written recently about the newest Cincinnati Reds prospect T.J. Friedl, even some stuff here on this very site (of course there has been, it is Reds Minor Leagues after all). In case you missed it, the former Nevada outfielder was draft eligible for the 2016 Draft, but more than a few teams simply didn’t know it for a variety of reasons. He was a redshirt sophomore in 2015 and listed simply as a sophomore on the Nevada roster, causing confusion for some (this shouldn’t be an excuse – look at the guys birthdays, there are legitimate sophomores that are draft eligible because of their ages). What it led to in the end was that he went undrafted and moved on to playing for Team USA this summer where he began to turn heads. That’s when more teams began to realize that he was eligible for the past draft, and thus, eligible to sign as a free agent right now.
Ultimately it was the Reds who landed him thanks to the fact that they had the most money of any team remaining (thanks to having the second highest bonus pool – giving them more money they could spend before hitting the 5% overage that would then cost them their 1st round pick next year). It took nearly a week between the time that the news broke that the two sides had agreed to a deal and the time that Friedl took the field.
It was worth the wait. In his first at bat he took the second pitch he saw and smacked it over the right field fence for a home run. In his second plate appearance, welcome to pro ball kid – he was hit by a pitch. Apparently you don’t want to make T.J. Friedl angry because in his next trip to the plate he smacked another home run over the right field fence. Learning from their mistake earlier, they didn’t hit him the next time around and he singled on a bunt to wrap up his debut with three hits, including two home runs.
That’s about as nice of a debut as one can have. Friedl, in one game as a pro, nearly matched his home run total that he had with Nevada in 222 at-bats this past season. With the Wolf Pack in 2016 he hit an impressive .401/.494/.563 to go along with nine doubles, nine triples and three home runs. The extra-base hit power wasn’t there for him, but the rest of his game seemed to be working quite well.
MLB Pipeline seems to be the place that had the first full scouting report on Friedl after the news broke that he had agreed to sign with the Reds. It lists him as having four tools that are Major League average or better in the future with only one below-average tool – power. They rate his power out as a 30, which is essentially Billy Hamilton type power.
Friedl is listed at 5′ 10″ and 170 lbs. so it’s not likely he’s going to be a 20+ home run guy simply because of his size. Most guys that size don’t find that kind of power, and it’s his power that seems to be what’s really kept him off of the scouts radar so to speak. He hit over .400 and he’s listed as a 70 runner (that’s plus-plus speed) – guys like that usually catch the attention of scouts. Even without the power projection and if that 30 power grade was correct, the rest of his game still sounds like it’s the profile of a guy who should have been selected somewhere in the 4th-7th round. Perhaps there just weren’t enough teams that realized he was eligible and the teams that did felt they had other guys ahead of him in that range and after that felt he wouldn’t sign (though it’s strange that no one asked, either – since Friedl didn’t know he was draft eligible until his time with Team USA).
Last night after the game was over, MLB Pipeline posted an article about his debut with the two home runs. They usually get some quotes from phone interviews on nights like this and I was interested in seeing what Friedl had to say, or what his manager had to say about the game. The article had no quotes, but what it did have was some video of his time with Team USA. It was the first time that I had actually seen video of the left hander. You can watch it for yourself here.
There are two things to note in this video. First is the swing from in the game. Then there are the swings in the cage. The in-game swing, granted we are talking about one swing, doesn’t show us much of anything. It was a contact oriented swing on a pitch that he hit the other way. But those swings in the cage? That’s a very quick bat. There’s absolutely more than “30” power in that swing, even at 5′ 10″ and 170 lbs.
Now, there’s obviously a difference between current power and future power. Many players have had power potential that never developed. With that said, Friedl being labeled as a “30” power guy by MLB Pipeline just doesn’t jive with what I’m seeing in the video above. There’s double digit home run potential in there to go along with plenty of doubles.