To say that Cincinnati Reds outfielder Aristides Aquino is turning heads in his first handful of days in the Major Leagues in the 2019 season would be an understatement. After Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs he’s hitting .429/.455/.905 with a double and three home runs in 21 at-bats. He’s also shown off a rather big time arm in right field, too.
It’s not just that he’s had a good start. It’s how impressive some of the feats within that good start have been. His first home run was more impressive because of when it happened and who it came off of. Aquino, better known as The Punisher in some parts, hit a game tying 3-run home run off of Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel on August 3rd. It was the first homer of his career and went 404 feet. But it was the home run he hit three days later that got the people talking.
Tuesday night the 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic took a 1-1 92 MPH fastball from Jose Suarez and almost hit it through the batters eye in center field. Trackman measured it at an impressive 448 feet. It was a no-doubter off of the bat and almost caused Thom Brennaman to have an aneurysm on the call for Fox Sports Ohio as he screamed “They all him The Punisher!”
Both of those were just a tease for what was in store. Friday night saw Aristides Aquino hit another absolute monster of a home run for the Cincinnati Reds. The ball went an estimated 445 feet by Trackman. And it came off of the bat at 118.3 MPH. That’s the hardest home run hit in all of Major League Baseball in 2019. It, too, almost caused Thom Brennaman to have an aneurysm on the air.
As I noted on twitter during the game, that was easily the hardest hit baseball by a Cincinnati Reds player since Statcast came into existence back in 2015. The previous record was held by Michael Lorenzen of all players at 116.5 MPH. No other Red had topped 114.9 MPH (Jesse Winker in April of 2018).
Power is something that has been a staple of the game for Aristides Aquino for a long time. It was something he was known for even at times when he was not showing it in games. As a 17 and 18-year-old he played in 125 games in the Dominican Summer League and hit just six total home runs. He also hit under .200 in both seasons. And in both seasons he slugged under .300. But the Reds knew that he had thunder in his bat despite that. They were confident he could develop, and he rewarded that confidence the next year as he slugged .479 with 25 extra-base hits in just 46 games for the Arizona League Reds.
The next year is when he really broke out for the first time. That was the 2014 season where Aquino would hit .292/.342/.577 with 23 doubles, 5 triples, and 16 home runs in 71 games for the Billings Mustangs. The next year he battled injuries and only played about half of a season in Dayton, with a short rehab stint coming back from injury with Billings.
Healthy again, Aristides Aquino laid waste to the pitcher friendly Florida State League in 2016. He hit .273/.327/.519 with 26 doubles, 12 triples, and 23 home runs. That earned him the leagues most valuable player award. But that success didn’t carry forward into Double-A. When he made contact he did damage. The power still played as he hit 40 doubles, 8 triples, and 37 home runs in his two seasons playing for Pensacola. But his on-base percentage was under .300 in his 245 games for the Blue Wahoos.
And then he headed out to Goodyear for spring training in 2019 and reworked his swing. Those changes seemed to work miracles for the outfielder who then went to Triple-A this season and hit .299/.356/.636 with 13 doubles, a triple, and 28 home runs in just 78 games played. While it seems that everyone is hitting for more power in Triple-A this season, and they are, very few were doing it like Aristides Aquino was.
It wasn’t just the pure number of home runs, which was impressive on it’s own. But it was just how far they were going. The average distance for his home runs for Louisville this season was 412 feet. 16 of his home runs went more than 405 feet. Eight of them have gone 425+ feet this season. Four of them have gone at least 449 feet. The top one comes in at an absurd 471-feet.
If you’ve been following the journey you’ve long heard about the power. You may have seen it at times, too. But in 2019 Aristides Aquino is taking it to a different level. It started in Goodyear in the spring. Then it carried forward to Louisville when the season began. And now he’s sharing it with the entire world at the highest level on this planet.
It’s not just the power in the bat, though. There’s power in his right arm, too. Going back through his time in the minors, he led the Arizona Rookie League in outfield assists in 2013. And he led the Pioneer League in outfield assists in 2014. In the 2016 season he recorded a truly laughable 28 assists – once again leading his league in the metric. This past season he had already thrown out eight runners on the bases in just 69 games for Louisville.
While he had gotten a chance to unleash a few throws in his limited time with Cincinnati, it was once again last night that he made a true head-turner. Aquino made a thrown to second base on an Anthony Rizzo single early in the game. That throw registered at 101.5 MPH. That’s the top velocity on a throw by an outfielder in Major League Baseball this season.
Aristides Aquino isn’t going to hit .429 forever. And he’s not going to slug .900, either. But it’s been one heck of a ride through the first eight games of 2019 for the outfielder. He’s made an impression in many ways. But it’s the loud way that he’s made an impression that might stick with you a decade from now.