After missing the second half of the 2019 season with an ankle injury that ultimately required surgery, it was a while before TJ Friedl was able to get back onto the field. He would have been ready to return for the 2020 season, but the minor league season was cancelled and he had to wait until 2021 to get back into games.

Things didn’t start out the way that Friedl would have liked. He began the season in a slump with the Triple-A Louisville Bats, going 2-23 with 10 strikeouts in the first nine games of the season. On May 16th he picked up two hits, including his first homer of the season in the final game of the series against Gwinnett. He didn’t slow down for the next two months, hitting .306/.403/.484 with nearly as many walks (24) as strikeouts (28) in that span. The outfielder also picked up eight stolen bases in that stretch.

For as well as he was hitting in that stretch, he went ice cold for the next three weeks, hitting just .136 – though he did reach base 15 times via the walk or hit by a pitch. Everything picked back up after that. For the following five weeks he would hit .306 with five doubles and six home runs in 29 games for the Bats. That stretch, along with what he had done earlier in the season earned him a call up to Cincinnati in mid-September. After getting a pinch hitting opportunity in his first day in the big leagues he would start the next day against the Dodgers, go 2-2 and pick up his first big league home run. He’d play most days moving forward, splitting time between getting starts and coming off of the bench, hitting .290 in 14 games before the season came to an end.

TJ Friedl Stats

For all 2021 Season Reviews and Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out during the week throughout the offseason).

TJ Friedl Scouting Report

Position: Outfield | B/T: L/L

Height: 5′ 10″ | Weight: 180 lbs | Acquired: Undrafted FA, 2016

Born: August 14, 1995

Hitting | He has an average hit tool that could play up a bit thanks to his speed and ability to pick up extra infield hits.

Power | He has below-average power.

Speed | Friedl has plus speed.

Defense | He’s an above-average defender with plenty of range.

Arm | His arm is fringe-average, but plays fine for left or center.

The oldest prospect on the Cincinnati Reds prospect list at 26-years-old, TJ Friedl doesn’t quite have the upside as some other players do. But what he does have is a starters ceiling and a floor that is a big league bench player.

There’s not a true weakness in the game of Friedl. He can hit a little bit, he’s got enough power to keep pitchers honest enough, he can run well, he can play defense at a premium position in center and cover you in the corners if asked to just fine. There’s not going to be a 25 home run season in the future for him, but he’s a big leaguer who can do plenty of things to help out any team in the league.

Where his future lies – whether it’s as a potential starting centerfielder or a quality 4th outfield option may rely on opportunity. A quality defender who profiles to hit enough to play in center every day, Friedl doesn’t quite profile as a “1st division starter”. You aren’t likely going to see a future All-Star caliber hitter here. But in a league where the average centerfielder hit .243/.314/.405 in 2021, Friedl has the potential to be that and a little more if he maximizes what he brings to the table.

TJ Friedl Spray Chart

TJ Friedl Spray Chart

*Minor League Hit Data only*

Interesting Stat on TJ Friedl

One of my favorite things to look at when the season is over is how TJ Friedl did on bunts during the season. After the 2018 season I wrote at Redleg Nation about just how impressive Friedl had been during his career at racking up hits on bunts. This year was no difference. The outfielder had 14 hits in 26 successful bunt attempts during the season in the minors. For perspective on that – the league leader in MLB in 2021 in bunt hits had seven.

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11 Responses

  1. Matt

    Yesterday when I listed outfield possibilities for the 2022 season, I didn’t list Friedl anywhere. I think, assuming all of Winker, Senzel, Naquin, Aquino, Schrock, Akiyama are healthy, it’s hard to see Friedl making the 2022 opening day roster.

    There’s always a chance one or more of the listed players don’t make the OD roster, either, however.

    • BK

      Good point. Good teams have quality depth waiting and ready in the minors. With another strong year, Friedl has a chance to solidify a roster spot for 2023 on the big-league team.

    • Doug Gray

      Probably not a good thing in terms of what makes minor league baseball great for many communities…. which is the connection to the community.

      • MK

        You know Doug no team has a better relationship to their city than Dayton. They have an ownership group who none of which are local (east coast) and they own multiple teams. These are some very wealthy men but they have local people running their teams. I’m not sure of the interaction between teams but I believe there is little.

      • Doug Gray

        Yeah, I don’t think owning multiple teams is necessarily a bad thing. But Endeavor is rumored to be looking at buying up like 40 teams and I think at that point you’re going to run into some real issues with truly having a connection with the cities you’re in. The reason you would likely see that is just how “streamlined” they get in many areas where most of those teams are doing the same thing as every other team they own. It requires far less people to make that happen, thus saving them money overall. And it’ll snowball into many areas, is my guess. It’ll make everything more “generic” with less of a local feel and fewer local ties in the promotions/sponsorships.

  2. rgslone

    If the Manager allows an open competition, I could see Freidl winning the starting CF job.

  3. Old Big Ed

    Friedl and Shogo Akiyama are pretty similar players, except that Friedl is better in almost all phases of the game than Akiyama, and 7+ years younger. But for their owing Akiyama $8 million next year, the Reds would release Akiyama and keep Friedl. This is another example of the Reds management not being so much cheap as it is stupid. (See also Moustakas, Mike.)

    While Friedl is likely to prove himself unsuited for starting duty, he has some value as a fourth outfielder or as a platoon centerfielder. He doesn’t have much power, but he could likely eke out a few “GABP specials” to the first row of the seats in right field.

    I still hold out some hope that a Japanese team will want to sign Akiyama and that the Reds will get a little salary relief from his return to Japan, even if it is only a half-million. Maybe the lockout will serve as an excuse for something like this to be worked out. If Akiyama wants to play beyond this season, then he will be better off playing 2022 in Japan, as opposed to being locked out or on the bench in the U.S.

    • Tom

      I like the idea Akiyama could find a taker somewhere. Maybe he goes with some cash as part of a pitching deal as well. If he’s here next year, I’d like to see him handed the job for 2 months. If he flounders terribly, just release him within that time frame. But give it one last shot at full time for the cash. I believe there is more in there than he showed amid injury and pandemic.

    • MK

      I agree there is not room on the 26-man for Akiyama and Friedl. I have wondered if some of Shogo’s offensive problems are that his hitting approach is so different than the typical US player approach that the current coaching staff is not equipped to help him. If he is still around a university level fast pitch softball hitting coach could help him.