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.
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
*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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