Aristides Aquino hit .240 with a .754 OPS against AA pitching in 2018, his exploits with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos warranting him a 1-game call-up to the Cincinnati Reds and, eventually, a DFA off the 40-man roster. It’s a story as old as time, really - former top prospect flashes tools galore in the lower minors, gets protected from the Rule 5 Draft with a spot on the 40-man, gets a cup of coffee, and eventually gets squeezed off for his own replacement a year or two later when the upper minors confuse them.
That’s where the likes of Kyle Waldrop, or Ryan LaMarre have etched their names in the annals of obscure former Reds-dom. It’s where Stephen Johnson and Barret Astin check the box on the pitching side. But rarely, if ever, do players reach that tipping point of their big league careers, survive the eventual DFA, and return to thrive again, much less within the same organization.
That brings us to Aquino, who appears to be doing just that, at least for now. The Punisher exploded his way through AAA pitching with 28 dingers in just 73 games, and hasn’t missed a beat since becoming a fixture in the post-Puig, post-Scooter Cincinnati Reds lineup. That includes his 3-dinger game against the Chicago Cubs in this past weekend’s pivotal series for the fate of the 2019 Reds, an example of not only a rookie stepping up on the biggest stage he’s seen to date, but one who has already beaten very, very long odds.
It’s the kind of story that you should really just sit back and soak in, as The Athletic’s Mo Egger opined earlier today. A story that already has a happy ending regardless of how long this amazing show continues on. Certainly, we all hope the Reds have uncovered their next franchise-altering superstar who can carry them to success for a decade, but even if Aquino falls back to being merely mortal, this is precisely the kind of breakthrough moment that should have all of us feeling good.
In other news, the Reds have reportedly signed veteran righty reliever Junichi Tazawa, as The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans confirmed yesterday afternoon. As Trent notes, the Reds have never once had a Japanese player on their big league roster, so if Tazawa can recapture his previous form and make that jump - something that’s a bit of a stretch considering he’s thrown a grand total of 28.0 big league innings since 2017, all of which came in 2018 with an ugly 7.07 ERA.
In other potential bullpen news, it appears Tyler Mahle is nearing a rehab stint, something that should hopefully begin as early as this week, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reported. Mahle’s obviously aware of how the Reds rotation has been bolstered since his hamstring issue sent him to the IL, but appears completely willing to pitch in relief the rest of this season if it means he’s back in the big leagues. Good guy, team player, that Mahle.
Finally, Trent’s beard informed us that David Hernandez has cleared waivers and been released, something that should hardly come as a surprise. Hernandez had a wonderful run with the Reds right up until he didn’t, something that’s unfortunately quite the common story among veteran relievers. Their results from year to year are just as fickle as their shoulders, knees, and toes.