In case you missed it, the Cincinnati Reds picked up Nevada outfielder T.J. Friedl as a non-drafted free agent last week. Normally, the signing of an American-born undrafted player wouldn’t be making the news, but the signing of Friedl is a bit different.
The Reds gave Friedl the largest signing bonus in the history of undrafted, American born players, signing him for $735,000. There’s a lot to the backstory, and you can read more about it here if you’d like. Essentially, though, a lot of scouts didn’t recognize he was draft eligible this year until after the draft had already happened and he was playing well on Team USA in international competition during the summer.
Cincinnati eventually signed him last week, outbidding several other teams. In his first game he would hit two home runs. He was also hit by a pitch and had a bunt single in the game. It would be tough to find a better pro debut than the one that the 20-year-old had with the Billings Mustangs.
While the center fielder hasn’t matched that initial game, it would be tough to do that, he hasn’t stopped. In the three games since then he’s gone out and racked up six hits in 13 at-bats. Five of those hits have been doubles and he’s also walked twice. Four games into his career and he’s hitting .563/.632/1.250, all good for an OPS of 1.882 with two walks and two strikeouts in 19 plate appearances.
Pretty much, T.J. Friedl is Steve Nebraska and the Reds have stumbled onto the greatest baseball player that ever lived by finding an unnoticed gem in the desert (if you don’t get the reference, you need to A) get out more, B) google it).
Other minor league notes of value
Jonathon Crawford has returned to the mound. Remember the Alfredo Simon trade from December of 2014 that included Eugenio Suarez? Well, some people would have told you that Suarez was the second piece in that deal and that Crawford was the main dish. It hasn’t worked out that way, but at the time there were plenty who believed that.
The right handed pitcher came to spring training in 2015 and was injured. He barely pitched that season, making just two starts in full season ball and a few other rehab starts, but was shut down. This year it was more of the same, not pitching until June 30th. He made six rehab starts for the Arizona League Reds and made his return to full season baseball on August 3rd with Daytona, tossing 5.0 shutout innings for the Tortugas.
The Dayton Dragons hardest thrower for most of the season has made the move to the bullpen. Tanner Rainey, the 2nd round pick from the 2015 draft, has struggled in the rotation this season. Most believed that he was eventually going to move to the bullpen before he reached the Majors, so this isn’t a surprising move in the least. Control has been a big issue for the right hander, he’s walked 62 batters in 91.0 innings (93 strikeouts). With the move to the bullpen the hope is that he can focus a little more in short stints, let his already plus-plus fastball velocity play up even more and hopefully keep the walks under control. If he’s able to go all-out in shorter bursts it wouldn’t surprise me to see him regularly hitting triple-digits.
Alfredo Rodriguez, the Cuban shortstop that the team signed to a $7M bonus this past July has returned to the Dominican Summer League Reds lineup. He hadn’t played in nearly two weeks after being hit by a pitch, but saw his first game action yesterday morning for the first time since being removed from the game on July 23rd.