In this ongoing series that will last most of spring training, we’re going to look at each player that will be in Major League camp with the Cincinnati Reds. Each post will have some information on the player. There will be some background information, profiling, projections, and more. To see all of the posts in the series, you can click here. Today we are going to look at outfielder T.J. Friedl.
TJ Friedl’s Background
Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016
Height/Weight: 5′ 10″ / 180 lbs
Years of MLB Experience: None
No one had T.J. Friedl on their radar during the 2016 draft. While he was very much considered a future first- or second-round draft pick, he wasn’t eligible for selection — or so everyone thought. He was listed as a sophomore on the University of Nevada’s roster instead of a redshirt sophomore. In the former scenario, he would’ve been ineligible to play professionally. Even Friedl didn’t know he could be selected. But once the secret was out, the Reds outbid several other teams to bolster their farm system. He’s worked his way through the organization quickly, reaching Double-A after fewer than two full years in professional baseball.
T.J. Friedl’s 2018 Season
Friedl started 2018 in High-A Daytona after ending the previous season there. He went through an adjustment period with the Tortugas in 2017, but he mastered the level in his second go-around. In 64 games, he had a 141 wRC+ and .817 OPS in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Most notably, his walk rate exploded to 13.9% from 7.9% the year prior. Friedl was promoted to Double-A Pensacola midway through the year and adapted quite well at the level many consider the biggest adjustment in the minor leagues. While his on-base and slugging percentages dipped, Friedl still hit a respectable .276/.359/.360 with a 108 wRC+.
T.J. Friedl’s Playing History
After signing with the Reds in 2016, Friedl began playing immediately in August. He took no time getting used to professional baseball, homering in his first two trips to the plate despite not being known for his power. That was a sign of things to come, as he tore up the Pioneer League en route to a 145 wRC+ and .347/.423/.545 slash line. He started 2017 in Low-A Dayton and didn’t stay for long, posting a 141 wRC+ in 66 games before a midseason promotion to High-A Daytona. He hit his first real bump in the road as a professional in Florida to close out the 2017 season (94 wRC+), but he clearly adjusted in 2018 thanks to an improved eye at the plate.
Speed is Friedl’s biggest physical asset. He’s a plus defender in centerfield — albeit with an average throwing arm — and stole a career-high 30 bases in 2018 between High-A and Double-A at a 77% success rate. And nothing makes speed more valuable than the ability to get on base a lot. His career on-base percentage sits at .374 thanks to a walk rate of 9.8%. He doesn’t bring much over-the-wall pop to the table, with only 15 career home runs in 1,198 plate appearances. Gap power is a little bit of a different story. He’s hit as many as 26 doubles and eight triples in a season, which has kept his career slugging percentage (.418) north of the .400 mark.
Projecting T.J. Friedl for 2019
In all likelihood, Friedl will spend the season in the minors. He hasn’t played above Double-A yet and could begin the season in Chattanooga if the team feels he’s not quite ready for Triple-A. It’s not particularly surprising that that the projections aren’t too optimistic about his output given his lack of experience in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
How could T.J. Friedl fit in Cincinnati in 2019?
Friedl is unlikely to break camp with the Reds barring a series of injuries. The Reds have a lot of outfielders in the mix, and there’s no clear spot for him even on the bench. Even with a monster season, there aren’t any openings on the major-league roster for him. At best, he’s probably the eighth outfielder on the depth chart. But they don’t have any true centerfielders on the big-league roster, which gives him some extra value if the team wants a reliable glove in the toughest outfield spot. A 2020 ETA seems more realistic for Friedl right now.