Aristides Aquino has been on the fringes of the prospect radar of Reds fans for a few years now. I’ll count myself among the skeptical, largely because of his plate approach, which lead to a lot of strikeouts and not many walks.
This year, however, he’s been absolutely destroying pitchers in Louisville and that left me wondering if he had arrived. So I talked to Aquino and Louisville hitting coach Leon “Bull” Durham.
Before we get to that, a quick note: Yes, offense is up all over Triple-A with the switch the major league ball. However, Aquino is still pulling down a 150 wRC+, meaning he’s 50% better than the average Triple-A hitter.
“I just changed my stance a little bit. It’s made me more consistent,” Aquino says Turner Ward worked with him in spring training and that was the source of the change. Most notably (because, again, the Triple-A ball IS juiced compared to past seasons), his strikeout-rate is down six percent from two seasons ago.
Narciso Crook was there to serve as translator, but Aquino noted they’ve played together a long time, and I asked Crook what he saw. Crook said he can see that Aquino is making adjustments with every pitch now and keeping his overall approach simple.
Bull Durham is working with him for the first time, but noted what I’ve heard elsewhere, which is that his reputation was that he had trouble with breaking balls. “The young man has made some adjustments,” he said. “He’ll fall back to chasing balls in the dirt every now and again, but nobody’s perfect.”
“There’s still some little things he needs to learn in order to compete at the next level. He’s gonna get there. The young man has a future.” When I asked specifically about his potential, Durham said, “He’s gonna be an everyday guy. I have a good feel for talent. I can recognize it.” It was a strong statement of support, but what does it mean for the Reds.
Well, first, Aquino’s numbers really are meaningfully different. Especially the strikeouts. At 25, he’s not outside the prospect window in terms of age and he had massive power. The transition to the big leagues is always the hardest, but between the shifting numbers, his changed approach, and the observations of those who work with him, it seems he certainly should be on the radar. His ascent gives the Reds a potential starting outfielder which they may very well need come 2020.