The Cincinnati Reds have signed outfielder Tyler Maquin to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training.
It was a tough 2020 season for Tyler Naquin, which is one of the reasons he’s coming in on a minor league deal. The 29-year-old hit just .218/.248/.383 in 141 plate appearances and had just five walks with 40 strikeouts. In 2019 he was much better in the 89 games that he played for Cleveland, hitting .288/.325/.467 with 14 walks and 66 strikeouts in 294 plate appearances.
Looking at the positives for Tyler Naquin on the offensive side of things – there’s a little bit of pop in his bat and he’s shown that in both 2019 and 2020, hitting 14 home runs and 27 doubles in just 434 plate appearances. The left-handed hitter has pretty big splits in his career, with a .783 OPS against right-handed pitching and just a .664 OPS against left-handed pitching. If you wanted to dive into some of the Statcast projected data, in 2020 he was among the league leaders in hard hit rate but didn’t get rewarded for it.
Looking at the negatives, though, he’s been a well below-average hitter in two of the last three seasons as he’s posted a .651 OPS and .632 OPS in the 2018 and 2020 seasons. He also seems allergic to walks, drawing just 25 of them in 618 plate appearances over the last three seasons.
Defensively, Cleveland had Tyler Naquin corner outfield in each of the last two seasons. In 2018 he played a little bit of center, getting 14 starts and 19 total games at the spot. With that said, he’s been a bad fielder according to Statcast’s Outs Above-Average stat over the last four years, ranking 95th among outfielders at -17 outs, placing him in a tie with Ryan Braun and Jose Bautista. And he compiled that while not playing every day. Fangraphs defensive values aren’t quite as bad. In 2018 and 2019 they rated him out as an above-average defender, but in 2020 he did grade out below average. This is when you talk to your scouts to get a better idea of what to expect from him on that side of the ball.
There’s some upside in terms of it being a minor league signing here. He’s been a quality player before, and if things go right he could be a solid bench player who hits right-handed pitching well and can cover you at three spots in the outfield. But he’s also on a minor league deal for a reason – he hasn’t been good at times in his career, struggling to hit, get on base, and by some metrics, play anything close to quality defense.