One of the best stories in Major League baseball over the last week has been the hot start of Cincinnati Reds rookie right fielder Aristides Aquino, who has made history by launching eight home runs in his first 12 games in the big leagues. No rookie, nevermind any big leaguer, has ever hit that many bombs in his first dozen games in the majors.
To add another accolade in the history books, the 25-year old went deep three times against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, all solo shots. With those three home runs, Aquino tied the record set by Trevor Story in his rookie season in 2016, hitting seven home runs in his first 10 games. He also became the first rookie to homer in consecutive innings, hitting solo shots in the second, third, and fourth innings. Aquino and Houston Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez both homered three times on Saturday, becoming the first rookies in MLB history to do so on the same day.
A Deeper Look Into His Hot Start
Aquino made his MLB debut last season, but had just one at-bat. Once the Reds traded Yasiel Puig to the Cleveland Indians, it opened up a spot on the major-league roster for Aquino in right field; it’s safe to say he has made a loud impression to begin his big-league career. Through 12 games, the rookie is hitting a whopping .385 with 16 RBIs. Nine of his 15 hits have been for extra bases, with eight of them being long balls. When Aquino took Cole Hamels deep on August 8, the ball left the bat at 118.3 mph, tying Gary Sanchez, Pete Alonso, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the hardest-hit home run of the 2019 season.
The thing that is really fascinating about Aquino is that he has never even been a big-time prospect. He spent six seasons between the rookie and Single-A levels between 2011 and 2016, where he really struggled to figure it out offensively. The Reds kept faith in him, and in 2018, he showed signs of improvement, especially from a power standpoint, clubbing 20 home runs in Double-A. Aquino then started 2019 in Triple-A Louisville, smashing 28 home runs in just 78 games while hitting .299, which earned him the call-up. A small adjustment to his stance in the offseason has worked wonders for his vision at the plate, opening up slightly so he can track the ball into the hitting zone a lot more clearly.
Aristides Aquino had 1 PA last year and he struck out… Here’s a comparison of his stance from last year (left) to this year (right). Wow talk about opening up pic.twitter.com/GN2u4NamsT
— Daren Willman (@darenw) August 13, 2019
The left is his stance from last season, and the right is this season. Definitely a big difference, but once he loads up, he ends up in a similar position to put the barrel to the baseball:
Message boards: Your stance is really ugly!
Aristides Aquino: pic.twitter.com/Y4xmSG4i48
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) August 10, 2019
Regardless of whether it’s a home run, Aquino is consistently hitting the ball hard. His 91.3 mph exit velocity is above the major-league average, as is his 15.4 average launch angle, a few points above the league average of 12.7. Aquino’s hard-hit rate (balls hit 95 mph or harder) is 47.8 percent, well above the big-league average of 34.4. Whether it’s a single, or a 400-foot bomb, Aquino is squaring balls up on the barrel often.
He has been known to struggle against softer off-speed pitches in the past, but since his arrival in the bigs, the Dominican Republic native has handled these offerings very well. Two of his eight home runs have come against off-speed pitches, and he’s also hitting over .400 against breaking balls and changeups.
It’s very early to predict what type of career Aristides Aquino is going to have in the major leagues, but his red-hot start shows that he belongs at this level.
Thank god the Reds traded away Puig, or we wouldn’t all be lucky enough to see Aquino launch balls into orbit at an inhuman rate.
Cincinnati definitely has a possible 30-home run a year right fielder at their fingertips and a centerpiece for their organization. It will be exciting to see just how many bombs Aquino can hit in the remainder of 2019.