How Can the Cincinnati Reds Replace TJ Friedl?

The Cincinnati Reds will be without their starting center fielder for months, as TJ Friedl has a fractured wrist. How can they fill the void?

TJ Friedl of the Cincinnati Reds bats during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field.
CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 26, 2023: TJ Friedl #29 of the Cincinnati Reds bats during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on September 26, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

The bad news just keeps on coming in Cincinnati. As if the 80 game suspension of Noelvi Marte wasn’t enough, the Reds lost another starter before Opening Day. Starting center fielder, and 4.4 WAR player, TJ Friedl will miss around two months with a wrist fracture.

Friedl broke out in a big way in 2023 slashing .279/.352/.467 with 18 home runs and 27 stolen bases. In the field, Friedl posted a 5 OAA slotting him into the 89th percentile.

Speed, some pop, and a great defender in center is going to be tough to replace. Not only does the missed time hurt, but wrist injuries are tough to recover from. We’ll hope for the best, but it is possible we do not see the same Friedl once he returns.

So, where do the Reds go from here?

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Most likely, a combination of Stuart Fairchild and Will Benson will share a platoon role in center.

A couple of underwhelming or unproven rookies fill out the depth chart and that’s about it.

All winter I was waiting for the Reds to bring in a veteran who could play center and at least provide more competition to Fairchild, but here we are. The frustrating part is options were available, and signed, for relatively low contracts.

Who The Reds Could Have Signed

Michael Taylor1 year/$4 million (PIT)

Adam Duvall 1 year/$3 million (ATL)

Randal Grichuk1 year/$2 million (ARI)

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You don’t even have to look as far as February when Randall Grichuk signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks to find an outfielder they could have signed at a reasonable cost.

Look back to last Friday, March 15th, when the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Michael A. Taylor to a one-year, $4 million deal. A day before that, Adam Duvall signed back with the Atlanta Braves on a $3 million deal.

Point being, an insurance policy of a veteran who could at least platoon and has seen major league pitching was going for $2-4 million and the front office stayed put. Maybe those players didn’t want to come to Cincinnati, and that could be true.

After working through this list, we’ll see how you feel about the depth.

Stuart Fairchild

Fairchild played in a career high 97 games last season and posted an 89 wRC+, walked at a 9.8% clip, and struck out 27% of the time. The righty has a career .229/.343/.389 slash against southpaws with 53 strikeouts in 144 at-bats. Not exactly pretty.

To his credit, Fairchild has hit very well in the minors but has bounced around organization-to-organization for a reason. A perfectly fine fourth or fifth outfielder with flaws.

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For starters, he struggles to hit non-fastballs. Last season Fairchild had a 43% whiff rate on breaking balls and 55% whiff rate on off-speed, posting a sub- .200 xBA on each. He does not impact the baseball much either posting a 29.7% hard hit rate and 85.9 mph average exit velocity.

While I don’t expect much for a bench outfielder, these numbers are concerning.

On a more positive note, Fairchild is a pretty good defender with some speed and a respectable arm. When someone with his career projection gets a larger opportunity like this, anything can happen. I’m not sayin Fairchild has no chance of helping the Reds get by, but the odds are not in his favor.

Will Benson

Benson was acquired late last spring and really came on for the Reds after a stint in Triple-A.

The 25-year-old slugger slashed .275/.365/.498 with 11 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 108 games. The tools are all there. True power potential, and athletic build, and plus plus speed. Of the bunch, he has the highest ceiling.

While I have faith Benson will be a productive big leaguer, we have to look at the whole picture. His .391 BABIP from 2023 helped his numbers, as shown by a .230 xBA and .398 xSLG.

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He also posted a 31.3% strikeout rate and a .146 average against lefties, which proves he’s likely only a platoon option. Now, these numbers were impacted by a dreadful start and what Benson showed after his stint in Louisville was much more promising.

With only four games played in center last season, the Reds obviously preferred him in a corner. Defensively he looked uncomfortable at times but does possess the athletic ability and arm to fit in center.

Bubba Thompson

Thompson is already on his second stint with the Reds since the offseason started. With only 223 at-bats to his name, he’s far from a sure thing but does offer one intriguing trait: speed. Thompson can fly ranking in the 99th percentile in sprint speed the past two seasons.

The issue is hitting. A career .591 OPS is the reason he has bounced around as of late.

While he’s more of a one-trick pony, there’s a chance the Reds could look to him at some point if yet another injury comes up.

Jacob Hurtubise

The 26 year-old had a massive breakout in 2023. Going from a complete non-prospect to slashing .330/.479/.483 with 45 steals across Double and Triple-A. Like Thompson, Hurtubise offers elite speed but that’s not all.

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He’s shown a plus eye for the zone, makes contact, and even flashed his first signs of power. He’s on the 40-man roster which gives him a leg up, but I still think he starts in the minors.

Blake Dunn

Dunn was another pop up prospect from last season. The former 15th round pick slashed .312/.425/.522 with 23 home runs and 54 stolen bases across Single and Double-A.

A smooth swing with sneaky power and, you guessed it, top-end speed.

Of the players on this list, Dunn and Benson have the most upside in my mind. While Dunn is probably going to have a more successful career than others on this list, I doubt he is the immediate replacement. Not only is he not on the 40-man roster, but the Reds don’t usually move a position player from Double-A straight to the big club.


I’ve been more pessimistic than usual here, but I do think I have been fair. Replacing a key contributor is never easy but this crop of players obviously has the belief of the organization. Trades or waiver claims are still possible although rolling with this group seems most likely.

If Benson looks better defensively than I am glad he is getting the extra at-bats. If it clicks for him, you have a player with upside getting more playing time. I won’t argue with that. I can live with the Fairchild platoon for the time being.

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Luckily Friedl will be back. When and how he looks is still to be seen. With so much promise to a season, let’s hope this is a speed bump and not a trend.