Has anyone ever won an organization’s minor league player of the year award and the major league player of the year award in the same season?
Asking for Aristides Aquino.
In the end, Aquino may not win the Reds’ big league award for 2019, but he may be one of the most memorable parts of the season. Aquino hit 11 home runs in the first 17 games of his big league career, 16 of which came this season. He set records for most homers in a player’s first 12 games (eight), first 14 games (nine), first 16 games (10) and first 17 games (11). He also set the record for fewest plate appearances needed to hit 10 home runs in a big league season, hitting his 10th long ball in his 54th plate appearance, breaking Mike Schmidt’s record (55) set in 1976.
And while no one may have excepted this output from Aquino once he got to Cincinnati, it’s really just a continuation of what he’d done all year at Triple-A Louisville. In 78 games for the Bats, Aquino hit .299/.356/.636 with 28 home runs.
When Aquino was called up on Aug. 1 to replace the traded Yasiel Puig, he was second in the International League in home runs and OPS (.992) and was in the midst of a 22-game hitting streak. Ranked as the Reds’ 18th-best prospect entering the season, Aquino reworked his stance, going from a closed stance to a wide-open stance and focused on using his power to hit the ball in the air.
“I started feeling comfortable, and I’d open a little bit and then I found the way I wanted to be at home plate,” Aquino said.
Rated as high as No. 7 on the Reds’ prospects list prior to the 2017 season after winning the Florida State League player of the year award in 2016, Aquino hit just .227/.293/.421 with 37 home runs over two seasons in Double-A. He reached the big leagues in 2018 but struck out in his only plate appearance. The Reds non-tendered him and re-signed him as a minor league free agent in December.
And what a move that turned out to be.
— Not unlike other teams at Triple-A, Louisville saw a spike in home runs this year and had an interesting race for the home run lead. Josh VanMeter hit 13 homers in his first 30 games at Triple-A before earning his first callup to the big leagues, where he’s spent much of the season. Brian O’Grady was the first to pass the 25-home run threshold, but he was eventually passed by Aquino.
— Between Double-A and Triple-A, reliever Joel Kuhnel struck out 50 batters, walked just 16 and posted a 2.52 ERA in 53.2 innings, earning a callup to the big leagues on Aug. 15.