As he sat in his office in early September, high Class A Daytona manager Ricky Gutierrez knew how the Reds’ Double-A affiliate in Pensacola went from eight games under .500 in the first half to nine games over in the second.
The reason was 23-year-old outfielder T.J. Friedl.
“He’s amazing. He’s the reason why (Daytona) was what it was in the first half,” said Gutierrez, whose Tortugas went 37-29 in the first half and 32-37 in the second. “We miss him dearly, (but) we’re happy for him.
“I guarantee you he has a lot to do with why Pensacola is doing what they’re doing up there. It’s amazing. He rubs off on everybody. It’s amazing.”
At Daytona and Pensacola, Friedl hit .284/.381/.384 with five home runs in 131 games. His on-base percentage led the organization’s full-season batters, while his 30 stolen bases ranked second.
Friedl is also a skilled defensive outfielder, though he played predominately left field all season in deference to teammate Jose Siri, who is one of the rangiest center fielders in the minors.
At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Friedl isn’t a physical specimen, but he can hit, run and play the outfield. He doesn’t have much power potential because of his size, but he can do just about everything else, including bunt for hits.
The Reds signed him as a nondrafted free agent out of Nevada in 2016 after he had been overlooked as an eligible redshirt sophomore. Cincinnati won a bidding war for Friedl and signed him for $735,000 because they had the most draft bonus pool money remaining.
Gutierrez, who played 12 years in the big leagues with six different teams, compares Friedl with Lenny Dykstra. The more contemporary comp he draws is Brett Gardner.
“He gets after it. He goes hard,” Gutierrez said. “He can go 0-for-5 and he’s cheering for his team. He just keeps going. You can go out there and watch him every day and think he’s 4-for-4. That’s just how he is.”
The Reds praise Friedl for his team-first mentality and hustle. His enthusiasm doesn’t come across as eyewash, but as genuine. He wants to win and will do whatever it takes—even if that means confronting a bonus baby or veteran.
“He’s something else. He’s special,” Gutierrez said. “There were times we struggled in the first half and we had a little losing streak. He walked in here and asked for a closed-door meeting with the team. I said, ‘Go ahead.’ He takes charge.
“You can see that, because everywhere he’s gone, he’s won. It’s rubbed off on everyone.”
• Jairo Capellan, a 19-year-old righthander, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on Nov. 3. Teammates Raul Hernandez and Emilio Garcia were also in the car. Hernandez and Garcia have been transferred to a hospital in Miami.
• The Reds hired Chris Tremie as the organization’s minor league field coordinator. He had managed in the Indians’ system since 2006, spending the past six seasons at Triple-A Columbus.