Those eight home runs have come in just 11 games (he logged one game and one plate appearance in 2018, but we’re focused on his 2019 call-up). The sample size is miniscule, but that’s jaw-dropping production from a player who’s never been regarded as a true premium prospect. So in celebration of his stunning mini-run, here are eight essential takeaways:
1. Aquino is the reigning NL Player of the Week
Thanks to a week that saw him bat .500 with a slugging percentage of 1.364 and 30 total bases in six games, the Dominican Republic native took home the honors along with AL counterpart Jorge Soler of the Royals. Within those numbers is Aquino’s three-homer game against the Cubs.
2. He’s already made MLB history
On Monday night, Aquino launched a home run off Nationals reliever Tanner Rainey, which gave him eight home runs since his call-up. That’s also an MLB record for the most home runs by a hitter through his first 12 games.
But wait: That’s not all! Let’s circle back to that aforementioned three-homer game:
That effort helped Aquino tie Trevor Story in 2016 for most home runs through the first 10 games of a player’s career. As well, when Yordan Alvarez homered thrice later that same Saturday, he and Aquino became the first rookies ever to have three-homer games on the same day.
3. He’s even hotter than that
Bear in mind that Aquino played one game last season and didn’t homer in the first two games played this season. That means he’s racked up those eight home runs in a span of just nine games. He’s also hit seven home runs in last six games, and he carries a nine-game hit streak in Tuesday night’s contest against the Nationals.
4. He hits the ball hard
Making hard contact at the proper launch angle bodes will for being able to sustain power performance. No, Aquino isn’t going to continue at his current unimaginable pace, but the guy is a legit power hitter. He’s got an average exit velocity of 91.3 mph, which is comfortably better than the league-average mark, and he’s got a hard-hit rate of 47.8 percent versus a league-average mark of 34.4 percent. Aquino this season also boasts an expected batting average of .341 and an expected slugging percentage of .764 — both exceptionally high figures.
To distill it down into a single swing, have another look at his last of three homers on Saturday against the Cubs:
Yep, that one left the bat at a jaw-dropping 118.3 mph, which means it’s tied for the hardest-hit homer of 2019. That’s also the hardest-hit ball of any kind by a Reds player since Statcast started tracking such things in 2015.
5. Following the 2017 season, Aquino looked like he might never make the bigs
In 2017, Aquino in his age-23 season played in Double-A for the entire season and batted a disappointing .216/.282/.397 in 131 games for Pensacola. Yes, he hit 17 home runs, but he also struck out 145 times, or in almost 30 percent of his plate appearances. That much swing and miss when a player isn’t necessarily young for his level is a troubling sign. It came on the heels of a strong season at the High-A level, in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, no less. However, many a power-only prospect has stalled out upon reaching the upper rungs, and for a time that looked like Aquino’s fate.
6. He broke out before he hit the majors
In 2018, Aquino fared better in his second tour of Double-A but still didn’t dominate. The dominance came in 2019, when he started the year at Triple-A. Yes, the Triple-A this year is using the same lively rabbit ball that MLB is using, but Aquino’s numbers at Louisville were impressive in any context: .299/.356/.636 with 28 home runs in 78 games. That profoundly impressive half-season put Aquino squarely back on the organizational radar.
And in surely related matters:
He’s completely rebuilt his stance, which coincided with a huge jump in production. He’s hitting ball hard and also far, and it’s backed up by swing changes. That’s a recipe for continued excellence, at least in the near- to mid-term.
7. So far, he’s handling secondary stuff
The knock on Aquino for a long time was his ability to handle offspeed and breaking stuff. That’s the challenge for many a young hitter at the higher levels, and Aquino, despite his big-time power, was no exception. While the sample size is tiny, Aquino thus far has fared well against those previous pain points. To date, 19 of his ABs have ended against either a changeup, curve, or slider, and he’s a combined 9 for 19 against those offerings with four home runs. There’s no getting around the all-but-meaningless data sample, but just the same he’s thrived against those pitches thus far in his MLB career.
8. If not for the Puig trade, none of this would be happening
Leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, the Reds packaged outfielder Yasiel Puig in a three-way trade with the Indians and Padres. Now Puig is suffusing the Cleveland lineup with much-needed power, and his exit opened up a spot for Aquino. Aquino was promoted shortly after the Puig trade became official, and here we are.