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These Dang Reds Have Found Another Cool Guy To Squander

Rece Hinds during warmups.
Jason Mowry/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Reds are pretty bad at being good. You can give them lots of cool players—I'm not saying you should, God, but certainly no one can stop you from continuing to do so—but in most cases what they are going to do with those good players is finish fourth in the NL Central. This season they have more than their fair allotment of cool players, and there they are: fourth in an unimpressive division, four games under .500 and 3.5 games back of an entirely there-for-the-taking wild card. Hunter Greene? Cool. Nick Lodolo? Cool. Jonathan India? Cool. Spencer Steer? Cool. Elly De La Cruz? The coolest. The sum of these cool parts? Mediocrity. Bozohood.

So it is with great trepidation and an edge of growing annoyance that I must announce to you today that the Reds have found another cool guy. His name is Rece Hinds, a large and muscly outfielder that the Reds called up from Triple-A Louisville this week, for a seven-game homestand against the aimless Colorado Rockies and the hapless Miami Marlins. Hinds has insane power, he is built like an NFL running back, he is dashing and confident, and his career in the majors almost literally could not have gotten off to a better start. In his first two games with the Reds, Hinds clobbered five extra-base hits and a pair of huge sockdolagers. The average exit velocity on the first six batted balls of his career, per Statcast, was 102.7 miles per hour. Sarah Langs says Hinds is the only player since at least 1901 to record five extra-base hits in his first two games, and she goes on to say that he is the first player in the Statcast era whose first two career homers each traveled more than 445 feet. The second of these, crushed to left field Tuesday night, left Hinds's bat at 113 mph and traveled 458 feet.

Various prospect rankings and so forth say that Hinds has always had huge power, but that he may not be history's greatest contact hitter. This is the dawn of his Major League career and Hinds is a young man, but if you had to bet one way or another (stop gambling) you would be wiser to bet that he will develop into history's worst contact hitter, a Gallovian all-or-nothing slugger who when he is not hitting baseballs to the moon drives his fans and coaches absolutely crazy. Hinds struck out more than 40 percent of the time during the first two months of 2023, at Double-A Chattanooga, per MLB Pipeline. He eventually settled down a little bit but still finished last year with a hilarious 151 strikeouts in 109 games, a pace that would see him punched out 224 times in 162 games, or one more than the all-time MLB record for strikeouts in a single season, set in 2009 by the delightfully single-minded Mark Reynolds. Again, Hinds produced this worrying tally against Double-A pitching.

For reference, Kyle Schwarber led all major-league players with 215 strikeouts in 2023, in 160 games played, but Schwarber also walked 126 times, second-most in the majors. Hinds walked 34 times. This was not a guy who was maximizing true outcomes. Hinds was swinging from the heels at everything that shared a zip code with the strike zone. In the gentle phrasing of FanGraphs' Eric Longenhagen, who rated Hinds outside of Cincinnati's top 40 prospects back in April, "when you’re striking out a third of the time in the minors, your chances of consistently succeeding at the big league level are remote."

All that preposterous slugging production in 2023 was enough to vault Hinds out of Cincinnati's Double-A shop at the end of the year with a sturdy .866 OPS. He did enough at Triple-A this summer to earn the call-up to the big club—29 extra-base hits, including 13 huge dingers—but let's go ahead and acknowledge that Hinds has not solved the swing-and-miss issue. In 77 games at Louisville, Hinds struck out 126 times, an amazing 265-strikeout pace. Against minor-league pitching! You are left with nothing to do but to scowl in even more disgust and horror than usual at the pitching staff of the Colorado Rockies, who in eight plate appearances so far in this series have only fanned Hinds twice.

While there is a lot to pump your fists about in Hinds's thrilling debut, Reds fans know a thing or two about large and toolsy outfield prospects who strike out too much. The best version of this model, at least in modern Reds history, is Adam Dunn, a big corn-fed doofus who led the league in strikeouts for three consecutive seasons, but who learned enough about the strike zone to also generate a ton of walks and post some gaudy numbers for a succession of dead-end Reds teams before becoming a journeyman for the back half of his career. The worst version, or possibly the most disappointing, is Aristides Aquino, who burst onto the scene as a hulking and toolsy rookie, who looked like a titan standing out in right field, who had an absolute bazooka of a throwing arm, who generated maximum exit velocities in the rarified Oneil Cruz zone, and who was out of the majors before his 30th birthday, at least in part because he just could not get a handle on top-level pitching. Aquino, like Hinds, was not a highly rated prospect before his dazzling debut, for reasons that became apparent as his production dipped tragically and then bottomed. Today, Aquino's name is whispered among Reds fans like an ancient curse whenever a promising young player slumps.

None of this is to argue that the Reds were wrong to call up a cool young outfielder with a cannon arm and a bat possessed of God's own thunder. To me it is good whenever middling or worse MLB teams find room to let a hotshot youth learn the gig at the highest level, possibly for no other reason than that it is exciting for fans who would otherwise grow exhausted of shitty midsummer baseball. Blindly clobbering a baseball into hell may be the least reliable and most vulgar of contributions to winning baseball, but absolutely no one can say Hinds has not contributed to wins in his first two games. The power is real, and energizing. "It's special," said teammate Tyler Stephenson, Tuesday night. "I've known [Hinds] for a long time. The power, the athletic ability, it's there, it's special, it's the real deal. And when he hits the ball, he sure hits it."

Rece Hinds celebrates a huge dinger.
Look at this cool guy.Dylan Buell/Getty Images

I've been suckered before! At least De La Cruz's deal proved real. But please, universe, I am begging you: Let just one more of these exciting young Reds dudes also be real. Or, alternately, send the entire organization into a volcano on Mars.

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