Will The Astros’ A.J. Reed Emerge As The Next Great First Baseman?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The future is now for the Houston Astros. Carlos Correa has already emerged as a superstar, joining George Springer and Jose Altuve in what could be a dominating lineup for the next several seasons. Not all positions are settled, though, as the team cut Chris Carter loose this offseason. While Jon Singleton is set to get the first opportunity, there is little doubt that A.J. Reed is viewed as the long-term solution.

The real question, though, is not if he will get the shot in 2016 (it seems like a foregone conclusion) but what type of performance we can expect and if he can emerge as one of the elite options.

Drafted 42nd overall in 2014 (the first pick of the second round), Reed impressed as he split time between High-A and Double-A in his first full professional season. Over 523 AB he combined to hit .340 with 34 HR and 127 RBI. The power is impressive, obviously, but Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 does offer a little bit of caution:

“While everyone gets excited about the 34 home runs he clubbed, I’m more impressed with his 78% contact rate and 13% walk rate. It’s a result of a swing that is short to the ball and the ability to put back spin on the ball. The power is significant but I will stop short of predicting 30 plus home runs and will temper back to 25. I do think there will be seasons where he hits 30, but his swing is not highly leveraged and he actually sprays the ball to all fields.”

As Wilson notes, it’s the ability to control the strike zone that’s his most impressive asset. With strikeouts, especially for power hitters, rising significantly his ability to put up these types of rates shines through (K% // BB%):

  • High-A (385 PA) – 19.0% // 15.3%
  • Double-A (237 PA) – 20.7% // 11.4%

Is anyone going to complain about that “regression” upon moving to Double-A? They are impressive marks and certainly will play well in the Majors. Maybe he’s not a .300 hitter, as he did benefit from BABIP of .385 and .383, and he should see the marks rise a little bit more against more advanced pitching. Still, with his power he should routinely hit .270+.

Something to watch, though, will be his ability to handle left-handed pitching. He had a distinct split upon reaching Double-A that can’t completely be ignored:

  • vs. RHP – .373/.444/.648
  • vs. LHP – .238/.320/.397

It hasn’t been the trend, but its something that needs to be monitored. The Astros will be watching that closely and will certainly want to see him produce before pushing him to the Majors.

It’s interesting to note that he thrived as a pitcher in college as well, though that’s clearly not where his future lies. He profiles as a .270/25/100 threat consistently hitting in the middle of the lineup, with the potential to be even more than that, though we should expect at least a few stumbles when he does arrive.

Just to put the numbers in perspective, last season there were 16 first basemen with at least 200 PA to hit 20+ HR. Only eight of them paired that power with an average of at least .270 and only 4 also added 100+ RBI. That elite group, which represents Reed’s potential, consists of:

  1. Edwin Encarnacion
  2. Paul Goldschmidt
  3. Anthony Rizzo
  4. Jose Abreu

In other words, in two years time we easily could be looking at one of the elite first baseman in the game.

Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, Prospect 361

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One comment

  1. Fisher was drafted 37th overall in 2014 and performed well in his first full minor league season, hitting .262 with 22 homers and 31 steals between low A and high A. The 22-year-old will get his first taste of Class AA ball this year where he’ll need to work on cutting down his strikeouts.

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