Not a Rookie: Drew Stubbs

Lots of people are wondering about Cincinnati outfielder Drew Stubbs.

 

Here is some background on Drew Stubbs I wrote back in September, 2008.

Drew Stubbs was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round in 2006, from the University of Texas. The eight-overall pick in the draft, Stubbs showed excellent tools and a power/speed combination in college, but he also showed a propensity to strike out. Some scouts worried that his long swing might not translate well against pro pitching, but his athleticism was too much for the Reds to pass up. He hit .252/.368/.400 with 19 steals in 56 games in the Pioneer League after signing, with 32 walks but 64 strikeouts in 210 at-bats. I gave him a Grade B- in the '07 book, writing that Stubbs had a high ceiling but "is a dangerous player to grade" since he could blow up just easily as he could develop.

Stubbs spent all of 2007 with Dayton in the Midwest League, hitting .270/.364/.421, with 23 steals, 69 walks, and 142 strikeouts in 497 at-bats. He drew raves for his excellent outfield defense, but scouts remained concerned about the bat, due to a long swing and problems against breaking pitches. His overall production wasn't terrific, +13 percent OPS, but the high strikeout rate was worrisome. I left him at Grade B- in the 2008 book, still wondering if he would make sufficient contact against better pitching.

The Reds sent Stubbs to Sarasota in the Florida State League to begin 2008. He hit .261/.366/.406 with 27 steals in 303 at-bats, with just five homers. He did draw 50 walks, with 82 strikeouts, and continued to impress observers with excellent glovework. His performance was similar to what he did in '07, with a +10 percent OPS. Promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, he hit .315/.400/.402 in 26 games, demonstrating good plate discipline but still not much home run power. He moved up to Triple-A Lousiville in August and hit .293/.354/.480, interestingly showing more power but weaker plate discipline with the worst walk rate of his career. The Double-and Triple-A sample sizes are small, of course. Overall on the year, he hit a combined .277/.371/.417 at three levels, with 33 steals, 67 walks, and 123 strikeouts in 470 at-bats. He hit just seven homers, but knocked 33 doubles.

I kept Stubbs as a Grade B- in the 2009 book, writing that "I'd like him to get another 100 games of Triple-A if at all possible, and if he gets rushed to the majors ahead of schedule, he could struggle. At worst he will be a strong fourth outfielder, but if the hitting is there he could be a fine regular center fielder with excellent defense, speed, and enough offense to stay in the lineup."

Stubbs got those 100 games in Triple-A, hitting .268/.353/.360 for Louisville, with 48 steals in 54 attempts. He drew 51 walks against 104 strikeouts in 411 at-bats, but hit just three homers. Scouting repots clearly indicated that he was shortening his swing to concentrate on contact. But after being promoted to the majors for the stretch run, Stubbs suddenly showed more pop, hitting .267/.323/.439 for the Reds, including eight homers. His BB/K was 15/49 in 180 at-bats, which is about what you'd expect given his Triple-A numbers. He swiped 10 bags in 14 attempts. UZR loved his fielding at 7.6, (UZR/150 was 28.5), which dovetails perfectly with the scouting reports about a terrific glove.

Reds fans want to know: was Stubbs' power outburst in the majors for real? Given the perils of sample size, it's hard to say. His batting average, OBP, steals, and defense were exactly in line with expectation. He's quite strong physically and has shown sparks of power before, but my guess is that we'll see him regress somewhat in 2010, putting up something like a .260/.330/.400 line.

Some projection results:

Bill James Projection:   .267/.336/.390, 11 homers in 544 at-bats
CHONE Projection:      .251/.328/.380, 10 homers in 474 at-bats
Fangraphs Fan Proj:    .264/.338/.386, 10 homers in 488 at-bats

Those all seem like reasonable extrapolations to me, considering the totality of Stubb's record. If he was still eligible for the prospect book, I'd still rate him as a Grade B- like last year at a minimum, and could get talked into a Grade B.

Although I'm expecting some power regression this year, in the medium and long runs he could get his SLG up around .450 in good seasons.

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