Prospect Retro: Aubrey Huff
More than one reader has asked me for a Prospect Retro for Aubrey Huff over the last few months. I endeavor to please, so here goes.
Aubrey Huff was a fifth round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 1998 draft, from the University of Miami-Florida. He was terrific in college, hitting .412 with 21 homers, 39 walks, and 32 strikeouts in 233 at-bats his junior year. Questions about how he would hit with wood, along with doubts about his defensive position kept him from the earlier rounds despite his excellent college numbers. He continued to crush the ball after signing, hitting .321/.371/.547 in 69 games for Charleston in the South Atlantic League, skipping the short-season levels entirely. Mainly a first baseman in college, he moved over to third base and showed a non-horrible glove. I gave him a Grade B- in the 1999 book, impressed with the early performance but wanting a larger sample size at higher levels.
Moved up to Double-A Orlando for 1999, Huff dominated the Southern League with a .301/.385/.530 mark, 40 doubles, 22 homers, 64 walks, and 77 strikeouts in 491 at-bats. Although he didn't show the best range at third base, he led the league in fielding percentage, showing he could at least avoid making too many mistakes. I gave him a Grade B in the 2000 book, which in retrospect looks a notch too low, given how well he hit in his Double-A debut.
He continued murdering pitchers in Triple-A in '00, hitting .316/.394/.566 with 36 doubles, 20 homers, 51 walks, and 72 strikeouts in 408 at-bats. He held his own in a major league trial, hitting .287/.318/.443 in 122 at-bats. His defense at third base was rated as marginal by scouts, and by the end of the season there were rumors that he would return to first base, though he was blocked there by Fred McGriff. "I have no doubt that Huff will hit well in the major leagues if he is given the opportunity" I wrote in the '01 book, giving him a Grade B+, ranking him at Number 20 among hitting prospects. I loved the combination of power and a reasonably low strikeout rate.
Huff scuffled as a rookie in 2001, hitting just .248/.288/.372 in 111 games, but he turned that around in '02 with a .313/.364/.520 mark, starting a three-year run as one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League. His bat began to decline in 2006 (hmm) but he's remained a productive hitter, with a secondary peak in 2008 at age 31 (.304/.360/.552, 32 homers, 48 doubles for the Orioles). He was lousy last year, but is back in fine form for 2010 with a +146 OPS for the Giants thus far. That would be the best OPS+ mark in his career if he maintains it. One of the things I've always found intriguing about him is a low strikeout rate for a power hitter; he's never fanned 100 times in a season, and indeed has an excellent 51/48 BB/K so far this year.
Huff came into pro ball as an underrated prospect who deserved to go higher in the draft than he did. He murdered minor league pitching (career mark .311/.383/.537), and his current major league career line of .283/.344/.477 is what you'd expect if you look at his MLEs. He's had a few ups and downs, but overall he became the player the numbers said he would be.
Comparable Players to Aubrey Huff
By Sim Score: Cliff Floyd, Jose Guillen, Geoff Jenkins, Kevin McReynolds, Torii Hunter, Jermaine Dye, Willie Horton, George Hendrick, Rondell White, and Vic Wertz.
By PECOTA Comp: Eddie Robinson, Chris Chambliss, Tino Martinez, Mike Sweeney, David Segui, Hal Morris, Eric Karros, Sid Bream, Joe Collins, and Nick Etten.
Lots of very solid and productive talent on those lists, although short of greatness.