Rookie Smackdown - Eric Thames vs. Josh Reddick

Both of these former outfield prospects have a few things in common.  Both are power hitting prospects, who had plate discipline concerns coming into 2011 and were both rated B- in John's 2011 Prospect Handbook.  Both are 24 years old, and have hit well enough this year to earn callups, and have had enough success in their limited time in the majors to force their way into the lineup.  But that's where the similarities end.

Prospect history/Pedigree

John discussed this in his writeup, but Eric Thames had been battling injuries in 2009, and resorted to yoga, which helped his flexibility and agility, and he exploded for Double-A last year hitting .288/.370/.526 with 27 HRs.  But with a 121/50 K/BB in 496 ABs, he didn't receive a lot of hype.  That being said, John rated him as a B- this preseason, saying he really like Thames' power bat, and while he didn't make KG's as more than an add-on, Keven acknowledged that the rating may be low, as he could become a regular someday.

Reddick was once higher up on prospect lists soon after being drafted due to his power ability, but started to get overshadowed by fellow prospect Kalish who was seen as a more "complete" hitter.  Indeed, Reddick had decent productions in the minors, but scuffled in two callups to the majors in limited ABs, where his K/BB indicated he was overmatched.  Entering this year, he was rated B- saying that the power remains, but plate discipline remains a major issue, and KG rated him at the top of Boston's 3-star prospects.

Advantage:  Slight Edge to Reddick


Minor League Performance 2011

Thames caught a lot of attention with his elite hitting early on, hitting in the .340s with 6 HR and an over 1 OPS, with some stolen bases to boot.  Of course, those numbers were padded by the hitter-friendly PCL and a hitter-friendly park, and his 41/23 K/BB rate stayed almost identical to his previous year in Dunedin.  Still it was enough to get a short callup, and continued to mash when he was sent down in June, earning another chance.

Reddick's 2011 in the minors didn't look as pretty.  He was hitting for power, with 12 HR, but his batting average was in the low .230s in his third time playing in Pawtucket, which is in the less hitter-friendly International League.  However, one thing that stood out from this minor league campaign was his K/BB ratio, which was much closer to 1/1 than his 2010 K/BB rate of 3/1, and earned his callup when injuries struck.  When he got sent down, he still didn't do much with the bat other than a 2 HR day, but the K/BB remained strong and earned another callup when more injuries struck.

Advantage: Slight edge to Thames, even after accounting for league differences and component ratios


Major League Performance

Thames hit solidly in his first callup, with a .286 avg. but no HRs, but has hit even better in his more recent stint.  Now he is up to .329 with 3 HRs in 76 ABs for the Blue Jays and has hit successfully in nine straight starts since June 1st and six multihit games.  He also has 5 doubles and 2 triples, huge biceps, and awesome facial hair.. One thing that stands out though amid his hot streak, is his 23/4 K/BB over those 76 ABs, a dangerously high strikeout rate and a much worse rate than he had in Triple A.

Reddick hasn't hit for Thames power, but he has been getting hits since his first callup, and then again in his most recent callup, hitting .422 with 1 HR and 1 SB in 45 AB.  And he has a 7/6 K/BB ratio, and Red Sox officials have commented about his maturation at the plate, saying he has modeled his approach after Gonzalez and Ortiz.  While he only has one home run, he has 4 doubles and 2 triples in fewer ABs than Thames.

Advantage:  Slight edge to Reddick

Opportunity:  Thames's success certainly led to the Jays' decision to part ways with Rivera, and with Toronto's love of power hitters, has a place to stay in the lineup if he keeps hitting.  He's also shown some defensive versatility, being able to play in both left and right field, which is encouraging after starting off mostly playing DH.  When Snider comes back, competition will get tougher, and if Lawrie comes up sooner than expected and Bautista goes back to OF, something will have to give.  But at the moment, it looks like he has the inside track on a regular job.

Reddick, on the other hand, is on the outside looking in, and while the Sox DFA'd Cameron due to Reddick's success, Crawford will be coming back relatively soon, which will leave Reddick battling with Drew for ABs.  Reddick can also play CF, but it may not help much in the stacked Sox lineup unless more injuries strike.  Then there is Kalish, who was great in 2010 before his injury and could fight for PT if healthy.  So Reddick needs to continue hitting and hope that Drew struggles or gets injured to pull a Jed Lowrie on him.

Advantage: Thames


Who would you rather have on your team?  Or your fantasy team?  Thames has been flat out mashing everywhere despite his scary component ratios, and Reddick has shown a drastic improvement in plate discipline but is in a tougher struggle for playing time.  Discuss.

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