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Getting to Know Brett Phillips and AJ Reed. Part Two.

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The second of a two part series with a more personal look at Astros breakout prospects Brett Phillips and AJ Reed.

Astros 1B AJ Reed (left) and CF Brett Phillips (right)
Astros 1B AJ Reed (left) and CF Brett Phillips (right)
Walter Barnard

There are not many 6'4" 240 pound players in the minor leagues or for that matter the major leagues. AJ Reed is a strong powerful man.  His presence is felt the moment he walks on the field from the tunnel and you know where he is at all times in the game. He has the ability to barrel up and destroy any fastball thrown in any zone around the plate. His concentration and attitude at the plate is also unique.  He is aggressive and wants to not only beat you but bring nightmares to you years after your pitching days are over. Having spoken with a number of Frisco pitchers this past week, they say AJ Reed and Carlos Correa are by far the most feared hitters they have faced in the Texas League this year.

The only struggles I saw were soft throwing lefties with a good breaking ball.  In many of his at bats it was quite noticeable that pitchers are throwing around him because they know he will crush any mistakes.  Having seen many big power hitters in minor leagues over the years, the primary difference than most all is he will take a walk and has solid strike zone judgement. That is why through two minor league seasons he has a career OBP of .419.

For Part Two of my report, take note of the high praise Brett Phillips has for AJ Reed.  Honestly it is not too difficult to heap praise on a teammate that hit .346 through 82 games in Lancaster...oh and mind you add 23 home runs and 81 RBI in that time frame. Houston fans will love what is said:

"I saw a scouting report on AJ prior to this season and it starts with AJ being a solid defender at first base. The Houston Astros and their fans can expect to get a great hitter, an above average hitter for power and above average hitter for average. AJ will be a big contributor to the line up where he is going to get a lot of extra base hits and rbi's.  He is going to be a vital and outstanding asset to the Houston Astros sooner than later."

Coming out of the University of Kentucky and drafted in the second round by the Houston Astros, AJ Reed also brought with him some brass.  AJ was the recipient of the Golden Spikes Award as the best college player in the country.

"My junior year in Kentucky was truly special to me. I got to share it with a really great group of guys and coaches.  To win an award as player of the year (Golden Spikes) is really a major honor. To be in the same category of past winners that are in the major leagues is just amazing.  I am grateful for it every day. It just puts you in a different class and is just a really great honor."

Part of the reason AJ won so many collegiate awards his junior year was not just because of his hitting.  He was very dominant on the mound and posted a 12-2 record and a 2.09 ERA. Many major league clubs considered drafting him as a pitcher but at the end of the day the Astros could not pass on such an outstanding left handed power hitter.

From his next response it is very clear what the the Astros have planned for him:

"The Astros have pretty much eliminated pitching for me. I haven't done anything pitching-wise since I signed.  I am soley focusing on hitting and playing first base."

AJ wanted to offer credit where credit was due with his continued hitting development:

"The biggest influence so far in my career has been Darryl Robinson who is the hitting coach in Lancaster.  I started out really slow and he just stuck with me. He kept telling me I see you getting better each day and he helped me get out of that funk and set me forward to having a great season."

As AJ gets closer to the major leagues, he wants Houston Astros fans to know what they can expect when he arrives:

"I am the type of guy that likes to come out to the field everyday.  I like to work hard and have fun.  I always have a smile on my face no matter if I am hitting .200 or .350. You know for all of us I hope it is .350. I like to think of myself as a guy that can hit for power and average. I want to be a guy that hits 30 plus home runs each year, drives in 100 rbi's and hits over .300.  I made a big leap this year on my defense and really focusing on getting better at first base."

AJ Reed is a fantastic baseball player and a fantastic player to watch. You look forward to seeing when he's due in the lineup and his walk to the plate where the game can change with one swing of his bat. He has displayed the ability at every level he has competed to adjust to the level of competition and truly dominate.  I believe AJ Reed will be the player he says he will be at the major league level. I pray for him that he does. However, for this year, I would bet he becomes the leading candidate for minor league player of the year. Not a bad step toward living the dream!

Let me leave you with this last note and I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse in to their lives.

Houston fans...please add Brett Phillips and AJ Reed to your growing list of talented core players. They are so right in their minds and their desire to be the best that they will not disappoint your anticipation. Adding these two young players to an already very talented major league club will only further cement the future of the Houston Astros organization and make the ride that much sweeter!

Walter B. Barnard