The Houston Astros promoted first base prospect A.J. Reed to the major leagues last night. Let's take a look.
First, the pre-season viewpoint from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book.
A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-4 WT: 240 DOB: May 10, 1993
2015: Grade B-
Drafted in the second round from the University of Kentucky in 2014, A.J. Reed was excellent in his pro debut but still had some questions entering ’15:
The question: will he maintain his batting average and OBP against better pitching? Not everyone is sure. He has a good eye but his swing isn’t perfect and he did see a noticeable decline in BB/K ratio after being promoted.
As you can see, that was not a problem. Reed did an excellent job controlling the strike zone, destroyed High-A and Double-A pitching for average, OBP, and power, and eased any doubts about his swing. This happened despite the fact that he irritated scouts by coming into spring training overweight and out of shape, but he looked better by the end of the year and is reportedly on a workout kick this winter. Reed pitched in college and has a strong arm but will have to work to maintain his mobility around the bag at first base. His glove is generally average but certainly playable if he hits as anticipated. His other weakness at this point is a fairly strong platoon split but he’s shown the ability to make adjustments and my guess is that the platoon issue will eventually fade. He should be an impact bat. Grade A-.
Through 69 games for Triple-A Fresno, Reed was hitting .266/.345/.509 with 11 homers, 28 walks, and 59 strikeouts in 222 at-bats. This is solid production, good for a 124 wRC+, but it is not on the same level as his 2015 domination: he hit .332/.405/.571 last year, wRC+ 168, in 205 at-bats after being promoted to Double-A.
PCL observers are very impressed with his power, particularly to the pull side though there's enough pure hitting skills here that he isn't exclusively dangerous to right field. His strikeout rate is slightly higher than last year, but not excessively so, and his walk rates have remained steady. Reports indicate that he's continued to handle both fastballs and breaking balls effectively.
Reed is still showing the platoon splits, hitting .283/.345/.535 against right-handers but .222/.338/.444 against lefties. Note that there's still power and OBP against southpaws, enough to give hope that he'll be playable against them.
My guess is that his .332 average in Double-A was more than we can expect at higher levels but that the .266 this year is perhaps a bit weaker than we'd see in the long run. Overall I think he can hit .260-.270 in the majors with enough walks to keep a solid OBP; the power should play at all levels.
You'll get no speed out of Reed and his glove is limited to first base, though he's not a butcher and catches what he gets to.
As with all young players there may be an adjustment period, but Reed has the power to be a long-term fixture in the Astros lineup.