After burning through first baseman of the future in Jon Singleton and Tyler White, the Astros turn to A.J. Reed.
The Situation: The Astros are white-hot, taking over second place in the AL West over the freezer-burn cold Mariners and positioning themselves for another run at the wild-card. To help with that pennant push, they’ll call on one of their best offensive prospects in the system: First-baseman A.J. Reed.
Background: It may seem hard to believe now, but at one point Reed was one of the best two-way prospects in college baseball while at the University of Kentucky. After a dominant junior year, most believed that his future was with the bat, and that included the Astros who took him with the 42nd pick of the 2014 MLB Draft. To say that his stock shot up upon entering the Houston system would be the understatement of this and many other articles. After posting an impressive .289/.375/.522 line in stops at both Tri-City and Quad Cities (note: That’s a lot of cities), Reed was dominant in 2015, recording a backyard baseball-like .340/.432/.612 with 34 homers and 86 walks for Lancaster and Corpus Christi. He got off to a slow start with ridiculously high expectations, but he’s hit .282/.333/.576 in June, and Houston believes he’s ready to contribute to the big-league club.
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A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
My first few looks at A.J. Reed gave me a modest impression. He showed raw power for days in BP and worked counts in games, but the bat speed wasn't anything special, there was some length in the swing, and he showed indecision at the dish. But his is an approach that takes some time to understand and appreciate, as is the surprising bat-to-ball skill for a man of his size and power. There's some swing-and-miss in his game, but after you watch him enough you realize his strikeouts are more often a by-product of working deep into counts than flailing away. He thinks along with pitchers, frequently gets himself into advantageous hitting situations, and works the whole field with authority when he does. At the same time, he's not passive and will jump a first-pitch fastball with the best of 'em. It's not often you see a guy with 70 raw power figure out how to bring the vast majority of it with him into games at such a young age. Perhaps most tellingly, he improved his ability to shoot pitches on the outer third to the opposite field and up the middle during his time in Lancaster. That qualifies as remarkable progress for any player's hit tool given the environment's extreme prejudice towards lifting the ball to right field. The numbers were nice this year, but more importantly the developmental progress was real. —Wilson Karaman
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Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.