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Houston Astros: Keep A.J. Reed in Triple-A!

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Mar 5, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros first baseman A.J. Reed (80) lays in the outfield before a spring training baseball game against the New York Mets at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros first baseman A.J. Reed (80) lays in the outfield before a spring training baseball game against the New York Mets at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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Why Reed isn’t ready:

Mar 11, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; right centerHouston Astros first baseman A.J. Reed (80) hits right-center in the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; right centerHouston Astros first baseman A.J. Reed (80) hits right-center in the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

As I said in my Fresno Player Spotlight a week ago, there are some areas of Reed’s offensive game that worries me as he makes the transition into the majors.

His first weakness is his performance against left-handed pitching. First of all, the Fresno Grizzlies are not giving him opportunities against southpaws. In his limited amount of playing time, Reed has only seven hits in his 46 at-bats. Four of those seven hits are extra base hits and two of those four extra base hits are home runs. That shows his raw knack for power. What Reed needs to develop is consistency against all pitchers. His OPS drops 231 points against lefties, and he strikes out against them 32.6% of the time.

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His strikeout numbers are something that has hindered Reed too. As he has gone through each level, his strikeout percentage has gradually increased. For example, from last season at Double-A Corpus Christi to this season at Triple-A Fresno, Reed’s strikeout percentage as increased 2.2%

Look at Colin Moran’s time in the major leagues this season. When he was called up to the majors, Moran had a 24.5% strikeout rate at Triple-A Fresno. In his 20 at-bats, before he was sent back down, Moran struck out six times in his 20 at bats. Also, his supposed contact bat was obliterated producing only a .154 BABIP with only two hits in 20 at bats. Moran realized that the majors are a different animal than Triple-A baseball.

Another weakness for Reed is his inability to hit with runners in scoring position. In 43 at bats this season, Reed could only muster eight hits. Again, four of those hits were for extra bases, and he drove in 19 RBIs, but his OPS is only at .705.  The expectation of Reed when he gets called up will be for him instantly to drive in runners in the fourth or five spot of the lineup. It will be a huge task for Reed to produce well with runners in scoring position with the added pressure of his expectations.

The last thing that Reed should work on before he is called up is his performance when he gets behind in the count. Yes, the pressure intensifies when there are two strikes in the count, but in this season at Fresno, Reed has been dreadful. In 46 at bats behind in the count, Reed only has six hits, three of them being doubles, with 18 strikeouts and a .326 OPS. The difference in Triple-A and major league pitching is astounding. Ask Colin Moran. Reed will have to learn how to choke up and hit for contact with two strikes in the count. That will take time though, and he can work on that in the minors.

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There is not question whether Reed is a talented prospect and that he will be given an opportunity at some point to prove himself at the major league level. However, major league pitchers will be sure to exploit these flaws in Reed’s game. He still needs time to develop before he produces well at the major league level.

As Jake Kaplan said in his article, the Astros are currently ranked in the bottom third in first base production. If Reed is called up and because of his lack of experience and with those flaws still in his game, that position will not change drastically if at all. In the meantime, here are some placeholder options the Astros can use to fill the first base hole.

Next: Option 1

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