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Astros’ A.J. Reed is the future, but he may not be ready

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Mar 5, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith (74) dives back into first base as Houston Astros first baseman A.J. Reed (80) attempts a tag during the second inning of a spring training baseball game at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith (74) dives back into first base as Houston Astros first baseman A.J. Reed (80) attempts a tag during the second inning of a spring training baseball game at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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A.J. Reed’s short time with the Astros has been a struggle.

Sometimes you are proven wrong. I was one of the biggest people screaming for Houston Astros’ prospect A.J. Reed to get the call to the big leagues. He was coming off a season where he was one of the best hitters in minor league baseball in 2015. Reed represents the future for the Astros at first base, but at the moment, he may not be ready. No, he is not another failed prospect, he may have been rushed to the big leagues.

I’ve talked to Jeremy Booth of Program 15 a lot about Reed, and he mentioned, even before he was promoted, he was not ready. According to Booth, you don’t promote a player to the next level until they have mastered their current level. Reed had a shot to make the team out of Spring Training with his hot play but got off to a slow start with the Fresno Grizzlies.

Before his promotion to the Astros, Reed started to hit a little, which prompted the Astros to call him up while he was on a hot streak. He looked really good in his first game with a walk and a deep sac fly but has struggled since. He has displayed some pop with two homers, but he struggles against left-handed pitchers.

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Reed had an extraordinary 2015 with a slash line of .340/ .432/ .612/ 1.044 while hitting 34 homers and 137 RBI’s. By having the success last year, maybe he put more pressure on himself to do better this year. The talent is there. He just has lost the confidence at the plate to get into a rhythm. He is not playing every day. Instead, Marwin Gonzalez is getting most of the playing time there. Reed is batting .143 on the season.

Booth says that when you bring up a player too early and they don’t succeed, it takes a while to build up their confidence again. They need him to be the answer, not just playing for experience in the playoff chase. With top prospects like Reed, you want to make sure that they have mastered the level below because you want them to be there to stay.

Booth describes Reed as an ambush hitter right now who can hit pitcher’s mistakes hard. As you advance throughout the levels of the minor leagues, the control improves for opposing pitchers. They are less likely to leave the pitches over the middle. Booth still believes that Reed will be a good MLB player, we just may not see his talent until next year.

The quote below is from Booth on Talking Stros on Sunday

“Looking at his swing path, fastballs up and breaking balls away are indicative of what his swing path can’t handle. He can lay off those pitches and guys miss, and that’s fine, but if he doesn’t lay off on those pitches, he will be out. These are things that you normally refine in the minor leagues, which Reed did not get a chance to do. Looking at one of his home runs, watch Reed’s swing path. Check the velocity and location of the pitch; his bat runs into it. If he’s ready, he stays on it the other way or in the middle.”

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I think the Astros might give Reed a little longer to find his swing with the big league club. With Thursday’s off day, I think it would the perfect time to bring up Alex Bregman to take over at third base. Unlike Reed, Bregman is a professional hitter who has mastered Triple-A. Last year, the Astros gave Carlos Correa 20 games at Triple-A before his promotion. Bregman played his 14th game last night, so maybe the time is right.

However, I think Reed will miss this cut, and Danny Worth will be sent down when Bregman comes up. Reed will platoon with Evan Gattis as the designated hitter, but will mostly play against right-handed pitching. He has shown a great eye at the plate with the occasional walk, but he has to make better contact. He could find himself as part of a trade at the deadline.

The Astros will keep up Reed for now, and give him at-bats in favorable situations until Yulieski Gurriel is ready. Then Reed will probably go down to Triple-A until September call-ups. Hopefully, he will have rediscovered what made him successful in the minors. I hope that his bat starts to click soon, and he can avoid going back down, but the Astros don’t want to damage his confidence by continuing to struggle. I’m rooting for Reed to start raking.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***

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