With Josh Reddick‘s numbers slumping, is it nearing time to replace him with Kyle Tucker?
Josh Reddick hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire recently. He’s hitting just .150 in August; he hasn’t homered since June and hasn’t had a multi-hit game in more than a month. He’s also 32 years old and probably on the decline. With that in mind, is it time for the Astros to think about replacing him with top prospect Kyle Tucker?
I want to preface this by saying I like Reddick and always have. He was huge in 2017, hitting .314/.363/.484. He continues to play solid defense in right field, he’s a great player to have in the clubhouse and is a fan favorite. Signing him has proven to be a smart move by Jeff Luhnow.
But there’s no denying Reddick’s bat has cooled off. He hit just .242 in 2018 with only 13 doubles after hitting 34 in an equal number of games in 2017. His batting average is still respectable this year at .265 overall, but his on-base percentage and slugging are lower than what he posted last year.
Admittedly, your team is in great shape if your biggest problem is that your everyday right fielder is hitting .265 and playing solid defense. And there’s room to suggest some bounce-back is in order. Reddick’s batting average on balls in play for August is .182, and was just .232 in July, suggesting he may have had a bit of bad luck.
Incredibly, he’s hitting much better against lefties (.338/.369/.475) than righties (.247/.290/.361) this season, so if he can bounce back against right-handed pitching, there’s no reason he can’t return to being a productive hitter again.
It’s not as if he’s bringing the team down, so there’s not a dire need to replace him right now. Keep his defense in right field and his veteran bat in the lineup for the postseason. But if he doesn’t turn things around, the Astros could end up moving on from him in the offseason.
Waiting in the Wings
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Tucker is nearing a 30-30 season for Triple-A Round Rock, with 32 homers and 28 steals. His batting average is nothing to write home about (.268), but that is weighed down by a dreadful start in April. He also hit .332 in Triple-A in 2018.
It’s true that Tucker didn’t acclimate to the big leagues in his first call-up last year, hitting just .141/.236/.203 in 28 games. But he’s still only 22 years old, and Alex Bregman also had a dreadful first taste of the majors before establishing himself. Luhnow made Tucker basically untouchable in trade talks, so he obviously believes in his potential.
With that being the case, you don’t hang on to a prized prospect just to continue stashing him in Triple-A. If the Astros are all-in on Tucker, which they apparently are, then they need to give him an everyday job in 2020. The clear candidate is Reddick’s job.
Reddick is under contract for one more season in 2020 at a salary of $13 million. The Astros would likely have to eat some of that money to facilitate a trade, but would probably be willing to do so. Perhaps they can get an intriguing minor leaguer in return, and Reddick can help another team that needs a veteran bat in the outfield. I think he’s still got something left in the tank.
Lessons From the Past
Remember Chris Burke? He was a first-round draft pick and the team’s second baseman of the future when he debuted in 2004, but Craig Biggio wasn’t done for a few more seasons. Burke got stuck into a utility role and never broke out, and by the time Biggio retired, Burke’s star had completely waned.
There’s no way of knowing if Burke would have become a star if he’d gotten the everyday second base job, and the Astros certainly weren’t going to push Biggio out. This is merely an example of hanging on to a prospect too long when you don’t have a real spot for him.
It’s not easy moving on from someone like Reddick, but it’s certainly easier than it would be to part with an icon like Biggio. The Astros have made it clear they see Tucker as a future building block and have bet their chips on him. If they refuse to trade him, he needs to be an everyday player next season, and the only way to do that is to trade Reddick.