Astros in AFL: Reed ready to show off power
Slugger working on defense, facing advanced left-handed pitching
No college player had a better 2014 season than A.J. Reed. He led NCAA Division I in homers (23), slugging percentage (.735) and OPS (1.211) at Kentucky. He also won 12 games as the Wildcats' No. 1 starter, becoming the first person ever to top the Southeastern Conference in both long balls and victories.
No Minor League player had a better 2015 season than A.J. Reed either. The Astros first baseman led the Minors in runs (113), homers (34), RBIs (127), total bases (320), slugging (.612) and OPS (1.044). He won the high Class A California League MVP award and continued to mash after a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting .332 with 11 homers in 53 games.
"It was a great year," said Reed, the 42nd overall selection (second round) in the 2014 Draft. "The thing for me was I was just really excited to help two teams, make the playoff run at Corpus and help the team at Lancaster while I was there. It's just going out there and playing hard every day and playing your best. I just couldn't have asked for much more."
Now his next challenge is the Arizona Fall League. Playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs, Reed is batting .250 (8-for-32) with one home run and six walks in his first nine games.
Regardless of wherever his AFL numbers wind up, Reed already has proven he can hit. He has uncommon left-handed power and the patience to wait for pitches he can drive and take walks if he doesn't get them. His main points of emphasis with the Desert Dogs are to get more at-bats against advanced lefty pitching and to work on his defense.
Though he excelled on the mound as an amateur -- the Mets actually drafted him in the 25th round as a high school pitcher in 2011 -- Reed knew he was destined to focus on slugging in pro ball. He said he doesn't try to think along with the pitchers he faces, but his experience helps him with his mindset.
"The biggest thing for me as being a pitcher is I understand how hard hitting is," Reed said. "So I think that gives me a little advantage there where I don't get on myself quite as much or get down if I'm in slump because I understand what pitchers can do to hitters."
Astros hitters in the Fall League
• J.D. Davis, 3B -- Like Reed, Davis was a two-way player in college who put up big numbers at hitter-friendly Lancaster during his first full pro season. A 2014 third-round choice from Cal State Fullerton, he batted .289/.370/.520 with 26 homers and 101 RBIs in 120 games at high Class A. Besides his obvious power, he also has a strong arm that delivered mid-90s fastballs when he pitched in relief at Fullerton.
• Derek Fisher, OF -- Another college hitter from the early rounds (supplemental first) of the 2014 Draft, the Virginia product hit .275/.364/.483 with 22 homers and 31 steals in 123 games between two Class A stops this year. His hitting ability, power and speed all grade as solid tools.
• Chan Moon, INF -- Signed out of Korea six years ago, he batted .272/.358/.364 with 22 steals in 100 games (mostly at Double-A) in 2015. His speed is his lone plus tool.
Astros pitchers in the Fall League
• Chris Cotton, LHP -- A 14th-round choice from Louisiana State in 2013, he advanced to Triple-A this year while recording a 2.60 ERA and a 72/19 K/BB ratio in 69 1/3 innings between three stops. His best pitch is his changeup, which he sets up with an 87-92 mph fastball.
• Brian Holmes, LHP -- He has allowed just one run through his first three AFL starts after going 8-7 with a 4.26 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings this season between high Class A and Double-A. His ability to mix four pitches got him drafted in the 13th round out of Wake Forest in 2012.
• Albert Minnis, LHP -- Yet another college lefty, he was picked in the 25th round out of Wichita State in 2013. Employing an 88-92 mph sinker and a slider, he had a 4.07 ERA and 46 whiffs in 55 1/3 innings between three levels (mostly in high Class A) in 2015.
• Keegan Yuhl, RHP -- He opened eyes with his 2015 performance, recording a 1.74 ERA and an 87/25 K/BB ratio in 98 1/3 innings for two Class A clubs. A 35th-rounder in 2014 from Concordia University (Calif.), he works mostly with a low-90s fastball and a splitter.