Reed looking to seize first-base opportunity
After 1st taste of Majors, 23-year-old spent offseason working on swing, agility
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- He was named Indiana high school player of the year and won the Golden Spikes Award in 2014 as the top amateur player in the country. He led all the Minor Leagues in home runs, RBIs and OPS in 2015 en route to being named the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year.
With all of those honors on his resume, AJ Reed showed up at spring camp last year ranked as the club's top prospect and bursting with potential. His arrival in Kissimmee, Fla., made news, and fans immediately clamored to see what he could do in the big leagues.
The initial results in the Major Leagues, however, weren't prize-worthy. Reed was called up in June and hit .164 with three homers, 8 RBIs and 48 strikeouts in 122 at-bats with the Astros. That's why he spent the offseason in Houston, focusing on his swing and his body to improve his movement at first base.
"Obviously, it didn't go as well as you wanted it to, but you kind of have to learn from it and put it behind you and work to get better and make adjustments you need," Reed said.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Reed has to hit his way onto the team, but he also warned that he has to be able to man first base adequately. The Astros require first basemen to play far off the base at times, but Reed wasn't always nimble last year on the dirt. Reed is listed at 6-foot-4, 275 pounds.
"I do believe he's much too young and rosters are built with so much versatility nowadays that you have to be able to do something else [than just hit]," Hinch said. "His mobility at first base is going to be important, the work at first base. He's a big target. Infielders like to throw to him. He's got to keep that as a priority, because it's very, very difficult to be one dimensional unless you are David Ortiz."
Reed, 23, is hoping to help steady the Astros' recent instability at first base. Yuli Gurriel, Marwin Gonzalez, Tyler White and Colin Moran will all be getting at-bats at first this spring in an effort to perhaps win a spot on the club. Gurriel will spend as much of the spring learning first base as the presumptive starter, but there's still another spot on the roster up for grabs.
"I just want to make sure that I was ready, be able to go out there every day and get better," Reed said. "Just be able to move around and have my body feel good."
So much attention is focused on young players nowadays, Hinch says, that it's unfair to write a player off when he struggles in his first taste of the big leagues.
"It's not a rarity," Hinch said. "It's a difficult, tough league, and these guys have to adjust, too. [Reed is] still a factor on our team; he's still a factor as someone who's got to be ready as the opportunity reopens."