The Astros have climbed back into the American League wild-card race despite getting little out of their first basemen. Tyler White cooled off dramatically after a torrid first week in the big leagues, and they've resorted to turning utility man Marwin Gonzalez into an everyday option.Houston does have baseball's best
The Astros have climbed back into the American League wild-card race despite getting little out of their first basemen. Tyler White cooled off dramatically after a torrid first week in the big leagues, and they've resorted to turning utility man Marwin Gonzalez into an everyday option.
Houston does have baseball's best prospect at that position in A.J. Reed, however. Though his 2016 season hasn't been as spectacular as his previous two, he has heated up in Triple-A and the club will promote him on Saturday. The Astros' No. 2 prospect (No. 35 overall) will likely begin his Major League career in a platoon with Gonzalez, starting against right-handers.
Reed signed for $1.35 million as a second-round pick out of Kentucky in 2014, when he was the consensus college player of the year. He topped NCAA Division I in homers (23), slugging (.735) and OPS (1.211), and he also won 12 games as the Wildcats' No. 1 starter. He was even more impressive in his first full pro season in 2015, leading the Minors in runs (113), homers (34), RBIs (127), total bases (320), slugging (.612) and OPS (1.044) while winning the high Class A California League MVP award and continuing to mash following a promotion to Double-A.
Reed, 23, got off to a slower start in Triple-A this year and went on the disabled list after straining his right hamstring while beating out an infield hit on May 10. He has been better since returning and is hitting .266/.345/.509 with 11 homers and 28 walks in 59 games.
With White demoted to Triple-A last week, Gonzalez better suited for a reserve role at positions with less offensive demands and former top prospect Jon Singleton having failed multiple auditions in Houston, Reed is the Astros' best option at first base. Few prospects can match his combination of power and patience. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound left-handed hitter can drive the ball out of the park to all fields and is willing to wait for pitches he can hammer.
Reed is still learning to deal with advanced left-handed pitchers, which is why he'll probably begin as a platoon player, but he should develop into an everyday player. While he will accrue some strikeouts, he doesn't swing and miss excessively for a slugger.
Though Reed is a large man who has had conditioning issues in the past, he's a good athlete for his size and plays an adequate first base. He has a strong arm for his position, as the Mets drafted him as a pitcher out of high school and he worked with an 88-92 mph fastball in college.
Reed is capable of hitting .260 with 10 homers and an OPS in the neighborhood of .800 as a rookie. If he provides that kind of production, he'll give the Astros a welcome upgrade at first base and improve their chances of returning to the playoffs for a second straight year.
*Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast*.