Stores in Terre Haute, Indiana don't traffic in much Astros merchandise. But, a day after being taken in the second round by the Houston Astros, former Kentucky slugger A.J. Reed was able to track down an Astros hat at a Lids store.
That's the most entertaining narrative to emerge from Wednesday evening's introduction of Reed to the Houston media. But, there's plenty of real, live baseball in front of the 6-foot-4, 240 pound first baseman.
Reed officially signed with the Astros Wednesday for a reported $1.35 million, the slot price for the No. 42 overall pick.
"I'm honored to be a part of the Houston Astros organization," Reed said. "I'm excited to get started. It's nice to know that people notice what you do. To have someone who's watched you over the years and see you progress, it's a nice honor. It makes me excited to be a part of this organization. I want to get out there, get started as soon as possible and start helping the Astros."
Reed's biggest transition this year will be focusing on hitting. A pitcher and hitter for the Wildcats, Reed still managed to slug 23 home runs last season and become a finalist for the coveted Golden Spikes award. In 62 games at the plate, Reed hit .336/.476/.735 with 42 extra-base hits and 73 RBIs. On the mound, Reed was 12-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 112 innings with 71 strikeouts and 29 walks. He has already won the Baseball America Collegiate Player of the Year and SEC Player of the Year awards.
Reed said he knew the switch was coming about halfway through the season and prepared for it.
"Definitely toward the end of the season, I figured I'd be a hitter in pro ball," Reed said. "I started taking my hitting more seriously and trying to focus more of my time on that. But, I still wanted to focus on pitching, so I could help us in the tournament and try to get as far as we could go. That was my first goal, to get us as far as we could go."
For the Astros, Reed fills a need in one of the best minor league systems in the game. As arguably the best power hitter in the draft, Reed will give Houston some pop from the left side, an area where the farm was lacking.
"In general, we felt the college class had a lot of accomplished bats that had some power," Astros Director of Amateur Scouting Mike Elias said. "It seemed like there were a lot of those guys this year. With where our picks were this year, we felt we could get one of those players. To get three of them was a big boon.
"You don't draft for need, but you want players to have a lot of opportunity ahead of them and have the necessary path in front of them to get to the big leagues. They were the top guys on the board at the time, but the fact that there was a little bit of a need there in the system may have pushed them up a little."
Five years ago, a slugger like Reed might have been viewed more skeptically by the scouting community. Back then, his big season hitting home runs might have been discounted thanks to the aluminum bats used in the college game. But, with the NCAA's switch to BBCOR model bats, which deaden the ball more than other models, the transition to wooden bats goes a little smoother.
Though Reed played in the Cape Cod League, which uses wooden bats, he doesn't have a ton of experience hitting with them.
"I haven't hit with wood a ton," Reed said. "So, I don't have a lot of experience iwth that. The BBCOR bats were not the same. They made you find the barrel a little more, so that will help."
Reed will report to short-season Tri-City in the New York-Penn League, where he will play first base. Expect him to hit a ton of home runs at Joe Bruno Stadium, too.
The hat will be different, but Reed should fit in nicely to Houston's minor league system.
"This is the first major signing from what we feel is a very strong draft class," Elias said. "A.J. is a huge part of that. To get a bat like that in the draft is huge."