Thursday evening, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported via Twitter that the Astros have optioned first baseman A.J. Reed to Triple-A Fresno. No corresponding move has been announced, but McTaggart says that the demotion is not related to any immediate arrival of top prospect Alex Bregman. In fact, the move was reported while Bregman was standing in Left Field for the Grizzlies in their game versus the Round Rock Express.
Reed, widely considered the Astros’ best prospect himself before this season, struggled in his major league introduction, batting only .156/.250/.289 with two home runs in seventeen games.
Despite the slow start to his major league career, Reed can still be considered the Astros’ first baseman or DH of the future. Prior to the 2016 season, Baseball America ranked Reed as the #11 prospect in all of baseball.
A few positives may be taken from Reed’s short stint in the majors. First, his BABIP, at .200, was unsustainably low, and his struggles were therefore—at least partially—an artifact of hitting balls right at defenders. And though his strikeout rate stood at 36.5% at the time of his demotion, it was trending in the right direction, with it dipping below 30% over the past couple weeks. Most encouraging, Reed was able to sustain his impressive career walk rates during his time in the minors.
But Reed has work to do now, and his time in the majors likely highlighted to him and to his coaches what he will need to focus on in AAA. TCB’s own leistomania409 pointed out recently that Reed struggled with recognizing offspeed pitches, for instance.
A case may be made that Reed was called up too soon anyway, albeit out of necessity due to the Astros’ anemic performance at the cold corner this season. Reed did not prove to be the answer, at least in the short term. Maybe that should not have come as a surprise; prior to the call-up, his offense was 22% better than the rest of the PCL. While still laudable, it was a far cry from his offensive performances at every prior step of his career, and suggested that he was still adapting to the highest level of the minors.
The Astros will now figure to use super utility player Marwin Gonzalez as the regular first baseman until a different solution presents itself. Or perhaps Tyler White, who yielded the job to Reed in the first place and is again making a mockery of the Pacific Coast League, will get a second shot at The Show. Or maybe former top 1B prospect Jon Singleton gets a....nah, that won’t happen.
This wasn’t A.J. Reed’s summer to break out in the bigs. But few top prospects ever do live up to their hype in their first go-round. Look for Reed to rebound and be back with the club in September, before competing for the opening day 2017 starting spot.