Any day now, A.J. Reed is going to get his call to the show. If for no other reason than ... he has to, right?
As of this writing, Astros designated hitters are not making good on their positional title, batting a combined .195/.268/.345. Their first baseman are not doing much better, hitting .204/.259/.408. These offense-first positions have generated 14 runs, 7 home runs, and 21 RBI in 205 PA for the Astros. And, believe it or not, these numbers may actually diminish the dismal production the team has received. Tyler White hit .667 with 3 HR and 9 RBI in his first five games; since then, he's batting .125/.209/.243 with 2 HR and 5 RBI - that's a twenty game stretch of well below replacement-level production.
The Astros had World Series aspirations heading into the season, and they currently sit in last place. It may only be the first week of May, but the team is already in a half-dozen game hole, and, with the noteworthy exceptions of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Colby Rasmus, George Springer, Luke Gregerson, and Will Harris, this has been a team of disappointments. Calling up Reed will not solve all of the issues the Astros are having - particularly with the team's pitching staff having the worst ERA in the American League - but he does represent a clear upgrade at a position of need.
As a refresher, here is what I had to say about Reed in our Astros top-ten prospects post:
First base prospects are viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism, as their value is wholly tied to their bats - and, for fantasy purposes, that is exacerbated by the depth of the position (fifteen first basemen had 20-plus home runs in 2015, and nine of the top-25 in RBI qualified at first). Reed batted .289/.375/.522 after being drafted in the second round in 2014, and was praised for an average hit tool and plus to plus-plus power. Despite this, he garnered next to no attention nationally, and heading into 2015 was ranked as the 13th best prospect in the Astros system by Kiley McDaniel, and 14th by both John Sickels and Keith Law. And then Reed did his best Paul Goldschmidt/Miguel Cabrera impression in 2015, hitting .340/.432/.612 with 34 HR and 127 RBI between High-A and Double-A. This time around, Law named him 2015's Prospect of the Year, praising his contact skills and power. Reed's bat projects as something truly special, regardless of his position.
Through 22 games at Triple-A Fresno, Reed is batting .241/.354/.482 with 5 HR. Those numbers may not jump off the page, but they do represent a 125 wRC+ (meaning his production is 25% above league-average). Moreover, he has more walks (15) than the aforementioned White (8) and Gattis (5) combined ... in 57 fewer PA. Despite being only 22-years-old (23 next week), Reed has a more advanced approach than those currently occupying 1B and DH for the Astros, and injecting that sort of power and patience into the team's lineup would pay dividends immediately.
So what are the Astros waiting for? The cut-off date to gain an extra year of service time passed a couple of weeks ago, so it might just be that they do not believe he is quite ready. Or, alternatively, they would have to wait another month or so to avoid the 'Super Two' cut-off (which may be a consideration for the budget-conscious front off). That being said, as soon as Reed does come up, he has all of the tools to be an asset for fantasy teams, as a player that should hit .260-plus with power and patience - and in a strong lineup and hitter-friendly park, to boot.