The news started leaking out late Friday afternoon that the Astros would be calling up one of their top prospects, 1B A.J. Reed. We’ve been mentioning that Reed has been worth holding onto even in redraft leagues as we waited for the Astros to bring him up, and he’ll be with the team today. The Astros have optioned 2B/OF Tony Kemp to the minors to clear a 25-man roster spot, but the 40-man roster spot is still forthcoming.
Reed has been with AAA Fresno this year, and in 59 games this year is hitting .266/.345/.509 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI. He’s been hitting even better of late, hitting .333/.339/.684 with 4 home runs in the last two weeks. Here’s what Domenic Lanza had to say about Reed during the offseason:
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.
Considered the long-term answer for the team at first base, Reed is one of the first base prospects who is considered a potential impact talent despite the depth of the position. With the Astros trying to get back into the division race on the strength of a six game winning streak, Reed represents a significant upgrade to their lineup. The team’s roster flexibility could allow them to give Reed a majority of the playing time at either first base or designated hitter. The person most likely to lose playing time in this scenario is actually catcher Jason Castro, who could see Evan Gattis eat further into his starts.
Reed is worth a pickup in all formats on the potential to provide above-average production in three to four categories. He has also consistently posted walk rates above 10% in the minor leagues, and brings a solid approach that should help with batting average in spite of a 20-25% strikeout rate. He could also potentially hit 10-15 home runs over the rest of the season, and with the Astros’ lineup, could end up with 30-40 runs and RBI each.
Long term, he has the potential to move into the top 15 at first base as soon as next year, and if he is available for some reason in your dynasty format, run and grab him before the other owners in your league do.