The Verdict on Three Breakout Prospects: Two Reeds, Two Reds
Let’s take a look at some additional prospects who have emerged from obscurity this season. I did this a couple weeks ago as well (Three Breakout Prospects to Target: Mateo, Martes, Robles). Depending on the depth of your league, these guys might still be available right now but not for long. None of these players appeared on pre-season prospect lists last offseason, but they are all likely to be entrenched on all the Top 100 Prospects list this winter. If you want them this will be your last chance to grab them before your leaguemates are aware of them. Here they are…
A.J. Reed, 1B, Astros
Reed was the first pick of the 2nd round in last year’s draft (2014). He won the Golden Spikes award while playing at the University of Kentucky. The only prospect list he made this spring was John Sickels’ list, and even there he was ranked way down at #160. This year across High A and Double A ball combined he has posted a stellar 1.049 OPS (.341/.433/.616) with 34 home runs in 603 plate appearances. His wRC+ in A+ ball was 190 and in AA it is 175. He basically blew both leagues away. He is a bat-only player, which is why he is not ranked highly on mid-season prospect lists. His defense is a liability and so is his baserunning. Non-athletic, 1B/DH prospects don’t get the love on “real baseball” prospect lists. But fantasy is a different story. This guy can hit and he is going to get a chance to hit in the major leagues. His bat is very likely to be plenty good enough that you will want him in your fantasy starting lineup even if you have to burn a Utility slot for him. He has put up some great batting averages in the minors, but due to his large strikeout totals he will probably not be an asset in the AVG category, although he won’t likely be a huge negative there either. Reed also walks a lot, enough to be an asset in OBP leagues and points leagues. The primary driver of Reed’s fantasy value will be power — home runs and RBI. He is a big dude (6’4″, 240 pounds) who hits the ball hard. He is 22 years and three months old and has completed half a season at AA, that puts him on pace to play at AA/AAA next year and challenge for major league playing time in 2017. As far as prospect horizons go that is pretty short, meaning an investment in Reed could pay off rather quickly, via either major league production or with his trade value.
Reed’s fantasy prospect value right now is similar to slugger Matt Olson’s value at this time last year. However with Olson there were strong questions about whether he was a California League mirage with all the homers in a hitter-friendly league. That concern proved true as Olson has taken a step back this year in AA. But Reed has already proven he can hit at AA, although he is a year older than Olson. In my opinion, Reed’s pedigree and hitting production so far in his minor league career indicate he is a good bet to be a strong fantasy hitter in the mold of Adam Dunn (during his prime years with the Reds) with a lowish AVG, high OBP and plenty of homers. He will likely fly a bit under the prospect radar due to his defensive limitations. Verdict: Right now I have Reed ranked at #76 on my personal top 150 fantasy prospects list, and he is trending upward.
Cody Reed, SP, Reds
Viewed as a throw-in from the Royals to the Reds in the Johnny Cueto trade, Reed is more than that. He is a big (6’5″, 220 pound) strong left-hander wielding plus velocity with movement and a promising slider. He has good strikeout stuff. A 2nd round pick in 2013, Reed struggled with control his first two minor league seasons. In 2013 he walked 23 batters while striking out 25. That’s a recipe for disaster. In 2014 he improved but was still bad, walking 36 while whiffing 58. This year he has made major strides. In 139 innings he has walked only 40 batters and struck out 135. His 3.4 K/BB rate and 8.7 K/9 rate are both very solid and showing steady improvement as the season progresses. He has been able to boost his strikeout rate and reduce his walk rate, which is a very good sign that he is rapidly improving his mechanics and is learning the craft of pitching. This bodes well for a trajectory of continued advancement. In 43 innings since the trade to the Reds, Reed has a 10.51 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9.
Previously viewed as a future bullpenner, Reed is now likely to be developed as a starting pitcher. There is plenty of opportunity to join the Reds’ all-rookie rotation in a year or two. His draft pedigree, plus velocity, strong command and control, strikeout stuff, ideal size and stellar performance make him look like a real fantasy prospect to me. The fact he is left-handed will present the constant temptation for the Reds to promote him early as a reliever, but as a Cincinnatian with my finger on the pulse of the Reds, I think they are determined to give him every chance to start. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him appear near the back of some Top 100 prospect lists this winter. Verdict: I have Reed ranked at #115 on my top 150 list and like the other Reed he is trending strongly upward.
Amir Garrett, SP, Reds
Garrett fell to the 22nd round of the 2011 draft. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good prospect though. It happened because he was a great high school basketball player who was committed to play college hoops at St. Johns. Teams shied away because they didn’t think they could sign him and didn’t want to waste a draft pick on him. The Reds took him and made a deal with Garrett that he could play college hoops as long as he pitched a few games in the minors during the summers. Garrett didn’t pitch at all in 2011, pitched only 20 innings in 2012 and only 56 innings in 2013. It is hard to learn the craft and advance toward the major leagues at that pace. Prior to the 2014 season Garrett finally realized that he wasn’t going to make it to the NBA so he quit basketball and devoted himself to baseball full time. His career began to flourish immediately. He managed 133 innings, striking out 8.5 K/9 and walking 3.5 BB/9 at Low A Dayton. That is a surprisingly strong season for an extremely raw 22 year old who hadn’t really pitched since he was a junior in high school. (He didn’t play baseball his senior season in HS.)
Garrett is a 6’5″, 210 pound left-hander with plus velocity, a plus slider and a developing changeup. Bumped up to High A Daytona this year, Garrett has thrown 140 innings with the same K and BB rates he put up the previous season. He has given up only four home runs in those 140 innings, leading to a 2.44 ERA in his 26 starts. He gets plenty of strikeouts but still needs to hone his control and reduce his walk rates a bit. Going to AA next year will be a big leap, one that often sees walk rates jump as more experienced hitters no longer bail out pitchers by swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.
Likely to start next season at AA Pensacola, Garrett is not too far from the major leagues. As noted above, the Reds have a wide open rotation with plenty of spots to grab. It is possible that Garrett could get major league time next season. A more reasonable timeline for fantasy relevance is 2017. We generally don’t want to put brand-new rookie pitchers straight into our starting fantasy lineups. That is playing with fire. So even if Garrett hits the majors next year he is unlikely to be a usable asset on a good fantasy roster until 2017. Garrett is not young at 23 years and four months, but he is very new to pitching with plenty of upside to grow into as he learns to refine his mechanics and harness his natural stuff. Garrett has a very high ceiling and a high floor if he stays healthy. There is not much mileage on his arm either. If you are looking for a wild card lottery ticket type of player that can be acquired for next to nothing then Garrett may be your huckleberry. Verdict: I have Garrett ranked #90 on my personal list. I think that is a conservative ranking for a guy with his upside. Some of the guys ahead of him are low ceiling, high floor types with no chance of being stars. Garrett has star potential but could also become a reliever. I am buying his stock wherever I can.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Are there any other players you would like some advice on? Got any potential breakout prospects we should discuss?
In case you missed it… Three Breakout Prospects to Target: Mateo, Martes, Robles.