Blocked Prospects: Reggie Willits

As a 26 year-old with roughly one full season worth of Major League experience, Reggie Willits may not technically be a prospect.  But with Torii Hunter signed through 2012, Vladimir Guerrero through 2009 and likely to stay longer, and Gary Matthews Jr. through 2011, Willits certainly qualifies as blocked.  Terry Evans and Nathan Haynes are similarly impeded, and the latter is out of options.  But let’s center on Willits.

I want to focus on Willits because he is capable of playing center field.  In their 2007 handbook, Baseball America called him an "above-average center fielder with an average arm and plus speed."  So he clearly won’t embarrass himself with the glove. 

Offensively, Willits profiles as the ideal leadoff hitter.  In 576 big league plate appearances, he’s drawn 80 walks.  A walk rate near 14% and a .393 career OBP makes for a valuable center fielder, even with no power.  Baseball Prospectus sees him dipping to .269/.353/.354 this year, a performance worth $5MM even if he plays only two-thirds of a season.  He’s also a switch-hitter with no discernible split.  And for the next two seasons, Willits will earn less than a million bucks total.

I’ll assume another team would look to maximize Willits’ value by using him in center.  He could help the Twins, A’s, Braves, Marlins, Cubs, and Padres to various degrees.  The first four teams do have more interesting long-term options in center though.  The idea of Willits to San Diego has come up before; that’s the best fit.  The Angels are going with internal options at third base and shortstop as well as in the rotation.  If any of those fail, Willits, Evans, and Haynes could become primary trading chips.

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