In news that slipped under the radar when it was announced, former top Astros prospect AJ Reed has announced his retirement. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle highlights the decision and analyzes it from the perspective of his former organization.
Reed, a former second-round pick, was once considered one of the game’s premium hitting prospects. He showed an intriguing blend of power and patience on his way up the farm. Reed generally made loud contact and plenty of it, with hefty batting averages on balls in play and unconcerning strikeout rates.
When he debuted with the ’Stros in 2016, Reed seemed quite likely to hit in the majors. After all, he mashed at every level on his way there. The real question was whether he’d do so enough to be a highly valuable player, given his limitations on the field (first base only) and on the bases.
As it turns out, there was a bigger problem lurking. Reed’s strikeout rate had ticked up a bit at Triple-A in 2016. It exploded in the majors. As it turned out, he’d end up taking 199 total plate appearances at the game’s highest level, carrying a 14.2% swinging-strike rate and 35.7% strikeout rate. Reed’s power stroke never played, either. All told, his career batting line sits at an awful .149/.241/.234.
The Astros gave Reed lengthy stints at Triple-A in hopes he’d find his groove. While he was still an above-average hitter there in 2017 and 2018, the trajectory didn’t trend back up. Per Rome, “his weight and conditioning were often problems.” The Houston ultimately gave up hope last year after watching Reed struggle at the highest level of the minors.
Reed landed with the White Sox on a waiver claim, with the rebuilding organization hoping a change of scenery might help. Instead, he struck out in more than four of every ten plate appearances he took at the MLB and Triple-A levels. Reed was outrighted from the 40-man roster in August.
Despite the obvious difficulties, it remains a bit surprising to see Reed hang up his spikes at just 26 years of age. No doubt some organization would’ve been willing to invest resources in hopes of spurring a turnaround. Then again, it’s understandable that Reed would prefer to move on after experiencing such a frustrating turn of fortunes. MLBTR wishes him the best in his future pursuits.