Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Dave on Thursday, March 25, 2004

Where's the Hype?

Sorry for the brevity, but I ruined my back on Monday. I play a lot of squash (2-4 times a week, I would say), and squash is sometimes not the greatest thing for your body. I was lunging for a drop-shot my opponent hit, and I severely strained my lower back. In turn, it makes sitting (especially in uncomfortable chairs for class) painful and difficult. That, in turn, makes posting painful and difficult. This author's got resolve. In fact, one could sum up my desire to write with this analogy:

Dave Metz : Writing :: Kevin Brown : Pitching

That is, I will write even through the greatest of pain - just like Kevin Brown will pitch through excruciating pain. One could also use the analogy:

Dave Metz : Not writing :: Jim Edmonds : Playing Baseball

For all the Cardinal readers, I'm sorry, but this guy takes more trips to the DL than JLo takes to marriage counselors. Last year he sat for a great deal of the season because he "strained his shoulder" in Home Run Derby. That sucks Jim, but suck it up and play. Now for some entirely unexplained statistics:

Chicago White Sox | Outfield | Bats: Left | DOB: 6/15/1981
2002A (lo)210.319.377.4484112417
2003A (hi)222.333.431.4774412727

These are the minor league statistics of Jeremy Reed. Who's Jeremy Reed? Well, that's a loaded question - one that could be answered in a variety of ways. If you're Baseball America, he's the 25th best prospect in baseball. If you're Baseball Prospectus, he's the 2nd best prospect in baseball. I'm not going to comment on where I'd place him amongst the other great potentialities - I'm no prospect guru. What I will say is this: Jeremy Reed is really, freaking, good. How good? Only time will tell, but I can tell you that these are truly incomparable numbers.

To summarize the statistics above, I'm going to articulate a situation quite analogous to Jeremy Reed's. Young Dayve Metz (hey, it worked for Laynce and Jayson Nix, so maybe my alter-ego, Dayve, was an awesome hitter) is playing center field for the Worcester Whopper Juniors. He's playing with kids his age - Dayve happens to be 13 - and is doing pretty well for himself. He is crushing pitches, playing solid baseball - especially at the plate. The coaches in the Whoppers' league realize Dayve's too good for his league, and have him play with the 15 year-olds and the Worcester Whoppers. Dayve doesn't just adjust well to the improved competition, he actually performs better against the older/better kids than he did for the Whopper Juniors (where he was facing easier competition). He continues to be incredibly good. He goes about his business beating the snot out of all the pitchers who claim to be trying to "get him out." (you wouldn't know it, he was reaching base more than 2/5 of the time) The Whoppers, seeing that they have a real talent on their hand, realize they simply can't keep him with their team - it may stunt his growth if he keeps facing pitching that isn't challenging him. They prudently decide to send him to the Double Whoppers (a league composed of 17-year olds, where the players are more experienced and the competition is fiercer), where they expect him to flounder under the pressure of improved pitching and expectations. Except, strangely, he doesn't. Not only does Dayve go to the Double Whoppers and play well, but he improves again on his performance with the Whoppers. Now playing for the Double Whoppers, he's thoroughly dominating opposing pitchers. He reaches base nearly half the time (his batting average is a ridiculous .409), and his power has even improved as well. To recap, Dayve started out a great player amidst ordinary competition, then he became a great player against mild competition, then he became a truly unparalelled and dominating player against difficult competition. This kid just keeps getting better and better, and against harder competition!

What I've just described to you isn't the case of some hypothetical Dayve Metz, but the case of the concretely real Jeremy Reed. Some think Reed is a little old for being considered a premium prospect (23), but to pooh-pooh Reed's minor league stats makes you an ignoramus. In all likelihood, Reed had some luck in AA-ball (he did hit 400, too ludicrous for most to imagine), but that's irrelevant. These are simply eye-popping statistics.

The quality of Reed's performance the past two years would seem to merit a trip to the majors and universal praise amongst those in baseball. The White Sox are currently sporting a truly awful player, Aaron Rowand, in center. Last time I checked, .327 was a pretty terrible OBP. Yet, they seem to have no desire to entertain the idea of starting Reed at center for the upcoming season. I wouldn't mind if the White Sox wanted to coddle Reed, to have him adjust to each successive level of competition, but that's not why they're caging him up in minor league ball:

"Aaron [Rowand has] got the first shot; I think Aaron's earned it,'' Williams said. "We're going to give him every chance to be the regular out there. Should Aaron go down for some reason, then Jeremy will get a shot with whomever else we decide to open it up to.''
Rowand's earned first shot?! Rowand plays an above-average center, but anyone with a .327 OBP the previous year (an unsightly .298 the year prior to the last one) hasn't earned anything. If anything, Rowand's earned the right to have his job revoked. Unfortunately, the White Sox are locking up Reed even though he is likely their best option in center. They're not the worst perpetrators in ignoring Reed, however.

Amazingly, Baseball America ranks him only 25th. Frankly, I wouldn't care if Reed had to use a walker to field and to run the basepaths, he would still rank as one of my most promising prospects in baseball. The guy can flat-out hit, and I've neglected to mention that this guy actually has a bit of speed: 62 SBs in 674 ABs over his minor-league career - not too shabby. So, what's wrong with Jeremy Reed? Well, first, he lacks the power that most prospects lack anyways. However, he did show improvement recently, stepping up his HR totals from 4 to 7 in a similar number of at-bats in AA. What's BA's other major concern?

Reed’s aggressiveness occasionally turns into recklessness. He needs to pick his spots better as a basestealer after getting caught in 13 of 31 attempts in Double-A.
Who CARES?! So what, he gets thrown out a few times. This can be remedied by just forbidding him from running. That way, instead of getting thrown out, he gets driven home. I don't even see this as a weakness - it's simply rfixed by a coaching or psychological change. They're not complaining about how he can't make good contact on breaking balls or get good jumps on the baseball or that he sometimes misses the cut-off man - all innate problems that are not easily remedied - they're complaining about his base-stealing decision-making! Unbelievable. If this is what vaults someone to 25th on the list of top prospects in baseball, I want nothing to do with Baseball America.

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