A.J. Reed, Chicago White Sox first baseman and former Houston Astro second round pick, announced his retirement earlier this month, something I just learned today. I’m not entirely sure how I missed this announcement, which the Houston Chronicle article linked in the previous sentence says occurred on March 4 — a time when spring training games were still being played and COVID-19 hadn’t completely taken over the public consciousness.
Reed is an interesting guy who was on our radar even before he became a top prospect for a division rival — we wrote up Reed as part of our 2014 draft preview series, seeing him as a potential candidate to be selected by the Texas Rangers with their supplemental first round pick, #30 overall. The Rangers picked prep high school pitcher Luis Ortiz at #30, and the Astros grabbed Reed at #42 overall.
Reed was a very Astros pick, a huge, slugging DH who led the nation in home runs in 2014 while also doing some pitching for the University of Kentucky. He dropped out of the first round because of questions about his bat speed and the fact he was a DH, but he was seen as a savvy pick for Houston.
Reed appeared to be a steal for the Astros after his first full pro season — he split the year between high-A Lancaster in the California League and AA Corpus Christi in the Texas League, and tore it up both places, putting up a combined .340/.432/.612 slash line. Baseball America had him at #11 in their top 100 list that offseason, while MLB Pipeline had him at #40 and Baseball Prospectus had him at #55.
Alas, things went downhill for Reed after that. He started 2016 in AAA before making his major league debut in late June. Reed was terrible in his first look at major league pitching, slashing .156/.250/.289 in 52 plate appearances before returning to Fresno in July. Brought back to the bigs at the start of August, Reed was no better his second time in the bigs, slashing .169/.281/.247 in 89 plate appearances.
And that, for all intents and purposes, was that for Reed as a major leaguer. He spent virtually all of 2017 and 2018 at Fresno, appearing in just 2 major league games in 2017 and 1 in 2018. In 2019, after having gotten off to a slow start for AAA Round Rock (.224/.329/.469 in 225 plate appearances), he was claimed on waivers by the Chicago White Sox. He put up a 520 OPS for Charlotte, the Chicago AAA affiliate, in 42 plate appearances, and then slashed .136/.204/.205 in a 14 game cup of coffee for the Pale Hose in July, 2019. He was return to AAA at the start of August, and didn’t return to the majors.
In looking at the scouting reports on Reed over the past few years, it appears he struggled with sliders out of the zone, which would seem to be a by-product of having to cheat a bit to make up for his middling bat speed. He also apparently had weight issues, with BA’s writeup of him prior to both the 2016 season and the 2017 season mentioning his carrying 20-30 extra pounds (he’s listed at 6’4”, 275 lbs.) as being an issue.
Reed was outrighted off the ChiSox 40 man roster last August, and I’m reasonably sure that he was in the White Sox minor league camp this spring, as he wouldn’t have yet been eligible to become a minor league free agent.
I had suggested before that it might be worthwhile for Reed to try pitching again — huge lefthanded pitchers are always in demand, and given he had hit a wall as a position player, getting back on the mound might have offered a potential path to the majors. Instead, it looks like Reed is done at the age of 26.