How fickle spring becomes. It was just yesterday we were reveling in the return of baseball. Now, we’re choking on the pollen and hot roster takes.
None has been hotter than the furor around #AstrosTwitter about A.J. Reed. The first base prospect was cut from big league camp on Monday, leaving Houston with three options in camp to replace Yuli Gurriel. Houston’s starting first baseman from last year’s World Series champs will miss time in April due to a five-game suspension for being dumb in said World Series and however much longer he’ll be out due to a fracture hamate bone in his hand.
That leaves first base wide open for a former top prospect who has many admirers among Astros fans. No, not Tyler White. The other guy. A.J. Reed. Who is in the best shape of his life and has a very impressive and not meaningless at all spring training batting line.
Why isn’t Reed getting a chance to shine? He didn’t get called up in September of last year. He isn’t getting any run to replace the replaceable Evan Gattis, who will be gone after this season anyway (or so the reasoning goes).
Reed is getting the shaft. The Astros front office is wrong.
At least, that’s the thinking on the pro-Reed side.
To be fair, they have a point. Reed hasn’t been given much of a chance. A.J. Hinch said as much earlier this spring. The Astros are a well-oiled machine that, I may not have mentioned, won the World Series last year. They also gave big money to a certain Cuban first baseman who had a nice Series himself.
But, Reed is a former top prospect who has nothing left to prove in the minors. That’s all true. It’s just not clear whether Reed has something to prove in the majors.
Bigger picture, though, we have a couple of options as fans when discussing moves like this.
A. We can accept the front office knows more than we do. Kevin Goldstein’s trilby knowledge alone is legendary. They also may know more about baseball and stuff, while having access to analytics that fans don’t.
B. We can trust our own eyes and scouting instincts on a player’s future. We can read all the top 100 lists and know what scouts say about his bat and read his stat line from the minors. We can surmise that Reed is destined for bigger things.
C. We can not care so much about players who will only have a job until May.
If we’re going from the perspective of “B,” we can admit that the Astros don’t know everything. They were wrong on J.D. Martinez. They didn’t develop Jon Singleton and never really gave Preston Tucker a shot. It’s infuriating for people who believe in those players.
And they might be right! I thought the same things about the Astros when they wouldn’t give Jason Lane a shot in the early 00’s. Turned out, Lane just needed to be used as a pitcher instead of as an outfielder.
Was Lane just not worthy of a shot? Was his ceiling lower than expected? Or did he not pan out because Houston never gave him the at-bats when he was developing?
We’ll never know.
If we are going with the “A” group here, though, they have one big point in their favor. Houston just won a World Series and they did it largely thanks to player development. They astutely found pitchers like Charlie Morton and Will Harris while developing young stars like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. They added key free agents like Josh Reddick and traded for Brian McCann.
They made mistakes, but their evaluation process assuredly worked. They had a team deep enough to go toe-to-toe with the equally deep and analytics-centric Los Angeles Dodgers. And they won.
Can’t we trust this team to make personnel decisions?
Therein lies a fallacy, though. We’re appealing to authority like it means something. The Astros must know because they just won a World Series. They have the right stats that us dweebs don’t. They must know something we don’t.
It doesn’t mean they’re immune from criticism. Or making mistakes.
To criticize them here, you have to believe in A.J. Reed and his ceiling. I don’t, personally, but I know others do. And they’re not wrong.
One is that I’m a giant idiot who is almost always wrong.