MLB Spring Training Notes: Buddy Reed Starts Hot At Oakland A's Camp
Buddy Reed has long been an exceptional defender in the outfield. It appears his bat may be starting to catch up.
Reed, 25, has been the talk of A’s camp with a sensational start to spring training. He threw out a runner at the plate with a perfect one-hopper from right field in the A’s spring opener and threw out another runner at third base from center field the following day.
But most significantly, Reed is impressing at the plate. He homered in consecutive games to start the week, including a go-ahead, opposite-field shot in the seventh inning against the Brewers on Tuesday.
“The other parts were ahead of his bat up to this point and maybe he's made some adjustments where he's doing some things a little differently,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “ … Maybe just developing a little bit later with the bat. We'll see how it goes from here on in, but this is really an exciting time for him.”
Reed has been lauded for his defense since the Padres drafted him in the second round out of Florida in 2016. He showcased his elite defensive ability on a national stage at the Futures Game in 2018 and has 40 assists in four minor league seasons, including 18 assists in 2019 with Double-A Amarillo. After being traded to the A’s in the deal that sent Jurickson Profar to San Diego, he’s been ranked as the best defensive outfielder—and as having the best outfield arm—in Oakland’s farm system in both 2020 and 2021.
Reed’s offense, however, has lagged behind. He’s a career .249/.311/.399 hitter and has struck out in 30% of his Double-A plate appearances. A switch-hitter, he’s been slightly better batting righthanded but still has a career sub-.800 OPS from both sides of the plate.
Reed spent 2020 at the A’s alternate training site, where he made the offensive adjustments he credits for his early spring success.
“For the longest time I've always had someone tell me ‘Hey it's sort of got to be this way, that way in order to do things,’ ” Reed said after the A’s spring opener. “So I got in the box and a couple guys just helped me (with) being more loose, just being yourself, knowing who you are as a hitter… just all these little things can make a big difference.”
Melvin acknowledged how Reed has made the most of his opportunity. The A’s designated Dustin Fowler for assignment in late February, Rule 5 pick Ka’ai Tom has been sidelined by an oblique injury and Luis Barrera was late arriving to camp due to visa issues, opening up playing time for Reed in the outfield.
While it’s far too early to handicap Reed’s chances of making the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder, he’s certainly put himself on the radar.
“It's all about performance,” Melvin said. “He is continuing to play well both offensively and defensively. I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that nobody has a chance to make this team no matter what they do.”
ALEX REYES’ 2021 ROLE
Alex Reyes stayed healthy and posted a 3.20 ERA in 15 appearances for the Cardinals last season, in addition to recording the save in their Game 1 win over the Padres in the National League Wild Card Series.
Reyes, 26, will likely be part of the Cardinals bullpen again in 2021, but the club hasn’t totally ruled out using him as a starter.
“He's talented enough to be in a rotation,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said last week. “But he's gonna have to earn that spot. If he doesn't, then (he’ll) be someone that you could see out of the bullpen.”
Reyes has pitched only 87 innings since 2016 due to assorted injuries. He missed all of 2017 following Tommy John surgery, suffered a season-ending lat strain in 2018 and had a season-ending pectoral strain in 2019.
Through his injuries, Reyes has still maintained the premium stuff that made him a five-time Top 100 prospect. His fastball averaged 97.5 mph last season and his slider and curveball both got whiff rates north of 45%.
The next step is building durability, in the hope he can eventually make the jump to the rotation.
“(He) is someone that really hasn't pitched a lot of innings over the last four years, so I do think we have to be very cognizant of that,” Mozeliak said. “It wouldn't shock me if we tried to sort of take baby steps and ultimately, maybe next year, we start to pencil him in as one of the five for the rotation.”
TAYLOR WARD RETURNS TO CATCHING
The Angels are moving Taylor Ward back to catcher, at least part-time.
Ward, 27, was drafted as a catcher in the first round out of Fresno State in 2015, but the Angels moved him out from behind the plate after three minor league seasons. He primarily played third base in 2018, left field in 2019 and right field in 2020.
With the organization lacking catching depth, the Angels decided to try Ward back at his original spot this year.
“He's here as a catcher. He's here to catch,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said at the start of camp. “This guy had been a catcher and he's really pretty good back there. And to get him out here now, and give him the full benefit of this time where he could work with (catching coach Jose Molina), see more pitchers, get his hand broken in the little bit … give him all that opportunity and who knows?”
The transition will be more gradual than immediate if the first few games are any indication. Ward has played left field in each of his first three spring training appearances.
2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Houston Astros
A look inside the Astros' international signing class, centered around Cuban outfielder Pedro Leon.
SHORTSTOP FOR PEDRO LEON?
Pedro Leon joined Astros camp on Sunday, six weeks after the Cuban outfielder signed with Houston for $4 million.
Notably, he spent his first days taking ground balls at shortstop.
Leon, 22, played shortstop, second base and third base when he was younger, but he’s been an outfielder as a professional. He said the Astros previously expressed a desire to have him play some shortstop, and that he’s been working at the position for the past five months.
“It’s something the organization had informed me about a while ago, so it’s not something that’s made me too uncomfortable,” Leon said through an interpreter. “Maybe just a little bit just getting used to the position, but staying focused and working on the adjustments and stuff, it’s something that will get better as time moves on.”
Leon last played for Mayabeque in Cuba’s Serie Nacional in 2018-19, when he hit .383/.467/.789 with 15 home runs in 33 games. His muscular build and power potential made him an attractive international prospect independent of position.
According to Leon, the plan is to see time both in the outfield and at shortstop in his U.S. debut.
“Honestly the organization will know what the right moment is to work me into those positions,” he said. “I’m just available to do it whenever they need me.”
MICHEL BAEZ SHORTENS UP
Add Michel Baez to the list of pitchers shortening their arm action. The 6-foot-7 righthander arrived at Padres camp with a shorter arm action this year in the hope it will lead to an across-the-board improvement.
Baez, the Padres No. 9 prospect, has struggled with both his control and his breaking balls in recent years. The Padres are hopeful the change will lead to an improvement like it has for many other tall pitchers, most famously White Sox's ace Lucas Giolito.
“We think he's spinning the ball better,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler shortly after camp opened. “He's getting more break to all his secondaries. He's getting more hop to his fastball. Seeing him shorten the arm change, we've noticed that it's helped him spin the ball with his secondary pitches.”
Baez debuted his new arm action against the D-backs on Tuesday and struggled with three hits and three walks allowed in two innings. On the positive side, evaluators in attendance noted his slider was tighter than in years past and that his command was “fair”, two improvements for him to build on.