AJ Reed is trying to not get frustrated.
And it’s not just because the former University of Kentucky star is off to another slow start in the minor leagues.
He’s dealt with that in the past and bounced back with a big season.
What has him annoyed this time around is the lack of fastballs thrown his way during his first two weeks playing for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies.
“Maybe one fastball per at-bat, if that,” Reed, a first baseman in the Houston Astros’ organization, said. “Lots of off speed. Sometimes you get frustrated.
“But you’ve got to remember the league you’re in and the guys that you’re facing. They’re not going to make it easy.”
In his first 12 Triple-A games, Reed batted .208 with three home runs and 11 RBI. He had a .291 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage.
Not exactly astounding follow-up statistics for the guy who led minor league hitters in home runs and RBI last season and entered this year considered the top first base prospect in baseball.
SOMETIMES YOU GET FRUSTRATED. BUT YOU’VE GOT TO REMEMBER THE LEAGUE YOU’RE IN AND THE GUYS THAT YOU’RE FACING. THEY’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT EASY.
The 22-year-old quickly admits there’s an adjustment to playing at the minors’ highest level, even after performing well with with the Astros during spring training. In the big-league camp until the final cuts, Reed hit .311 with three homers and nine RBI in 45 at-bats while trying to make the team’s season-opening roster.
He was sent to Triple-A, instead, after flourishing in Double-A and Class A Advanced last season.
But last year wasn’t without its own struggles. In April last season, Reed hit just .208 with three homers and 11 RBI with 24 strikeouts in 72 at-bats while playing for Class A Advanced Lancaster.
But by July, he had heated up and earned a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi before finishing the season hitting .340 with 34 home runs and 127 RBI at the two levels combined.
Astros fans eager to see Reed move up through the farm system might’ve been surprised to see the 6-foot-4, 275-pound prospect hitting near the Mendoza line with the Grizzlies, but Reed and Grizzlies Manager Tony DeFrancesco believe it’s just going to take some time.
HE’S VERY SELECTIVE — I THINK THAT’S SOMETHING THAT STICKS OUT. BIG POWER HITTERS ARE USUALLY FREE SWINGERS WHO STRIKE OUT A LOT.
Fresno Manager Tony DeFrancesco on AJ Reed
“I’ve seen a lot more off-speed pitches already this season than I expected,” Reed said. “In hitter’s count, they’re going off speed.
“You can hit off speed. You’ve just got to make sure it’s up and it’s a good pitch to hit. Don’t need to expand my zone. Just want to swing at good pitches.”
DeFrancesco, who’s raved about Reed’s abilities since the spring, praised the lefty’s selectivity at the plate. The manager even compared Reed to Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
And DeFrancesco has been fairly accurate with his player projections before. Last season, he compared Astros shortstop and former Grizzlies star Carlos Correa to New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.
“He’s very selective — I think that’s something that sticks out,” DeFrancesco said. “Big power hitters are usually free swingers who strike out a lot. Once he gets comfortable here, he’s going to become even more selective.
“They’re pitching him a little bit different,” he added. “They’re not giving him fastballs in fastball counts. So he’s having to make some adjustments, stay patient.”
How dangerous has Reed been when thrown fastballs?
Two of his three home runs were launched off first-pitch fastballs, once against a right-handed pitcher and another against a left. A third homer came off a 3-2 slider from a right-hander.
“Just got to be smarter,” Reed said. “And if I get a fastball, don’t miss. That’s where I’m at right now. It’s early. It’ll be fine.”