Ex-Cats

A former UK star will get another chance to prove he belongs in the majors

AJ Reed (23), a former UK star, has been a successful minor league power hitter but has struggled in his major league appearances. He was called up Thursday by the Houston Astros.
AJ Reed (23), a former UK star, has been a successful minor league power hitter but has struggled in his major league appearances. He was called up Thursday by the Houston Astros. AP

Incredible minor league performances followed by less-than mediocre major league numbers have been the story of AJ Reed's professional baseball career thus far, but starting Thursday he might get another shot at proving his mettle.

Reed, a former University of Kentucky standout and one of the Houston Astros' top prospects, will get another chance to stick with the big club's roster after he was called up Thursday from the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. Yuli Gurriel, the Astros' everyday first baseman, is on paternity leave and Reed should cover the bag in his stead.

Over the past few seasons, the 25-year-old Reed has had no trouble being a standout power bat in Houston's minor league system, but the defending World Series champs have had little reason to keep Reed up as he's eked out a .156 batting average over a combined 47 major league games over two seasons.

This season, Reed is leading the Grizzlies in homers with 18 through 73 games, while also posting a .915 OPS.

Reed told the Houston Chronicle during spring training that he was hopeful to crack the talented Astros roster. He said he was upset about only playing two major league games last year, despite having a career year in Triple-A. He said he stopped drinking alcohol and sugary drinks — allowing him to lose 25 pounds in the off-season.

Last year, Reed launched 34 home runs while playing Triple-A ball, which won him his second career Joe Bauman Trophy — an award given to minor league baseball's home run king. But Reed played only two games for the Astros, and reached base in neither contest.

In 2016, the Astros gave Reed — who at the time was a top-two organizational prospect — an extended look, but his performance was disappointing. He homered three times in 45 games, and struck out 48 times in 141 plate appearances, posting a .164 batting average. The year before, Reed earned his first Bauman award when he hammered 34 homers in his first full year in the minors.

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In 2014, AJ Reed earned top honors in college baseball when he was named the Golden Spikes winner. He led the SEC in wins with a 12-2 record and he topped the nation in homers with 23. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

During his final season at UK in 2014, Reed was named the Golden Spikes winner as the nation's top amateur baseball player. As a lefty pitcher, Reed led the Southeastern Conference in wins with a 12-2 record and a 2.09 ERA while simultaneously leading the nation in home runs (23) and OPS (1.211). He was selected in the second round of the 2014 amatuer draft by the Astros.

According to MLB.com, Gurriel can only remain on the paternity list for 72 hours, so Reed's current stay may be short.

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