M's 2005 Top 50 Prospects: No. 2

Down to the final pair, InsidethePark.com presents prospect No. 2. This outfielder is a former second round draft choice from 2002 that hit over .400 in Double-A. Can you name him?




Over the past five seasons the Mariners have gone to bat, both literally and figuratively, with a very similar lineup, day in and day out. Anchored by the likes of Bret Boone, John Olerud, Dan Wilson, the revolving door at shortstop and third base and the presence of Edgar Martinez, the M's had a decent, if not solid lineup.

When the going got rough and the runs became more difficult to come by, the club had trouble adding the right offensive piece to the puzzle to polish off batting order. When they signed a player, he wasn't the impact bat they really needed and when they did target the ideal bat, another team outbid the M's for his services, leaving the club to go deeper into the free agency pool and bring back a lesser talent.

So the Mariners were stuck, so to speak. Stuck without upgrades to a fading offense that ran into a wall in the middle of the 2002 season. Why would the M's, those of a top-10 payroll in all of Major League Baseball, have such a hard time improving the team three straight winters?

Where most well-run and balanced organizations would eventually fill that gap with a prospect or two, Seattle was glaringly lacking the position players that may have been ready to step in and take a starting position over on a regular basis.

Where former GM Pat Gillick failed, Bill Bavasi has succeeded, and in a big way.

When the club fell further out of first place than the star of Michael Jackson, Bavasi made his first major move as captain of the good-ship Mariner.

Jeremy Reed was the addition, acquired from the Chicago White Sox with catcher Miguel Olivo and shorstop Michael Morse. Olivo and Morse were both highly regarded by the Sox and M's at the time and could have solid futures in baseball in their own right.

But this deal was all about Jeremy Reed. Right-handed free-agent to-be Freddy Garcia was more than expendable in exchange for Reed, even if all by himself. The M's had three or four Freddy Garcias. They had zero Jeremy Reeds.

Now they have one.

Reed was drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft, the 59th selection overall out Long Beach State. The 6-foot, 185-pound left-handed hitting Reed made his mark in the minors in the second half of 2003, when he hit .409 in 66 games at Double-A Birmingham and pounded out 27 extra-base hits.

In his first season in Triple-A, Reed was hitting just .275 up to the day of the trade, but raised his level of play to hit .305 in Tacoma and stung the ball in the big leagues in September, collecting 23 hits and batting .397 in 18 games.

Now the M's have an answer from within, even though they had to get him from another organization. Finally, Seattle has a young, inexpensive answer in the everyday lineup that they didn't have to "settle" for.

Reed is grade-A, top choice.


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InsideThePark Prospect No. 2
Jeremy Reed OF
Opening Day Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Acquired from White Sox in June, 2004

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Charlotte

.275

8

37

44

12

36

34

.357

.420

2004

Tacoma

.305

5

36

40

13

23

22

.366

.455

2004

Seattle

.397

0

5

11

3

7

4

.470

.466




Strengths:
There isn't anything Reed can't do with the bat. He can hit the ball in the air with a runner on third and less than two out. He can stroke a line drive into the gap for extra bases. He can lay down the perfect bunt, or even hit the ball 400 feet for a four-bagger. Reed's understanding of the strike zone is something you can't teach and gives him an edge every time he steps into the batter's box.

"I'd hate to repeat what I have heard so many times," said an American League scout after having watched Reed a few dozen times in 2004. "The kid can just hit. It's the first thing I think of when someone says ‘Jeremy Reed' to me. Line drives, sharp grounders, you name it. His best tool is his ability to hit, anywhere he goes."

Weaknesses:
Reed currently lacks the power that clubs generally want to get out of a left fielder and may ultimately lack the range to cover the cavernous green grass of Safeco Field. Reed needs to improve his center field skills to stick at the position, but more experience should allow for the necessary improvement.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 70
Reed makes great contact and does it consistently with little effort. It's of his natural skill set to hit the ball and stay away from the strikeout, giving him a hitter's chance at getting on base, even after he gets two strikes on him in a given at-bat. A natural, patient approach, combined with a great eye and the best strike zone judgment in the organization may be enough to allow Reed to hit .300 several times in the big leagues.

"I don't see how he won't hit .300," said the acout. "He isn't hard to pitch to until you look at the box score and he was 3-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored. The run in September was no fluke. Reed was a good get."

Hitting for Power: 50
It may take Reed a few seasons to maximize his power potential but ultimately he may reach the 15-18 range while keeping his on-base skills at their best. Until he settles into his role, Reed should still be close to double digits as well as using his line-drive ability and speed to total 30 or more doubles.

"I see him as a hitter who could go either way," said the scout of Reed's projectable power. "He could hit 20 one day but might be better off hitting 10 or 12 and posting a .400 on-base percentage and driving in 85 runs. Home runs won't ever be his forte."

Speed: 65
Reed runs well enough to steal 30 bags, leg out seven or eight triples and sit right behind Ichiro on the team in infield hits, including bunts. Still learning to read pitchers, Reed is a smart baserunner and stays aggressive, putting pressure on the defense to make the play.

Glove: 65
Reed's glove might be his most underated tool, as many continue to doubt whether he can play center field in the long term. Adept at making the diving play and capable of cutting down liners into the gap, Reed could turn into a plus defender if he makes strides in his route taking and gets better jumps with regularity.

"Some say he has the skills to be a gold glove type in left field," said the scout. "Playing center field takes instincts, natural game speed and confidence. Reed has the speed and instincts and just needs time to gain the confidence."

Arm: 50
Reed has an average arm for a center fielder but doesn't try to overcompensate, thus limiting his mistakes with his throws. He has pretty good accuracy, though he won't throw out many runners, nor will he scare any speedsters from trying to take the extra base.



Future:
The Long Beach State product has hit at every level he has ever played at and that didn't stop with his torrid start in the majors last September. Surrounded by productive hitters, Reed could post solid numbers in the areas of batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored, stolen bases and standing ovations from the Safeco crowd after he hustles to break up a double play, allowing a run to score. Reed fits perfectly into the No. 2 spot in the order, but could effectively hit first, seventh or ninth with Randy Winn manning the two-hole. At his peak, Reed could put up a .300-plus average with 16-18 home runs, while posting an impressive on-base percentage that could approach the .400 mark.

"I really like what I saw the second half of last year," said the scout. "It was almost like the trade ignited his extra gear. He has a lot of potential and is the kind of hitter that could produce right away. Yeah, I'd say the Mariners got the better end of that trade. Reed can really play."



MLB Clone: Mark Kotsay, B.J. Surhoff

MLB ETA: 2005





Jason A. Churchill can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com



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