Before we get started, a special thanks to Howard Rudolph for contributing the "dud" portion of this piece. I've been playing fantasy baseball with Howard for a year and a half now and he's top notch when it comes to finding talent. We don't always agree, but he knows his stuff!
A controversial prospect in everyone's eyes, Stubbs was viewed as a big risk, big reward prospect coming out of college. He certainly has not disappointed by flashing gold glove caliber defense and good speed with decent power and pitch selection. While I'm certainly not sold on his future, I drew the short straw and have the task of defending his prospect status while finding enough silver linings to project a long and successful career as a major league regular.
In thinking comps, Mike Cameron came to mind as a guy who Stubbs could wind up mirroring. While Cameron is not a "star," he has had a few seasons worthy of consideration. Should Stubbs wind up with 250+ home runs, 300+ steals, and 1,000+ RBI and runs scored, it's safe to say Reds brass would be ecstatic to say the least. Based on numbers alone, Stubbs is currently behind Cameron's pace, but Stubbs advancing three levels in a season may be a sign of a potential breakout in 2009. Here's why!
- Stolen base percentage and total steals have improved each season to a stellar 33/9 in 2008 which indicates one of his tools turning into production
- A solid 160 AB+ sample from AA/AAA show a player who is upping his game against better competition.
- The gold-glove caliber defense is still apparent
- 46 XBH and a .371 OBP are solid at any level. Production remained consistent or improved at each level.
- Walks remained consistent, while cutting down strikeouts by twenty.
- Accelerated his curve by reaching AAA. His development had been considered slow before his surge. Could he be in Cincy by September 2009?
Signs point to a possible breakout in 2009 and a spot with the Reds by as early as September. Yes, better players than he will ever be were drafted after him as shown below, but with so many first rounders flopping completely, a Cameron comp isn't half bad. With Cincinnati being a hitters park, Stubbs allows the Reds to sign big boppers with less than stellar defensive ability and let Stubbs do his best Kelly imitation from "The Bad News Bears" and catch everything. Should he chip in 20-20 to boot, he becomes not only Reds relevant, but fantasy relevant as well!
In my opinion, Drew Stubbs is one of the most overrated prospects in all of baseball. He shows up on every Reds Top 10 Prospect List I have seen, ranging from 3rd to 8th on most lists, based on unrealized potential. What some may see in Stubbs as far as development, I see as the next Corey Patterson with more walks and less power. For those that nearly spit their soda all over the monitor, Patterson’s minor league line was .284/.336/.499 compared to Stubbs "awww" inspiring .269/.367/.415 line.
Stubbs’ defense is excellent, which will likely land him the starting CF job in Cincinnati within the next 2 years, even if he doesn’t hit well. The Reds could bat him at the bottom of the lineup and anything he produces offensively is a plus. However, this doesn’t make him a productive prospect, especially for the 8th pick in the draft. Though Stubbs will get many chances in the majors, just like Patterson, here is why I see Stubbs true potential as little more than a 4th OF and batting at the bottom of the Reds lineup in future years. Here's why!
- Lack of contact (27.9% K Rate) and mediocre OBP prevent him from batting at the top of the order.
- Last year, Stubbs went from a 16% walk rate in A+, to 11% in AA to 8% in AAA. Granted, 167 at bats above A+ isn’t a lot of data to work with, but it’s all there is to go on right now. Corey Patterson had a 7% walk rate in AAA in 1999.
- Mediocre power production. Stubbs is raw and needed time for the power to develop. Well, where is it? Besides a 75 at bat sample in AAA where is SLG was .480, his best slugging season was .421.
- Until Stubbs jumped to AA/AAA, he was old for the leagues he was in. A good 23 year old prospect should dominate A+ ball and younger pitchers. That didn’t happen. If he can’t dominate younger players, how will he produce when the players are older and better?
Stubbs needs to make substantial improvements very soon and I just don’t see it happening. The Reds passed up Tim Lincecum (#10), Max Scherzer (#11) and Travis Snyder (#14) to take Stubbs. Revisionist history says they’d love to have any of those three over Stubbs. Revisionist history will be proven correct.