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Can Josh Reddick keep hitting homers?

8/12/2013

Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick entered this past weekend hitting .203 with only five home runs in 82 games, and looking nothing like the breakout performer who smacked 32 home runs in 2012. Reddick wasn’t highly coveted in ESPN live drafts, ending up in the 18th round, as many suspected that he wouldn’t hit for quite the same power and that a low batting average was coming, but still, few expected this type of drop to irrelevance. Reddick began the weekend owned in less than a quarter of ESPN standard leagues, and I wasn’t eager to add him, either.

Of course, when a player hits five home runs in a two-day span to tie the big league record, it tends to get noticed quickly. Yep, on Friday and Saturday alone Reddick matched his season total in home runs, and suffice to say there weren’t many fantasy owners enjoying it. Reddick hasn’t made it to ESPN’s most added list yet, but it’s likely coming because here are the positive numbers from the first three games of the Toronto Blue Jays series, with the finale coming Monday afternoon against the below-average J.A. Happ: six hits in 12 at-bats, five home runs, eight RBIs and a 12-point bump in season batting average. None of this means Reddick is suddenly a must-own asset, fixed after four-plus months of underwhelming play, but if you’ve got an empty bench spot and need power this week, well, ride the streak!

As the ESPN Stats & Info blog noted over the weekend, Reddick had been hitting into some bad luck this season, with a strikingly low batting average on contact and a relatively high hard-hit average that hadn’t been bearing positive results. His BABIP, quite low at .269 a year ago, has been even lower this season at .235. Luck doesn’t have to even out, and this is a fly ball/strikeout hitter who swings for the fences, but still. We know Reddick has power, and it’s not too late for him to contribute. There really was little evidence a weekend like this was pending. He entered Friday hitless in his previous 19 at-bats, and before swatting three home runs Friday night hadn’t hit that many in any single month all season. Not all these blasts came off struggling pitchers, either. His final one came Saturday off Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen, only the second home run he had allowed all year.

The big question now is was this just a magical weekend in Canada or a harbinger of things to come? As Reddick said postgame, “I finally got something to go my way. If you hit it over there, they can’t catch it.” It’s a nice strategy, simply going for broke on every swing, though pitchers tend to figure that theme out. Still, why can’t this guy hit another 10 home runs the final seven weeks? Both myself and colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft rank Reddick around the top-50 outfielders despite brutal numbers, and we saw last year what the hitter is capable of, not only with the 32 home runs, but with 10 of them coming in May. Adding Reddick as a free agent now is a bit like adding the latest hitting prospect to get promoted: See what happens, and if it doesn’t continue, just move on.

There are signs that it’s a wise time to invest in Reddick just in case he really gets going. It’s not just the flash of power, but the lefty-hitting Reddick hit several of them this weekend off lefty pitchers, and now has half his 10 home runs for the season against lefties. That’s awfully odd. Reddick hit .242 with a .305 on-base percentage in his breakout season, so expectations should have been kept in check, but I think most of us would take a .242 batting average the rest of the way if it comes with power. Reddick is actually walking more and striking out less and he offers help in that fifth category, as well, as he has stolen 19 bases in two seasons. He really should have been performing better than this most of the season. Next up, after Monday’s day game in Toronto: the Houston Astros pitching staff. Sign up if you need power and don’t have a need for a high batting average.