Timing not yet right for Reed to join Astros

Timing not yet right for Reed to join Astros

HOUSTON -- With the Astros beginning a stretch Monday in which they face eight right-handed starters in a nine-game stretch while struggling to get production from first base, top prospect A.J. Reed doesn't appear to be headed in Houston any time in the near future.

The left-handed-hitting Reed, the topfirst-base prospect in baseball, was hitting .256 with a .343 on-base percentage, nine homers and 32 RBIs through 55 games at Triple-A Fresno. He was batting .285 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 151 at-bats against right-handers and .179 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 56 at-bats against lefties.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday that Reed is ready for the Major Leagues, but it's going to take an underperformance or injury to get him called up. Luis Valbuena and Marwin Gonzalez are currently splitting time at first base following the demotion of Tyler White.

"He's making improvements and he's taking better at-bats and that's really all we're looking for is consistency of at-bats," Luhnow said. "Defensively, he's going to be fine. We're also looking for an opportunity. Right now, Marwin and Valbuena are both playing well. We want to give Danny Worth an extended look, so these three guys will be sharing the corners. If anybody went down, certainly A.J. Reed would be at or close to the top of the list for guys to come up.

"He's doing a nice job. He got off to a slow start this year, but he's really picked it up recently but all the reports from the hitting coaches and Tony [DeFrancesco, manager at Fresno] is that he's taking more competitive at-bats and he's pretty close to ready. At this point, if we have a need, if there's an opening, we wouldn't hesitate to bring him up."

The Astros entered Monday ranked 23rd in the big leagues and 11th in the American League in OPS at first base (.721). The switch-hitting Gonzalez has started four of the last five games at first since White was sent down and entered Monday hitting .333 in his previous 17 games. Valbuena, a left-handed bat, was on a 4-for-11 surge entering Monday's game against the Angels.

"First base has been the hole for us this season we've had to fill the most," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "Sometimes players like [Gonzalez] get less acclaim due to the fact they are plugging a hole for somebody else as opposed for being the identifiable player for being in a certain position. From my vantage point as a manger, he's very useful and I know the team respects him appreciates what he brings to the table."

When asked infield prospect Alex Bregman at Double-A Corpus Christi, Luhnow didn't tip his hand about where Bregman would be sent after playing in the Texas League All-Star Game, which takes place next week. He entered Monday hitting .304 with 14 homers, 44 RBIs, a .411 on-baser percentage and .981 OPS.

"If we move Bregman up, we want to make sure that he plays every day at the right position and it doesn't impact the other guys we feel have a chance to help us out," he said.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.