Monday, July 4, 2011

Josh Reddick: A familiar story?

When Reddick first got called up and started hitting well, my first thought was "Huh, wonder if he's kind of like Trot Nixon." As you can probably guess, the answer was “Yes,” otherwise this wouldn’t be a very interesting post. Nixon was a first round pick by the Red Sox in 1993 and a former top prospect (ranked as high as 13 overall by BA) whose star gradually faded (ranked 1994-1996: 13, 46, 39, but not ranked in 1997 and 1998) before breaking out in AAA at the age of 24, putting up a .310/.400/.513 line, which got him back in to the tail end of the Baseball America Prospect Rankings (99 in 1999). It is easy to see why there was skepticism about Nixon’s breakout year – his numbers the previous three years were poor to mediocre, and at 24 he was a bit old for AAA. However, Baseball America put a little bit of faith in the former top prospect by ranking him. The following year, in full time duty as the Red Sox right fielder, Nixon put up a .270/.357/.472 line, and became a lineup stalwart through 2007, although after his career year in 2003, when he was almost four wins above replacement, back injuries and old age caught up with him, as he played in fewer and fewer games per year with declining numbers.

We don’t know what kind of trajectory Reddick’s career will take, but his minor league career path has followed Nixon’s well. Josh Reddick was drafted in the 17th round of the 2006 draft out of a Georgia junior college, a solid draft that included other major leaguers such as Justin Masterson, Ryan Kalish, and Daniel Bard. Reddick signed for $140,000, which doesn’t exceed the slot threshold for all players drafted after the fifth round. After hitting well in A and high A ball to begin his minor league career, and reaching as high as #3 in the Red Sox system and 75 overall in Baseball America’s rankings, Reddick’s career stalled out in AA and AAA. Now, at 24, he put up a solid .230/.333/.508 line, which was most likely dragged down by his average on balls in play, as Andrew noted. He also began to walk more, with his “luck adjusted” line rising to .298/.390/.576. I’m not quite as bullish as Andrew – I think that Trot Nixon’s career, especially the peak value, is a lot better than median for Reddick. It is easy to forget just how good Nixon was, for his career in Boston he was a .278/.364/.464 hitter and he accumulated more than twenty wins above replacement. Nixon was never a star, but was a contributor nearly every single year in a Red Sox uniform. It will be a major coup for the Red Sox if Reddick can become an inexpensive 2-4 win player, as Trot Nixon was.

With Reddick’s defense, ability to draw a walk, and enough pop to carry a corner outfield position, I think there is a fair shot that he fills the right field vacancy everyone had pegged Ryan Kalish to fill. One thing to keep an eye on going forward is how many at bats Reddick gets against left handed pitchers. Lefties were always an issue with Nixon, and he only hit .214/.308/.322 against them for his career. Reddick only has 50 AB in AAA and 9 in the majors against lefties in 2011, so we can't really draw any conclusions about platoon splits just yet.


  1. There are a couple of reasons why I think Reddick should do a good job matching Trot Nixon's career. Reddick's minor league numbers are better than Nixon's were, particularly in the power department. Nixon did show tremendous growth at the end of his minor league career, and had major league success beyond what you'd expect based on his minor league numbers, but I think Reddick's better numbers help cover that gap. Secondly, offense is down across the league. Reddick doesn't need to put up a line of .278/.390/.464 to match Nixon's offensive value. The average American League hitter is hitting only .254/.321/.398 this season, while over Nixon's Red Sox career, the average American League player hit .270/.337/.431. Finally, based on what I've seen and read about Reddick, I believe he will have less of a platoon issue than Nixon, which should net him more playing time and allow him to accumulate more wins/season.

  2. It is conceivable that Reddick continues to make big steps forward, like Nixon did. Nixon had a minor league career high in slugging of .513 in AAA at 24, then went on to slug .475-.550 for four or five years with the Red Sox, including a career high at 29 of .578. It is a very unusual career progression, which I think led to the initial rumors that his name would be included in the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball (it was not).

    As for league average, that is a very good point. An .800 OPS used to be a bit above average, now it is damn good. With the decline in offensive numbers for the last couple of years, the bar to be an offensive contributor is much lower.

    I can't really comment on Reddick's approach against lefties. I'm not a scout, but we'll see. Without a solid right handed bat off the bench and an all left handed outfield, we should see Reddick get his hacks in against lefties.