Sunday, March 22, 2009

2009 Top Prospect List: #4 Drew Stubbs, cf

Drew Stubbs
Height 6-4, Weight 205, B/T: R/R, DOB: 10/4/1984
2008 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: #5

Drew Stubbs continued to demonstrate tremendous athleticism and a well-rouned skill set in 2008. After being very conservative with his development and keeping him at low-A Dayton for the entire 2007 season, the Reds seemed to reverse course by aggressively moving Stubbs up the ladder in 2008. Ultimately, Stubbs made three different stops in the minors in 2008, finishing up at triple-A Louisville. It was disappointing not to see Stubbs get a September call-up to the majors, but considering that he made a three level jump in the minors it's understandable. Even though he didn't make it to the majors, Stubbs certainly solidified his status as one of the top prospects in the system.


The Reds sent Stubbs to high-A Sarasota to start the 2008 season. For Sarasota, Stubbs posted a slash line of .261/.366/.406/.772 with 5 homeruns in 358 plate appearances. Perhaps most impressively, his K/BB ratio improved to a stellar 82/50 mark. He cut down on his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate from his 2007 level of performance. In addition, he posted a stellar line drive rate of 26%. Given that Sarasota is a difficult hitting environment, his homerun total really isn't all that disappointing. He also found time to swipe 27 bases in 35 tries, which was good for a 77% success rate.

The Reds advanced Stubbs up the ladder to double-A Chattanooga. At double-A, Stubbs piled up 106 plate appearances and posted a slash line of .315/.400/.402/.802 with 0 homeruns. He also posted a 21/11 K/BB ratio. Double-A pitching didn't slow him down much, as he continued to make hard contact, evidenced by 23% line drive clip.

The final of his three minor league stops landed Stubbs at triple-A Louisville to finish out the 2008 season. He had 84 plate appearances and posted a .293/.354/.480/.834 with 2 homeruns and a 20/6 K/BB ratio. Once again, his solid 20% line drive rate demonstrated his ability to center the ball on the bat.


Stubbs has the type of tall, lean, athleticism that intrigues scouts. He's tall and lanky, but explosive, possessing both plus power and speed. Stubbs' problem has been his inability to make consistent contact, which is almost to be expected given his height. He has a larger strike zone and longer arms to get through his swing. While he has been plagued by strikeouts in his professional career, he seemed to turn the corner when he was required to choke up on the bat during the tail end of his 2007 stint at low-A Dayton. After choking up, Stubbs exhibited increased bat control, which enabled him to drastically cut down on his strikeouts. Not surprisingly, his offensive production improved as a result. Of course, the question was whether his improvement was real and would carry over into 2008 or merely the result of a small sample size that would prove illusionary over the course of the 2008 season.

In 2007, Stubbs struck out once every 3.5 ABs for Dayton. In 2008, he struck out once every 3.7 ABs for high-A Sarasota, every 4.4 ABs for double-A Chattanooga, and every 3.8 ABs for triple-A Louisville. Obviously, Stubbs was improving even as he climbed the ladder to face a more challenging level of competition. However, it would be inaccurate to say that it was simply the result of choking up on the bat a couple of inches. In actuality, Stubbs has made more substantial changes to his swing.

During his professional career, Stubbs has worked to shorten up his swing. Perhaps not surprisingly, he has also adopted a wider stance at the plate. His setup is not as extreme as the one utilized by Chris Valaika, so he still utilizes a traditional stride to effectuate his weight transfer. The wider than shoulder width stance gives him a bit more stability at the plate and reduces some of the lower body action in his swing, which improves his economy of movement. His stance is fairly quite and includes a high back elbow and a small bat waggle. He has also shortened up his swing path both to and through the ball.

Once in a while his swing seems to get a bit top-hand heavy. Instead of pulling the knob of the bat at the ball and exploding out through it, he extends his arms too early by letting his top hand seemingly push the swing to meet the ball. Overall, Stubbs has a simple and fundamentally sound swing. Obviously, when trying to cut down on strike outs, length and wasted movement are the enemies. Through his efforts, Stubbs has managed to reduce his strike outs, but that improvement has come at a cost.

In his quest to cut down on the strikeouts, Stubbs has reduced his power output. Stubbs has very impressive raw power, but it really isn't translating into homerun numbers. At this point, Stubbs' efforts to limit his strikeouts and improve his contact rate have robbed him of some power. However, if Stubbs can improve his contact rate, then the power should eventually follow. He also has to get comfortable with the changes he has made, which should only help him rediscover his power.

As you can see in the following video clip, even with the shorter, more contact oriented swing, Stubbs can still absolutely launch the ball.

For video of Stubbs at the plate in the Arizona Fall League, click here.


As intriguing as his offensive game may be, Stubbs' calling card is still his defense. Stubbs was already a Gold Glove caliber defensive centerfielder when he was drafted out of the University of Texas. Stubbs is a very valuable combination of plus defense at a premier defensive position. His speed and instincts allows him to cover a massive amount of ground in center and he also has enough arm strength for the position. The Reds have long struggled to develop prospects who can legitimately handle the premier defensive positions. However, this is obviously beginning to change. In the best case scenario, Stubbs joins Chris Dickerson and Jay Bruce to give the Reds the best defensive outfield in baseball.

Statistical analysis has begun to focus more on defense in recent years with the result that defense is more important than commonly realized. As new defensive metrics are developed to translate defensive performance into run value, defense is being valued much more highly. Fox Sports' Dayn Perry recently took a look at common attributes of World Series winning teams and one common thread he found was that they often had two legitimate centerfielders starting in their outfield. If Dickerson and Stubbs continue to develop, then they could really transform the future of the organization.


At this point, the worst case for Stubbs seems to be that of a bottom-of-the-order MLB hitter with Gold Glove caliber defense. He has managed to cut down on his strikeouts, but the emerging question is whether his power will return. If it does, then Stubbs will be an impact player with 20/20 potential at the MLB level. If it doesn't, but his contact rate stays strong, then he has the on-base skills to be an effective MLB tablesetter. It's not a question of whether Stubbs will be a quality regular at the MLB level, but rather just how good he'll be at the plate when he arrives. He has tremendous athleticism and a diversified skill set, but ultimately it will come down to whether his power translates into homerun production. For now, Drew Stubbs checks in at #4 on the list.


  1. The more and more i hear about Stubbs the more i think of a right handed Grady Sizemore. Gold glove defense, good base stealers, plus power,you name it.

    Both struggled to make consistent contact through the minors,but it was just enough when they bring so much more to the table. compare their numbers through the minors lark, its very interesting

    the only major difference i can find between the two is that Grady is left handed and not quite as tall as Stubbs

  2. Hey smitty,

    Man, I definitely hope that you're right on that one. I hold Sizemore in very high regard, so that would be a real coup for the Reds. However, that might be a bit too optimistic.

    You're right, they do have similar levels of production in the minors, which is pretty interesting. However, the difference that jumps out at me most is that Sizemore was drafted out of high school, while Stubbs was a college product. Sizemore spent his entire age 20 season in double-A and his age 21 season in triple-A and the majors. On the other hand, Stubbs spent his age 21 season in the rookie Pioner League and his age 22 season in low-A ball.

    By the time Stubbs got his professional career underway, Sizemore had already established himself in the majors. While I'd love for it to happen, I'm just not quite comfortable projecting such a high ceiling for Stubbs right now. That said, if Stubbs can continue cutting down on the strikeouts while rediscovering his power stroke, then he might be able to approach a Sizemore type production. However, to me, one of two scenarios seem more plausible on Stubbs:

    1) His struggle to make consistent contact robs him of the ability to hit for a good average, but he rediscovers his power stroke and ends up hitting 5th or 6th in the lineup.

    2) He continues improving his contact rate, but never rediscovers his power stroke and ends up as a more traditional table-setter, top of the lineup type hitter.

    It'll be very interesting to see how he develops. He certainly has the raw tools and all around game to post very impressive numbers, but I'm not sure he'll be able to put it all together to become a 5 tool threat like Sizemore.

    Anyway, as always, thanks for the comment and providing the interesting comparison!!


  3. I agree; Stubbs is no Grady Sizemore. That's a pipe dream. However, if he can develop his power, he could be a legit 20/20 guy who plays a great CF. He'll probably always strike out a bunch, so he won't hit for a high average, but still, that sounds like Mike Cameron to me. I don't think anyone on the Reds would be disappointed if that were his eventual comp.

  4. Anon,

    Yeah, I hold Sizemore in pretty high esteem, so I wouldn't use him as a comp for many prospects.

    As for the Stubbs/Cameron comparison, I certainly wouldn't complain if Stubbs becomes Mike Cameron Part Deux.

    Still, I'd like to see more consistency out of Stubbs. He's started off the 2009 season poorly. Granted, it's a small sample size, but you'd like to see him build off the strong finish to the 2008 season. Instead, he's the proud owner of a .655 OPS in 2009.

    And, of course, the remaining question is the power. His power has been AWOL almost since college, so I think it's fair to wonder if it'll return. When I view the glass as half full, I attribute his power outage to an attempt to cut down on his strikeouts and see a likelihood of a power surge in the future. When I'm in a half empty mood, I wonder if the wood bats and advanced pitching have permanently curtailed his power output and worry that it'll never return.

    Ultimately, I think the power returns. By focusing on cutting down on his strikeouts, he has probably sacrificed significant power. Even so, more consistent contact could bring back the power in the future.

    Regardless, Stubbs should have value. When you bring plus defense to a premier defensive position, you don't have to bring much to the table offensively to be an everyday player. Even if the power doesn't return, Stubbs should be a solid MLB centerfielder. If the power does return, he could still be an impact player.

    Thanks for the comment!


  5. You guys probably didn't watch Stubbs in college as I did. As a UT-Austin alumnus and Longhorn baseball fan, I can tell you that Stubbs' best attributes are his defense, stolen bases, intelligence, and work ethic. Stubbs did hit more home runs in college, but that was because he was swinging for the fences more often.

    I think he realizes he'll probably bat first, second, seventh, or eighth in the major leagues. As a result, he has choked up, shortened his swing, and is trying to make better contact. Of course, that type of approach usually translates into fewer home runs, which seems to be the case with Stubbs.

    As of today at the AAA-level in Louisville, Stubbs is hitting .281 with 3 home runs and 40 stolen bases in 46 attempts. He's still striking out quite a bit, but I'm not sure that will ever change -- it's been that way for the past six seasons or more.

    When he gets called up to Cinncinnati next month, look for great defensive plays and stolen bases. Since the Reds don't have much of either one, that should be nice for them to see. He'll probably bat .250 at the major league level, and he won't hit a ton of home runs. However, when he does hit one, it may go as far as 450 feet. Hook 'em Horns!

    Jim Fletcher, 1997 UT-Austin alumnus

  6. Hey Jim,

    Thanks for the comment.

    The coaches had Drew choke up on the bat in an effort to improve his bat control and cut down on the strikeouts. As you mention, that might be the reason for the loss of power production. The Reds were concerned by his strikeout rate, so it's possible that they were willing to forfeit some homeruns for a better contact rate. However, the improved contact rate should result in an improved batting average.

    The value of Stubbs lies in his ability to get on base and provide plus defense in centerfield. However, I'd love to see either a solid batting average or plus power.

    If he hits only .250 without much power, then I'm not sure just how much value he'll bring to the table. If he's going to be a good table setter, then he needs to hit higher than .250. If he's going to be a run producer, then he'll need to hit for more power. He needs to add either power or batting average to really be a valuable player.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment and the Hook 'em Horns insight!!


  7. I suppose Reds fans now understand what Drew Stubbs can do for them. He can be about as helpful as a .250-hitter could be. It's obvious that he could hit 25 homers and steal 25 bases in the majors if he gets 500 at-bats in a season. Perhaps most importantly, he can significantly reduce the oppenents' number of hits by running down singles and doubles in center field. Remember that every extraordinary catch he makes in center is the same as Drew getting another hit himself. Perhaps with several years of major league experience, he could hit .280 for a season. Lastly, the guy is a consummate team player, and he'll never cause any problems in the clubhouse or during salary negotiations. Good luck in Cincinnati and Hook 'em Horns! Jim Fletcher, 1997 UT-Austin alumnus

  8. Sorry about the typographical error -- I meant "opponents'" rather than "oppenents'." Jim Fletcher, 1997 UT-Austin alumnus

  9. Hey Jim,

    Thanks for the comment. Stubbs is flashing more power than I, and I suspect you, expected. Hopefully, it's for real, as that would make him a lot more valuable.

    It really is fun to watch him track down balls in the outfield, as he just glides out there. And, you make a good point that often gets overlooked: a run saved is just as valuable as a run created.

    Hopefully he patrols centerfield in Cincy for years to come...and hits a few homers. A 20/20 centerfielder with plus on-base skills and gold glove caliber defense would make Stubbs incredibly valuable.