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Outside Looking In: Jeremy Reed

I haven't a clue as to how Seattle OF Jeremy Reed spent his offseason, but I would venture to say that seeing two aging former Washington Nationals reconstituted like dehydrated bananas in the rainy Pacific Northwest made Reed's winter something less than special. Seattle's management signed the ghost of Jose Guillen and his .216/.276/.398 batting line to patrol the grass at Safeco Field this season, effectively replacing Reed.

I started thinking about Reed when I saw his name listed among past "5 players to know" in an early February edition of USA Today's Sports Weekly. The Mariners' main return for sending Freddy Garcia to the White Sox in 2004, the lefty who was once called the best pure hitter and best baserunner in the Big West by Baseball America hit a fantabulous .409/.474/.590 in 66 games at AA Birmingham the year before. Reed was having a meh season in triple A, hitting .275/.357/.420 for the Charlotte Knights when the deal went down. His line improved thanks in part to the hitter-centric PCL to a .305/.366/.455 line through 61 games. He really impressed through an 18 game stint as a call up when he hit .397/.470/.466.

Then 2005 rolled around he Reed had a full time job with the Mariners. That season, through 544 plate appearances, Reed hit a paltry .254/.322/.352, hardly a line you like seeing from a starting outfielder or any starter for that matter (unless you're a Cardinals catcher). He was good enough for a -2.0 VORP and a 2.8 WARP; although, some blamed the pressure associated with playing center field in the big leagues. And, hey, cut the kid some slack right? He's just a rookie. Last season brought nothing but bad luck for Reed. Through 67 games and 229 PAs, he hit just .217/.260/.377 before fracturing his thumb on July 2.

And now Jose Guillen is the choice to replace Reed in the OF. Reed's biggest problem is an inability to hit lefties. Through is short major league career, he's hit just .165/.245/.226 against southpaws, and to be perfectly frank, he hasn't really been much more than serviceable against righties through his MLB career, hitting .274/.332/.398. As a contact hitter (career 85.6% contact rate) he's had some bad luck with BABIPs of .229 in 2006 and .294 in 2005.

As for what will become of Reed, the future looks average, at best. If he can learn to hit lefties well enough to play everyday he may have a nice career as a fourth outfielder or a starter on some of the league's cellar loving teams. His walk rate, just 4.8% last season and just under 8% for his career, makes him, like so many other not very exciting contact hitters, dependent on getting base hits to be of any value. If he could play second base, he might not have to worry about having a full time job, but as an outfielder who gets on base at a very average rate his value takes a big hit. His best hope lies in changing his approach against right-handers enough to put more well hit ground balls - which represented 51% of his batted balls last season -  If he is going to develop, he'll need to do it soon, since at 26 he's heading into the prime of his career.