Drew Stubbs: Power Threat?

In the minor leagues, Cincinnati Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs hit 28 home runs in 1847 plate appearances, a rate of just over nine every 600 PAs. Stubbs posted a SLG over .425 and an ISO over .155 just once, in a 19-game stint with AAA Louisville in 2008. Just looking at those numbers, Stubbs’s Major League performance so far is surprising, particularly his first full season with Cincinnati this year. Stubbs has slugged 30 home runs in 779 MLB plate appearances, including 22 in 583 this season. He posted a .444 SLG and a .189 ISO as well, both above the respective MLB averages of .403 and .145.

We definitely have to acknowledge Great American Ballpark when discussing the power stats of Stubbs or any other Reds player. Stubbs hits right handed, and according to StatCorner, the park factor for home runs for right-handed batters in Cincinnati is a whopping 133, highly favoring hitters. That might make Stubbs more of a mid-teens home run hitter than a low-twenties home run hitter, but he was a sub-10 HR player in the minors. The effects of his home park don’t fully explain Stubbs’s power boost with the Reds.

Since there’s really nothing in the numbers to fully explain this boost – no low-minor power numbers and no trend towards power either – we have to look elsewhere for an explanation. Stubbs just turned 26 today (happy birthday, Drew!) and is in only his second MLB season and his fifth professional season. The best place to look for data, particularly to supplement his minor league numbers, would then be scouting reports.

First, John Sickels of Minor League Ball.

Drew Stubbs was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round in 2006, from the University of Texas. The eight-overall pick in the draft, Stubbs showed excellent tools and a power/speed combination in college, but he also showed a propensity to strike out. Some scouts worried that his long swing might not translate well against pro pitching, but his athleticism was too much for the Reds to pass up.

Reds fans want to know: was Stubbs’ power outburst in the majors for real? Given the perils of sample size, it’s hard to say. His batting average, OBP, steals, and defense were exactly in line with expectation. He’s quite strong physically and has shown sparks of power before, but my guess is that we’ll see him regress somewhat in 2010, putting up something like a .260/.330/.400 line.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus was slightly more bullish on Stubbs on multiple occasions, stating that he saw Stubbs as a similar hitter to Mike Cameron, a player with eight 20+ HR, although that 15-20 HR seasons may be more of the norm for Stubbs.

Baseball America comes to similar conclusions. In this prospect ranking post, Stubbs is described as having “above-average raw power” and his power surge with Cincinnati in 2009 is considered “unsurprising.” In this post on the top 10 organizational prospects, J.J. Cooper claims that Stubbs can be a high home run hitter if he takes some strikeouts, which he certainly has done at the MLB level, striking out in 28.8% of plate appearances.

This is only a small sampling of scouting information, but all of it seems to support Stubbs having more power than he showed in the minor leagues. Combine that with a favorable home park, and 22 HR years like 2010 aren’t quite the anomaly that they looked before. Drew Stubbs looks like a home run hitter in the Major Leagues now, and despite his minor league numbers, don’t be surprised if Stubbs continues to hit for decent power numbers as his career continues.

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Jeff Reese

Yep. I totally buy into Stubbs’s power and this is why you cannot look at minor league stats and think that you know how to project a guy as a major leaguer. Prospects simply aren’t finished products, and weighing the scouting reports heavily seems like the most prudent route.

Hittracker has Stubbs’s average true HR distance at 401.9 feet so the favorable home park definitely doesn’t explain it all away. The power is legitimate.