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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11 Responses to “Drew Stubbs: Power Threat?”

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  1. jar75 says:

    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.

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  2. Doug Gray says:

    Stubbs has been since the day he was drafted, viewed as a potential 25 HR a season guy. I had countless arguments with people about it because he ‘didn’t show it’ in the minor leagues. I am a pretty big stats guy, but when we are talking about prospects, you need to lean toward scouting on things like power because it matters a lot more than production. You could watch Stubbs (or at least I could) and see that the power was there. despite a low number of HR’s in the minors, when Stubbs did hit them, he clobbered them. It was just a sign of things to come for a guy who had to come an incredibly long way to go in terms of revamping his swing from the day he was drafted.

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    • blackout says:

      I agree with all of Doug’s points. Scouts generally tabbed Stubbs as having very good power, especially for a CF, coming out of college. Stubbs may well regress, and I think the strikeouts are here to stay, but he’s still developing and has more projection left. I won’t be surprised if he has an up and down 2011 and then takes another step forward in 2012 as he enters his prime.

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  3. Mitchello says:

    Considering he’s 6’4”, I think it was kind of expected that the power would come.

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  4. ripperlv says:

    Nice article written with an open mind. I’ve seen some try to explain every circumstance with sabermetrics (and I’m not knocking sabermetrics). You took a logical approach and it made sense to me.

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  5. RMR says:

    Per HRTracker, Stubbs’ average standardized HR distance was 397′, compared to 394′ on average in the NL. He also hit 4 HR to RF, and 8 to CF (by my count… sort of hard to tell), and more No Doubters than Just Enoughs. In event, Drew does not want for raw power. He’s not hitting wall scrapers.

    Early in the season, he was very vulnerable to anything breaking/off-speed low and away. As the season went on, he got much better at handling that pitch. He’s was very raw coming out of Texas but has adjusted every step along the way.

    I’d be very surprised if he hits less than 15 HR in 600 PA next year and not surprised at all to see him north of 25.

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  6. Lionofthesenate says:

    this is where stats geeks fail. They are always surprised and caught off guard when a player breaksout or does something only scouting saw.

    when was the last time stats geeks projected a player to improve in mlb over milb? Yet it happens often.

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    • Bam says:

      And you say that in the article that uses scouting sources to inform readers about Stubbs’s development? So called “stat geeks” actually understand the value of scouting; the evidence is right in front of you.

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    • Jim Lahey says:

      A stat geek would not be looking at minor league stats to establish is a player will be any good on the MLB level…

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  7. Paul says:

    I’m not suggesting this comparison because they’re white, but because I think it is apt. Dale Murphy. Both big, athletic guys who strike out a lot and are not going to hit for high average. I don’t think Stubbs has the same kind of freakish and graceful athleticism that Cameron possesses. I think his is more “raw”, as other comments have suggested, and that eventually he moves to an OF corner and tops out with a 40 HR season and a few in the 30′s, like Murphy.

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  8. cyrwr1 says:

    Stubbs can be a good player if he puts on more weight(20 lbs or so) and having more patience along with contact. He can be solid with a .260 avg 20-25, 30-35 2B, and 25 steals guy.

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