Bats' Stubbs hot on Jay Bruce's heels
Another Texan on the fast track
By Rick Newkirk • email@example.com • August 31, 2008
Now Jay Bruce has a partner in the Texas two-step.
In much the same way as Bruce last season, Drew Stubbs has risen through the ranks of the Cincinnati Reds' farm system, jumping from Class A Sarasota to the Triple-A Louisville Bats in a matter of weeks.
And he's getting better.
A .261 hitter in Sarasota -- where he was the Florida State League All-Star Game MVP -- he then hit .315 in 26 games with Double-A Chattanooga before getting the call to Louisville to roam center field as Bruce did at the start of the season.
Stubbs is hitting .313 with eight extra-base hits in two weeks with the Bats.
"I'm kind of surprised about coming up to Louisville," said Stubbs, the only Sarasota player to advance to Triple-A this season. "My expectation going into the year was to get to Chattanooga. ... (Now I'm) one step away from the major leagues. I've really enjoyed it, and I've learned a lot in a short amount of time."
His career path seems to be following that of Bruce, who rose from Sarasota to Louisville last season before breaking into the big leagues this year. Both are Texas boys -- Bruce from Beaumont, Stubbs from the Texarkana area and the University of Texas (he still tailgates at the Longhorns' football games). Both were drafted in the first round -- Bruce No. 12 in 2005, Stubbs No. 8 in 2006.
And both have extraordinary talent.
"Jay has probably the best natural ability I've ever seen," Bats hitting coach Smokey Garrett said. "And Drew's got the same kind of ability."
Stubbs was a four-sport athlete at Atlanta High School, playing wideout in football and wing in basketball. He was also a track star, reaching the state meet in the 400- and 1,600-meter relays, 300 hurdles and triple jump.
He continues to prove his athleticism on the basepaths, stealing 33 bases in 42 tries this year. Now his bat is coming around.
Garrett said the 23-year-old Stubbs has thrived in the higher levels of minor league baseball thanks in part to pitch selection that is better than Bruce's. In lower classes pitchers spend more time nibbling off the plate.
Since his promotion from Sarasota, Stubbs has sported a .391 on-base percentage, up from .364 last season at Dayton. He has only himself to thank for that.
"I really haven't worked with him on much of anything," Garrett said, "because if it's not broke, don't fix it."
The power stroke is there, too, although that facet of Stubbs' game has yet to take off. In naming him the No. 5 prospect in the Reds' system last year, Baseball America claimed he had "light-tower power" with the potential to be a big league slugger.
Stubbs has just seven home runs in 129 games this year, but Garrett said he has the potential to hit 25-30 a year in the majors.
"If pitchers make mistakes, he's got the abilities to turn it around," Garrett said.
Bats manager Rick Sweet is impressed with Stubbs' right-handed stroke, too -- although not for its power.
"I think the fact that he drives the ball to all fields is more important to me," Sweet said. " ... But he's too good of a hitter to be just classified as a home run guy."
Stubbs also has an exemplary glove, but it's one other weapon that could help him take Bruce's place as the Reds' top prospect: an insatiable appetite for improvement.
"I know my time will come, but I'm not thinking of myself as 'The Guy,' " he said. "I just want to go out there and just improve as a player and put myself in the position where I can be promoted to the next level. I'm not going to worry about the expectations that other people have for me."