Drew Stubbs is the first player I’ve looked at for this series who doesn’t have a huge Major League background. At this point, we’re dealing with not quite two full seasons of playing time, spread out over three years. That means we have to dig a little deeper to make predictions about what Stubbs is going to do in the future.
Stubbs also might be the player most likely to get a long-term extension from the Reds this winter. Lots of people here on RN (myself included) have been proponents of locking Stubbs up for the long haul. The question I’m going to address is whether or not they should. I’m going to go about it by looking at each aspect of his game and talking about what that means for his aging curve. At the end of each section, I’ll give a verdict of “Lock Him Up” or “Wait and See.” Let’s get started…
This technically isn’t an aspect of his game, but it is important. Stubbs is 26 and only in his second full year in the big leagues. He shouldn’t be arbitration-eligible until the end of next year, and the Reds will still have him under team control for three more years after that. That would take him to his age-30 season. Basically, the Reds already control him for what should be his prime years. Verdict: Wait and See
Stubbs plays centerfield, the most glamorous position on the diamond. I don’t have to run down the names of the great players who have filled that position over the years. The best part for Reds fans is that Stubbs plays a very nice centerfield, and good defenders age gracefully.
That said, centerfielders peak early, typically during their age-26 season. This is because, while players like Willie Mays play center, so do players like Willy Taveras. That is, fast guys without any other real skills. Stubbs doesn’t look like a Taveras, but he’s certainly not a Mays. Without the benefit of more data, I think you have to wait and see what he does. This year might be the best he ever gets. Verdict: Wait and See
Stubbs is fast. He is often referred to as one of the fastest players in the league. Because of his speed, he’s a threat on the basepaths and a great defender. Fast players also age better than just about any other type of player, often staying near peak long after others have fallen off. Stubbs looks good here as he is super fast and should get plenty of benefit from that as he ages. Verdict: Lock Him Up
This is the hardest aspect of Stubbs’ game to breakdown. For instance, BR.com has his most similar player through age 25 as Curtis Granderson. Indeed, if you look at Granderson’s stats from 2005-06, you see why. He and Stubbs were almost identical at ages 24 and 25. It’s enough to get a person excited. The difference, of course, is that Granderson took off when he turned 26 and Stubbs hasn’t. Granderson saw his power go up and his Ks go down. Stubbs has seen exactly the opposite happen. So much for that comparison.
Looking at the sample we have, there’s not too much to see. Stubbs is a tick above average with the bat. He plays a plus defensive position, so there’s no problem there, but he hasn’t done anything to set the world on fire yet. The reason is the one thing that stands out: his strikeout rate. Stubbs strikes out a lot. Really, a lot. He has struck out in 33% of his PAs this year, which is about the rate he struck out last year. Look, I’m an “an out is an out” guy, but Stubbs simply does not walk enough or hit for enough power to make up for that K rate.
The only thing keeping him slightly above average at the plate is his high average on balls in play (.358 this season and .337 for his career), and Stubbs does get his share of infield hits, especially when you consider he doesn’t bunt very much. One has to wonder if that high BABIP will continue when age slows him down just a bit and he starts to get thrown out on more ground balls.
As far as I can see, it comes down to two things: 1. Will he ever cut down on his Ks (or increase his BB and HRs)? and 2. How long will his speed last? We can’t know the answer to either question right now. Verdict: Wait and See
Taking a detailed look at Stubbs, I have to change my opinion. Right now, given that he’s still cost controlled for a while, I don’t see the value in trying to lock him up with a long-term contract. If he were a few years younger, I’d say jump on him, but as it is, there’s too much uncertainty. A smart club would, I think, wait at least one more year (probably longer) to see if Stubbs makes any progress or if he just sort of is who he is. Overall Verdict: Wait and See
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.