Consistency & Versatility Are His Trademarks
"Splitsville" is a series of articles on the Yankees' prospects that we'll be doing throughout their minor league careers. In version one/chapter one (v1.1) of Kevin Reese, we'll look how he did against the right-handed pitchers versus the southpaws, how he hit with runners in scoring position, and more.
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Like A Fine Wine: Like a fine wine, Kevin Reese seems to be getting better with age. Reese, originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 27th round of the 2000 MLB Draft and traded to the Yankees in the Bernie Castro deal in 2001, hit .276 with 38 doubles and 14 home runs after his career year in 2004 that saw him hit a combined .308 with 50 doubles and 14 home runs in two stops between AA-Trenton and AAA-Columbus. He had just nine home runs total in 2002 and 2003. The 27-year old could prove to be a late-bloomer that should not be written off just yet.
Slow Start Cost Him: Unlike most of the Clippers' batters that started off the 2005 season in hot fashion, Kevin Reese struggled a little bit out of the gate, possibly costing him back-to-back .300+ seasons for the first time in his Yankee career. He hit just .258 in his first 51 games with the Clipppers this past season, but finished off the year strong, batting .287 in his last 82 games, which was more in line with his .293 career batting average.
Aside from the batting averages, Reese's run production remained pretty consistent all season long. He scored anywhere from 16 to 20 runs each of the first five months of the season and his extra-base hits each month were pretty even. Normally the epitome of consistency, his slow start to the year was surprising.
Relatively Even: As just mentioned, one of Kevin Reese's big strengths as a hitter is his consistency. He showed that trait again in 2005. Whether he was hitting at home at Cooper Stadium or on the road in visiting International League ballparks, Reese's run production was relatively the same. He scored just two more runs on the road and stole exactly the same number of bases.
He did hit 20 points higher away from Cooper Stadium, collecting three more hits in eight less at-bats on the road than he did at home. A big reason for the discrepancy on the road was his superior strikeout-to-walk ratio (1-1) away from home, where it was nearly two to one. We're just slitting hairs now. The bottom line is Reese was consistent no matter his surroundings and he certainly did not get phased batting on the road.
A Left Fielder: One of Reese's more valuable traits on a team is his ability to play all three outfield positions, an aspect of his game that will aid his cause for breaking in with a Major League team. But as his splits from this past season reveal, Reese is more comfortable at the plate when playing left field.
Reese batted .286 in games in which he was either the left fielder or the team's designated hitter and hit just a combined .233 while playing either right field or center field for the Columbus Clippers in 2005. Surprisingly however, Reese did tend to hit for more power while playing right field or center field, slugging 55.5% of his hits for extra-bases in comparison to 35.5% of his hits for extra-bases while playing left field or the designated hitter.
While he has shown to be more comfortable at the plate while playing left field, Reese can contribute in other areas while filling in at the other outfield spots.
No Need To Pinch-Hit For Him: Kevin Reese, a sweet-swinging lefty, has proven he can handle left-handed pitching over the course of his minor league career. And in 2005, nothing changed. He batted .275 against southpaws and .276 against right-handed pitchers in the International League this past season.
Throw in the fact that he actually hit lefties for more power, collecting 42.1% of his hits against them for extra-base hits (compared to a 38.7 extra-base hit percentage against righties), there's no reason to pinch-hit for Kevin Reese when he's in the lineup. His consistent success against both sets of pitchers is another check-mark in the positives column as to whether or not he's ready to contribute at the Major League level.
His Versatility Never Ends: Whether he's batting on the road or at home, against lefties or right-handed pitchers, or in various hitting situations, Reese's versatility is limitless. He batted .280 with the bases empty this past season - a fairly decent average for a leadoff man - and .270 with runners on base. Reese's excellent gap power allowed him to collect 25 of his 38 doubles with the bases empty, constantly putting himself into scoring position for the power hitters behind him. And as the pressure mounted, so did Reese's success.
He hit .308 with runners in scoring position this past season and when there were runners in scoring position and with two outs, he chipped in with a .323 batting average. Whether he's leading off an inning or at the plate with a runner in scoring position, Reese is as consistent as they come. His versatility in all hitting situations is just another aspect of his game that could benefit the Yankees.
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