Stubbs eager to play up to potential in new spot
New Rockies outfielder hopes to make most of speed, power, earn playing time
DENVER -- New Rockies outfielder Drew Stubbs brings intriguing physical tools. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, has the speed to steal bases and the muscular build that sparks dreams of rocket shots off his bat.
But the numbers that measure his career since he broke in with the Reds in 2009 don't give such a clear picture. You could scratch your head and wonder why the high strikeouts and low average, or dream of how much his home runs and stolen bases could escalate should he find the secret to putting the ball in play more regularly.
Stubbs, 29, acquired last month from the Indians for left-handed relief pitcher Josh Outman, hopes to now provide production that matches the physical specimen people see.
"To be honest, I feel like I haven't reached my full potential as a player," Stubbs said. "I've barely scratched the surface. The last couple of years have been a struggle for me. I feel like I'm a rare player. I can run. I can hit for power. I can play small ball. I can do most anything asked of me to do in the game of baseball. There are very few guys that have that capability.
"I'm looking to get back on track and moving in the right direction toward reaching my potential."
With the Rockies, Stubbs is being offered a clean slate and no guarantees. Most likely, he will play left field and compete for at-bats with Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson, each of whom had their moments last season. With Stubbs a right-handed hitter with solid numbers against left-handed pitchers (.274 batting average, .796 OPS), and Blackmon and Dickerson lefties, there is a natural platoon situation. But if Stubbs can find his timing against right-handed pitchers (he has hit .226 with a .296 on-base percentage in 1,804 career plate appearances against them), it's possible he can earn more chances.
The Rockies have plans for Stubbs, but it's a different situation than with the Reds, who tried for years to mold the speedster into a leadoff hitter, or with the Indians, who brought him in last year as their everyday right fielder.
The Rockies have Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario in place, and with veteran Justin Morneau as a power-hitting addition, Stubbs is being asked to earn his status. In addition to Blackmon and Dickerson competing with Stubbs, former Astros center fielder Brandon Barnes also is pushing for at-bats.
"I think it's healthy," Stubbs said. "When you have a bunch of guys that are hungry to make a team and earn a starting job, it's great for competition. Guys want to show what they can do and play hard. That's what this game is about. It'll be fun going out there and really having nothing guaranteed."
The eighth overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft by the Reds out of the University of Texas, Stubbs broke in with 30 home runs, 61 extra-base hits and 40 stolen bases in 50 tries in 192 games over the 2009 and '10 seasons. He went deep 22 times in 150 games in 2010. But a .328 on-base percentage and 217 strikeouts over the 2009-10 period counterbalanced his successes.
Then Stubbs led the National League in 2011 with 205 strikeouts -- 131 from the leadoff spot -- and hit just .243. After a .213 batting average and 166 strikeouts in 2012, the Reds sent Stubbs to the Indians as part of a three-team deal with the D-backs.
The Indians used Stubbs primarily in the No. 9 spot last season. He admitted the adjustment from center to right took some time. He also came into the year working on a toe tap in the batter's box, having abandoned his old leg kick. He started 124 games and finished at .243 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs. Partly as a function of being in the No. 9 spot, his stolen base total fell to 17, marking the first time he stole fewer than 30 while playing a full Major League season.
Stubbs believes he is moving in the right direction with his swing, which could work well for him at Coors Field.
"Last offseason, I got away from being a leg-kick guy and added the toe tap to get myself going and be more on time with the pitcher," Stubbs said. "I felt I did that for the most part, but watching video I saw the leg kick would still come out a little bit on my swing in some games."
Stubbs is a natural center fielder, but he said he can adjust to left if the Rockies stick with the plan to move Gonzalez, a three-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, to center. Like many hitters the Rockies have acquired, Stubbs hopes Coors Field can be a boon to his career.
"Coming in to play against the Rockies was a trip I always looked forward to as an outfielder, because there is a lot of territory to roam and run down fly balls," Stubbs said. "With the altitude, when you drive the ball there, you get rewarded with home runs, and with the field as big as it is, there's a lot of room for the ball to fall. I always thought it would be a great fit."