Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Crystal Ball 2011: Mark Reynolds

With the arrival of Mark Reynolds to Baltimore, we looked at the drama that will accompany him. There will be 475 ft game-winning homers followed by quadruple strikeout games. Highs and lows like Mt. Everest and Death Valley. Watching Reynolds in an Oriole uniform is going to be like dating the crazy bad girl who you know is bad for you. But she's fantastic in bed so you put up with it and you're happy...until she torches all your clothes.

But now we must look a little closer about the kind of player he is. On the surface, he hit .198 and struck out 211 times. So he must be a huge out machine, right? Well, kind of...

Leaders in outs made last season, with less than 625 plate appearances.

1. Carlos Lee         479
2. Jose Lopez         473
3. Alex Gonzalez      464
4. Ty Wigginton       461
5. Vernon Wells       451
6. Ryan Theriot       450
38. Ryan Howard       413
39. Lyle Overbay      413
40. Mark Reynolds     412
41. Michael Bourn     411
42. Carlos Gonzalez   407

Even is a very down year, Reynolds trails a bunch of people. Why? Because even though he strikes out a ton, he can take a walk. Best walk rates in the majors last season:

Barton        16.0
Fielder       16.0
Pena          14.9
Pujols        14.7
Bautista      14.6
Heyward       14.6
Zobrist       14.0
Votto         14.0
Reynolds      13.9

In addition, he has a bit of speed for a big guy. He only grounded into 8 double plays last season. Yes, some of that is a function of all the strikeouts he piles up but he stole 24 bases in 2009 and 7 last season. This is not to suggest that he is a good base stealer, just that he has pretty good footspeed for a guy who goes 6'2" and 220 lbs.

Something else he brings to the table in his glove. Talking to Diamondback fans, they are quick to point out that Reynolds was primarily a shortstop in the minors, as recently as 2006. His 2007-2009 fielding numbers are pretty brutal but they steadily improved and he was able to post a UZR/150 of +2.5 for 2010. It could be that Arizona had to live with his learning curve and that Reynolds will be an average MLB third baseman with the glove. Maybe better. Regardless, he is assured of being better than the Miguel Tejada/Josh Bell combo the team had last season.

As far as a projection, I have no idea how Reynolds will fare with a move from the NL West to the AL East. You would have to think he will hit 30+ homers and slug north of .500. But he's coming from a pretty good offensive park in Arizona so Camden Yards will not give him much of a boost with his numbers, if any. He's going to be facing tougher pitching, pitchers who may be able to exploit his offensive weaknesses better but it wasn't like the guy was facing chumps in his old division. Matt Cain, Ubaldo Jiminez, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsly, Mat Latos, Jonathan Sanchez and, oh yeah, Tim Lincecum. Maybe the change in leagues won't impact him as much as we think.

Most projection systems are projecting a mild rebound. Even if he hits .235, thats going to give us some pretty good offensive production from the hot corner. I'm cautiously optimistic that he can do it.

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