March 29, 2007


Stealing Mickey's Mantle: José Reyes could be the greatest--if he doesn't figure out just how much Mets fans want from him (Allen Barra, March 27th, 2007, Village Voice)

He is, to listen to his teammates and others who watch him on a day-to-day basis, the game's new Superman, or at least Superboy. "He's our igniter--offensively and defensively--especially on offense," said Mets third baseman David Wright during last year's National League Championship Series. "As he goes, we go."

Carlos Beltran, the Mets' best slugger, is fond of telling his young teammate, "You have the potential to be one of the best players in the game." Mets announcer Gary Cohen calls Reyes "the most fabulously gifted player in the game, and the most exciting player baseball has had so far in this century." Reyes is also, to listen to the swarms of radio talk-show callers and bloggers, an antidote to the city's weariness of the ongoing dialogue over Alex Rodriguez's psyche.

These are great notices for a show that, for all intents and purposes, is still on the road. José Reyes is just 23 years old--he will be 24 on June 11--and has played only two full seasons of Major League Baseball, fewer than 440 games overall. He has never won a Most Valuable Player award and in fact has never led the leagues in any major category except stolen bases, a stat regarded by most baseball analysts as more gaudy than meaningful. The list of things that José Reyes has so far not done is quite long: He has never hit as many as 20 home runs in a season, driven in more than 81 runs, or batted as high as .310. But if greatness is measured in potential, many of Reyes's contemporaries are ready to vote him into the Hall of Fame right now.

"I can't remember the last time I saw such a combination of power, speed, and enthusiasm," says his manager, Willie Randolph, who played with Reggie Jackson and coached Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. "I ask myself what his limits could be, and I don't know the answer. He might have more sheer talent than any player I've ever seen."

Just for some perspective, Jose Reyes will turn 24 in June and last year hit .300 (.354/.487) with 19 HRs, 81 rbi, & 64 sbs. Rickey Henderson turned 24 in the December before the 1983 season and proceeded to hit .292 (.414/.421) with 9 HRs, 48 rbi, and 108 sbs.

Given the fact that Mr. Reyes plays ss, rather than the outfield, he really only needs to raise his OBP to take his place in the firmament along with the greatest of lead-off men.

However, Alex Rodriguez turned 24 in July of 1999 and the year before he hit .310 (.360/.560) with 42 HRs, 124 rbi, and 46 sbs. Not too shabby....

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 29, 2007 7:22 AM

Ov-eeer - Raaaated.

Hey if you want to bring other NY middle-infielders into it, Robinson Cano is virtually the same age as Reyes -- Cano turned 24 in October -- and Reyes moves even further down the list.

Last season, Reyes hit .330/.354/.487 for an ops+ of 118

Cano -- .342/.365/.525 for an ops+ of 132

SS is a tougher position to field, but acc to BP Reyes was attrocious last season w/ an 89 RATE, and only a 95 for his career (maybe he should be playing 2nd, where he had a 108 Rate in 2004 during the KazMatz experiment)

Cano had a 113 RATE at 2nd last season.

About the only thing Reyes does better is steal bases. But even though he stole 64 last season, his stolen base percentage was under 80%. Wonder how many runs that cost les Mets?

Cano is primed for a monster year this year too. Reyes is like his less-talented baby brother.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at March 29, 2007 11:55 AM

I own Cano and don't dislike him, but put him in Shea or the old Coliseum configuration and he's a shadow of that.

Posted by: oj at March 29, 2007 12:29 PM

I dunno. I don't think so.

You have to remember, Cano is a lefty, but he's not a pull hitter by any means. His power is in the alleys, especially the other way, to leftcenter. He hits a ton of doubles, but will likely max out at 25 homers a season unless he gets bigger and starts aiming for the short porch in right. I don't think playing in Shea would affect him that much.

To the extent that he hits it down the lines, it's usally the other way. He has a knack for slapping it over the 3rd baseman's head.

For example, here's his home/road splits for last season:

317/342/514 at the Stadium
364/384/534 on the road.

Now maybe you can argue that he benefits from all the games at Fenway, Camden etc, but I don't think so. A gap hitter can hit anywhere.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at March 29, 2007 12:44 PM

With just 34 walks over the past two years his value is unusually tied to his BA which would tank at Shea, at which point he's Randall Simon.

Posted by: oj at March 29, 2007 12:55 PM

I don't buy it. He's a line drive hitter who sprays the ball in the gaps. He might actually benefit from Shea.

Bottom line is he hits the ball hard, and when you hit it hard consistently good things happen. Now, he might be luckier some years compared to others, and hit closer to 300 than to 350 if more balls are hit at people, but the kid can flat out hit.

He does need to take more pitches, but it's not as if he strikes out a lot. He's a contact hitter.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at March 29, 2007 1:00 PM

Yes, he had an absurdly high BABIP and while he's a good enough second baseman he's not likely to be a particularly good hitter, at least not for very long. Let's put it this way, I protected him but didn't give him a contract.

Posted by: oj at March 29, 2007 2:17 PM

The really impressive number compared to Ricky is the 122 runs scored. Ricky, the best lead-off man ever only exceeded that number once.

Posted by: jeff at March 29, 2007 4:33 PM

When all you do is spray line drives, you end up w/ an absurdly high babip.

If you watch the kid day in and day out you see the type of hitter he is. And that last year wasn't a flash in the pan. He increased his upper body strength while he was out w/ the hammy last year, and mashed when he got back.

You're underestimating him. But then again so are the saberheads who all refer to the babip.

Bottom line is the Yankees scouts projected him to win batting titles. He almost did last year, and he'll continue to compete in the upper echelon of AL hitters.

That's just the way Cano rolls.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at March 30, 2007 10:43 AM

Yes, adding body strength will reduce the line drives, which are fluky anyway, and with no other skills he collapses. For whatever reason that's really common for 2B. It can't be the position itself, must be the types of guys they move there. The successful long-term ones are the power guys like Biggio, Kent, etc.

Posted by: oj at March 30, 2007 10:55 AM