Through the first five games of the spring training schedule, it seems there might be a third player in the mix for the Opening Day shortstop spot – Matt Reynolds.
Reynolds was the Mets’ second-round pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft out of the University of Arkansas, selected with the pick acquired from the then-Florida Marlins when they signed Type-A free agent Jose Reyes. Many considered Reynolds at 72nd overall a slight reach, and he signed for nearly $200,000 below slot value.
In their post-draft scouting report of Reynolds, Amazin’ Avenue had this to say: “Reynolds is another pick with more limited upside but also a high probability of reaching the majors as a utility man, if nothing else.”
He played third base mostly for the Razorbacks, but there was talk even when he was originally selected that the long-term plan for him was to move him up the middle. He had the glove to make the change, and was originally a shortstop his freshman year with Arkansas.
After a 42-game stint with the Savannah Sand Gnats after being drafted in 2012 in which he hit .259/.333/.367, Reynolds had his first full professional season with the St. Lucie Mets in 2013. He had a disappointing year with the bat managing just a .226/.302/.337 line as a 22 year old.
Promoted to Double-A Binghamton for the 2014 season, Reynolds broke out with the bat in a huge way. In 58 games with the B-Mets, Reynolds tore up the Eastern League to the tune of a .355/.430/.422 line. That performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas where in 68 games Reynolds continued his great season, batting .333/.385/.479.
Prospect watchers took note of Reynolds’ performance, but it was not without some trepidation. Likely this had to do with the underwhelming overall performance and the BABIP of over .400 in 2014.
Some of it has to do with questions of whether he can stick at shortstop. The glove and arm are, by all accounts, good enough for him to stick at the position, but his lack of speed and therefore range inhibit his impact.
Considering that neither Flores nor Tejada are all that impressive with their defensive skills, Reynolds has the edge with the glove, and it’s not particularly close.
The bat, is where things get a little more muddy. Take a look at the ZiPS projections for the three, offensively.
They’re all relatively close, but the edge goes to Flores. That being said, Reynolds is the one that is the hardest to project with his lack of any kind of MLB experience. His glove is good enough to completely cover the gap between himself and Flores.
Through four spring training games this year, Reynolds is hitting .444/.500/.778, including a walk-off home run and some nifty defensive work. Because of his stellar (albeit in a small sample size) performance, Reynolds has inserted himself in the early conversation for snagging a roster spot out of spring.
If he continues to hit well, he may very well be the change at shortstop the team has been looking for.
Joe Vasile is the voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs of the Coastal Plain League.