Why are fans enamored with Matt Reynolds?

Matt ReynoldsJeff Sullivan had a great column over at FanGraphs the other day, asking readers to identify what type of baseball dork they are. Jeff outed himself as a pitching dork, saying that’s the area of the game he enjoyed most, likely because he used to be a pitcher. While he focused on sections of the game – pitching, hitting, defense – I found myself wondering about particular players.

Sure, it’s easy to see why some people are Matt Harvey fans. And it’s also easy to see what’s so appealing about Yoenis Cespedes. These guys have outstanding talent and also carry themselves with a fair amount of swagger. Who wouldn’t want to date supermodels or show up to work each day with a different ride?

Or maybe you prefer someone who excels but is a little more understated. David Wright is the poster boy for this type. Perhaps it’s just because of their more celebrated teammates but both Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz seem to fit this particular bill.

Perhaps you like the young guys. Michael Conforto is a first-round pick and the next year he’s playing a key role on a team that goes to the World Series. Or maybe it’s the exact opposite and you want to cheer for an older guy, thinking you can maintain your hopes and dreams of an MLB career as long as there’s someone born before you playing in the majors. Bartolo Colon, because of his age and weight, would probably never be confused for a professional baseball player if an average person saw him walking down the street. But there he is flipping the ball behind his back and getting eight hits last year.

Growing up, my favorite player was Duffy Dyer. He didn’t really excel and he didn’t have anything that would make you go, Wow! Maybe it was the name. Kids latch on to weird things.

What gets me is how many adults have latched on to Matt Reynolds. They are somewhat excited about the injury to Asdrubal Cabrera and the possibility now of Reynolds being on the Opening Day roster. There’s nothing wrong about being happy about seeing a guy you back getting an opportunity – that makes perfect sense. What’s head-scratching for me is how these people latched on to Reynolds in the first place.

  • Does he have a unique/cool name? It’s hard to imagine a more vanilla name than his.
  • Is he a particularly old/young guy? Well, 25 is kind of old for never having appeared in an MLB game but it’s not like Scott Rice making his debut at age 31 or anything.
  • Was he a high/low draft pick? Conforto is neat because he was a first-round pick. Part of the Mike Piazza story was how he succeeded despite being a 62nd-round pick. Reynolds was a second-round pick, the 71st overall selection.
  • Did he fly through the minors? No, he was drafted in 2012.
  • Did he get better each year in the system? No, he’s yo-yo’d, with better performances in even-numbered years.
  • Did he have a come-from-nowhere year? Finally, we hit paydirt!

Reynolds’ 2014 season was as unexpected as it is unrepeatable. After posting a .635 OPS in 2013, Reynolds recorded an .859 OPS split between Double and Triple-A in 2014. Then last year he put up a .721 OPS. In Las Vegas, where Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a 1.048 mark. Where old pal – and pitcher – Darin Gorski put up an .885 mark. Last year 44 players came to bat for Las Vegas and over 5,466 PA, they posted a .788 OPS. Reynolds’ mark was 68 points below that.

So, what the heck happened in 2014 and why is it unrepeatable?

Reynolds posted a .433 BABIP in Double-A and followed that up with a .404 BABIP in Triple-A in 2014. Now, minor league BABIPs do not necessarily follow the same rules as ones recorded in the majors. But a mark over .400 is still extremely high. Last year in the PCL, only three batters who qualified for the batting title had a .400 BABIP. By contrast, Odubel Herrera had a .387 BABIP for the highest mark among MLB qualified hitters.

Does anyone expect Herrera to come within 50 points of that mark this year?

Last year in Las Vegas, Reynolds posted a .319 BABIP. FanGraphs does not have convenient team-wide numbers for minor league teams. But among those on the 51s with at least 100 PA, Reynolds’ .319 mark ranked 10th out of 19 players – exactly in the middle. And with this median BABIP, Reynolds posted an OPS 68 points below the team mark. And that team mark includes pitchers.

The bottom line is this – Reynolds had a solid debut the year he was drafted. And then he was not good at all in either 2013 or 2015. He was good in one year when he had a super-inflated BABIP. But he’s never been remotely close to those numbers either before or since. Here are his year-by-year BABIPs:

2012 – .290
2013 – .263
2014 – .433/.404
2015 – .319

The hits fell in for Reynolds in 2014. We’ve all seen guys who had poor luck, so It’s always nice to see a guy enjoy some good fortune. But it’s important to differentiate between what’s fortune and what’s skill. It’s not like Reynolds is without skills. He’s not completely allergic to taking a walk and he’s got acceptable power for a shortstop. If he breaks camp with the club, he likely won’t be the worst player in the majors.

But he’s a 25th man on the roster type – not someone to base any hopes upon. If everything goes right, maybe he can give you a 2013 Josh Satin season, although that BB% would be a happy surprise. It’s much more likely he would give you a 2015 Eric Campbell season, although again that BB% would be higher than expected.

My preference is to see guys from the farm system get a chance. If Reynolds goes north with the club, that will be a good thing because they rewarded a guy who came up through the ranks. A symbolic victory, if you will. But my preference would be for Campbell, another farm product, to get the spot because he’s a better overall fit, with experience playing both infield corners, as well as the outfield.

22 comments for “Why are fans enamored with Matt Reynolds?

  1. Chris F
    March 13, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Great article Brian…get one really reflective. I had two faves as a kid. Number 1 was Jerry Koosman, because I pitched and Im a lefty. 36 should be a retired number IMO. Hes an easy one to see why I liked. My other fave was, hands down, Lenny Randle. He was great in my eyes. During the 1978 HoF game in Cooperstown, he kept jawing with me all game. I wrote him a letter and included a 3×5 card for an autograph. One day I get an envelope in the mail addressed to me from “New York National League Baseball Club” and inside is an awesome pic of Lenny, personally autographed to me.

    • March 13, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      That’s a great story!

      Not sure if you’re on Facebook but Lenny is and he posts regular updates, usually a couple of times a week. Shares lots of pictures of him with everyone – young kids and old men. Someone’s gotta tell him about taking the Caps Lock off before he posts, though.

      • Chris F
        March 13, 2016 at 1:47 pm

        Im not, but that is awesome. Lenny has just such a great personality. Ill email you a pic of what he sent me.

        • March 13, 2016 at 2:09 pm

          very cool picture and a tremendous memento.

  2. Eraff
    March 13, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Everyone Loves:
    -The Backup QB
    -“Rudy”
    -Prospects

  3. Matty Mets
    March 13, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    “My preference is to see guys from the farm system get a chance.” A lot of fans share Brian’s sentiment. It’s why we were heartbroken to see Jose Reyes go. It’s why we love Wilmer Flores and really wanted Ike Davis to succeed. It’s why we’re rooting for Herrera, Smith, Nimmo, Montero, et al. We develop an attachment to home grown players. We see them grow up before our eyes like kids in the neighborhood.

    That said, Reynolds is not a major league quality player in my opinion. Cechini and Rosario maybe in time, but not Reynolds.

  4. Eraff
    March 13, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    I’m not ready to call it quits on Reynolds…but he hasn’t shown he’s an MLB Player yet. He had one big year, and it was a “Freakisk Stat Year” with a .400 plus babip.

    More Mysterious than the Reynolds Love or Rivera Love is the Tejada Hate

  5. March 14, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Tejada is not worth $3 million a year and is a free agent after 2016. I would trade him for a backup catcher, so we can send KP out, or for a prospect. Depth is great, but you need to promote and reward your prospects as well and I would give Reynolds a chance.

    • Name
      March 14, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      Clearly you didn’t read the article… or you read it and are still ignorant.

      • James Preller
        March 14, 2016 at 6:20 pm

        Two errors today for Reynolds.

        I am almost never in the “give the kids a chance” camp.

        I am all-in for true prospects like Conforto & Matz — and even Flores — but just because a guy is next in line doesn’t make him an answer at the ML level.

        To my mind, Reynolds has been getting “a chance” for the past 4-5 years. It’s up to him what he does with it. And so far, the answer is “not nearly enough.”

        • Eraff
          March 14, 2016 at 7:23 pm

          Amen…. This is a Pennant Winner— the door that opens for a young player is a door he kicks down—That’s That!!!

    • March 14, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      FanGraphs had Tejada earning $8.3 million last year and $9.9 million the year before. He’s likely not going to get the playing time he got last year but still, he’ll have to regress significantly not to be worth $3 million.

      You can argue that a team with a $100 million payroll can’t afford a $3 million backup SS but I don’t know if that’s a slam dunk. But it certainly isn’t true with a $140 million payroll.

  6. Julian
    March 14, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    I’m not a huge fan, but I kind of like him. Hitting .343 in the minors, even for just one season, gives him credibility somehow. Then again, not really.

    He will never be starter for a successful team, nor will he ever get 500 PA with the Mets. In fact, the role he would be (super-utility) is already taken by a guy 10x more talented: Wilmer Flores.

    I guess the only explanation is that seeing him on the bench during the playoffs was just hilarious…. there’s no other explanation.

  7. James Preller
    March 15, 2016 at 10:41 am

    It used to be, back in the 60s and 70s, that we’d find a page at the back of the Yearbook with the heading, “Future Stars.” They’d show 5-6 guys with very brief write ups. For most fans, it was the first time we ever heard of, or saw, those guys. This Buzz Capra is going to be a star!

    Now with the rise of the interwebs, we’ve witnessed an insane explosion of information, resulting in the Cult of the Prospect. People like to think they know stuff, and love to talk about some kid in low-A who might be worth keeping an eye on. Fine, whatever. It’s just one way that being a fan has changed over the years. The weirdest aspect of it, for me, is that some of these fans seem to lose perspective on the purpose of the ML club. They were happiest on that day in 2012 when the Mets started an all “home grown” team — and didn’t seem to notice that most of those guys were weak players and that the organization wasn’t really trying to win.

  8. Chris F
    March 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Well, with Tejada now off the team, Reynolds is real depth at SS

  9. March 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Cutting Tejada is not the move I would make but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

    • March 15, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      It’s been a curious series of decisions for Tejada. I didn’t understand the $3 million contract for a useless bench player.

      To be clear, if he plays, I think he has value. He could even start for these Mets and I wouldn’t have been upset. But as a backup to the backup (Flores), I didn’t see the day-to-day value — particularly when they could use a true 3B/1B backup, etc.

      So I decided long ago that he was an insurance policy — and that the Mets never, ever intended for him to be on the opening day roster. They had no intention of paying him the full $3 million.

      The odd thing is that the Mets have decided to dump him — their insurance policy — after Cabrera goes down with a knee injury. Curious.

      They must feel that Reynolds or Cecchini could play that role, if necessary, in a pinch. Also, they still have Omar Quintinalla’s number on speed dial! That’s a joke, but not really.

      This is good news for Eric Campbell, who actually fits the club’s needs a little better, with his ability to play 1B, 3B, and corner outfield positions. And by “play” I mean: He can stand there with a glove on his hand and make the base-level plays you expect.

  10. Eraff
    March 15, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Is Walker Taking any turns at 3rd?

    • March 15, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Campbell at 3B and Flores at SS and TJ Rivera at 2B today, according to lineup posted at MetsBlog. It’s a road game and Walker may not have made the trip.

  11. Patrick Albanesius
    March 17, 2016 at 2:48 am

    I don’t think Reynolds adds anything to this team that Tejada didn’t do better. That’s not a ringing endorsement of Tejada, though.

  12. James Preller
    March 17, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Questions:

    1) If cutting Tejada now to save $2.5 million, why tender him at all?

    2) Player’s Union can’t love this dynamic. Guy signs for $3 million. Gets cut (even though he is clearly better than the alternative). Earns only half million, now “free” to sign at league minimum (or more!) elsewhere. Did Ruben just lose $2 million balloons while having a solid Spring Training?

    3) If Tejada as insurance policy, so odd to release him after Cabrera has knee problems.

    I keep trying to figure this out. I wonder if the timing of the release is the result of pressure from Player’s Union, to at least give Ruben a chance to sign on with another team? Cutting him on, say, the last day of March would have benefitted the Mets more, but surely not Tejada. Curious all the way around. Sandy has shown an aversion to the simple “non-tender,” seemingly to prefer “getting something” for every player under the Mets control. Meanwhile, teams don’t want to pay Ruben $2.5 million, plus trade a player. To send anything back, they will want money from the Mets, and then — I imagine — might be willing to include a low-level body, i.e., “prospect,” to help make the transaction look better to certain types of fans: “He’s building the farm system!”

    In that possible scenario, will the Mets end up paying Ruben $1.5 million this year for three weeks of Spring Training baseball.

    Messy.

    • March 17, 2016 at 9:44 am

      The non-tender deadline came before either Cabrera or Walker joined the Mets. In his risk-averse way, Alderson decided to tender Tejada in case he wasn’t able to make a move later in the offseason for a middle infielder. Maybe he thought he could trade him if he didn’t need him.

      What I think is clear is that Alderson didn’t want to go into the season with a DP combo of Flores-Herrera and have Reynolds be his backup MI. Just way too much youth for his taste there.

      You can slice it a bunch of different ways but I keep coming back to he didn’t want Flores as his starting SS. I don’t have an issue with that but then to go and replace him with Cabrera is the move that doesn’t make sense to me.

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