Photo credit: USA Today

By Gavin Potter

Franmil Reyes returned to Cleveland’s lineup Tuesday night, and despite his 4 Ks, this writer isn’t worried about his long-term production. Some Guardians fans are:

Reyes definitely has struggled so far in 2022. In 150 PAs, he’s only slashed .196/.253/.297. The Guardians sure didn’t miss him while he was out of the lineup; They went 17-5 while he was on the IL with an injured hamstring.

Considering Cleveland’s current roster emphasizing contact (best contact % in MLB; lowest K% in MLB) and speed (10 players with at least 27.5 ft/s sprint speed per Baseball Savant), Reyes’ slugging, strikeout heavy, slower-running profile might not seem to fit.

However, whereas the Guardians make a lot of contact, they don’t hit for much power. Cleveland’s ISO is 8th-worst in baseball, and their SLG% comes in below-average as the 13th-worst. 

Luckily, power is Reyes‘ specialty: his ISO of .248 from 2019 to 2021 ranked 24th in baseball. In that time, his 15.1% barrel rate was 11th-best in the MLB. His HR Tuesday night (111.8 mph) was Cleveland’s hardest-hit ball since 6/14, when Josh Naylor had a double recorded at 112.4 mph off Alex Colome.

The swing-and-miss aspect to Reyes’ game isn’t ideal of course, but it’s not uncommon for power hitters to struggle a little with contact. Reyes’ 29.8% strikeout rate from 2019-2021 is just a tick above guys like Shohei Ohtani (28.2%), Teoscar Hernandez (28.8%), Brandon Lowe (29%), and Eugenio Suarez (29.1%).

It is interesting to see Reyes’ batted-ball directional numbers. The best version of Reyes is much less reliant on pulling the ball than many of his peers:

HitterISO 2019-2021Pull%Middle%Oppo%
Franmil Reyes.24839%37.8%23.2%
Josh Donaldson.24748.4%28.9%22.6%
Cody Bellinger .24946.7%32.7%20.6%
Mike Yastrzemski.24444.4%32.8%22.4%
Rhys Hoskins.25146.3%32.1%21.5%

The numbers say Reyes will turn it around: his xwOBA (.304) is much higher than his wOBA (.247) and the projection systems still really like him:

Projection system # of Games Projected in ‘22wRC+ Projected
ZiPS77126
Steamer83115
THE BAT80119
THE BATX80120
FanGraphs Depth Charts82121

Judging Reyes on 150 PAs this year is silly. He had 1540 MLB PAs before this year, where he carried a 119 wRC+! At just 26, the best may be yet to come.

The Guardians are indeed playing well right now, but with a roster full of 23-24 year olds, Reyes being 26 with 3+ years of MLB experience might just allow him to take on more of a leadership role in the clubhouse. We’ve already heard about his fun-loving nature.

For years, Clevelanders yearned for a right-handed power bat – now that they have one, riding out a slump, even if it’s painful, is the prudent move. Where would the Guardians be if they traded/cut Jose Ramirez when he slumped for ~450 PAs between 2018 and 2019?

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