• Dec

    The Mark Reynolds evaluation

    It might seem strange to some fans that many observers and scouts feel Mark Reynolds is a great addition to the Orioles lineup after being acquired yesterday from the Diamondbacks for pitchers David Hernandez and Kam Mickiolo. Afterall, the guy hit .198 and struck out 211 times in 596 plate appearances (PA).  However, if you look into him a little closer, you’ll soon find out why he’s a prime candidate to become an impact bat in the Orioles lineup in the years to come.

    Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat. Reynolds is going to strike out and he’s going to strike out often. The right-handed hitting Reynolds is the only player in major league history to strike out more than 200 times in a season and he’s done it three times, including a major league record 223 whiffs in 2009. It’s quite apparent that Reynolds is not a good two strike hitter and it’s something he needs to improve upon as he matures as a hitter. Over his career, he’s hit just .138 with a .495 OPS and 767 strikeouts in 1380 PA while batting with two strikes. In case you were wondering this means he strikes out in over half his plate appearances once he reaches two strikes. Just to put that in perspective Nick Markakis hits .238 with a  .638 OPS and 488 strikeouts in 1549 PA with two strikes. But as the old saying goes an out is an out and strikeout is certainly better than a double play, something Reynolds rarely does (only 31 over four season in 1982 PA, 7% DP rate compared to 11% major league average).  Compare that to Miguel Tejada who grounded into 100 double plays (25 a year average) in his four full season with the Orioles from 2004-2007.

    The good news is despite the strikeouts; Reynolds is willing to take a walk and has seen his walk rate climb in each of his major league seasons from 8.9% as a rookie in 2007, to a 13.9% last year.  In fact, Reynolds does a pretty good job of seeing a good amount of pitches and will help the lineup work the starting pitchers which of course is something they haven’t been very good at in the past.

    Reynolds pitches per PA (2008-2010)
    2008 - 4.24
    2009 - 4.09
    2010 - 4.31

    Compare that to Nick Markakis:

    Markakis pitches per PA (2008-2010)
    2008 - 3.86
    2009 - 3.89
    2010 - 4.04

    But the real reason the Orioles got Reynolds is his power, and power is something he has plenty of.  Even during his “off-year” in 2010, 21 of his 32 home runs went over 400 feet and three went over 450 feet. In other words, he’s not getting many cheap home runs.  His number one comp according to Baseball Reference for similar batters through 26-years old is Mike Schmidt.  His second comp was Dean Palmer who ended up hitting 38 homers and put up a .876 OPS as a 27-year old.

    Another reason to expect a comeback season was injuries and some bad luck. Reynolds hurt his hamstring coming out of spring training that he said never really felt right until the All-star break. That certainly contributed to his drop from 24 stolen bases in 2009 to seven last season. He also hurt his hand late in the year and played through it in a miserable September that saw him go 5-for-64 (.078) with no extra base hits.  He was also somewhat unlucky last season when he did make contact putting up a .257 BABIP after coming into the season with a career .343 BABIP. Those things all certainly explains his poor .198 average and is certainly an encouraging sign for a bounce back season in 2011.

    There are some other concerns besides the strikeouts. One concern is that he might be a bit of an Arizona ballpark (Chase Field) creation. His .786 OPS away from there is respectable, but it’s certainly lower than his career home OPS of .852. The good news though is that Camden Yards favors flyball hitters because of the fairly short power alleys and with a career 47.8 % fly ball rate and a 20.5 % HR/Flyball rate that bodes well for some good production. One other small concern is he’s never hit well in any AL East ball park, but the small sample size makes the numbers fairly irrelevant.

    Defensively Reynolds has improved each year in the major leagues and most observers feel he’s at least solid average at the hot corner.  The best news is he’s a hard worker and has shown the inclination to improve so there’s no reason not to expect continues improvement in this area.

    I could see Reynolds settling into a .820-.850 OPS guy with 30-35 home runs a year over the next 4-5 years. As long as you are willing to put up with those strikeouts, he’s going to be an exciting addition to the Orioles lineup.

    Things to watch during games next season:

    1.       Pitchers have been going to more of an offspeed assortment to get Reynolds out over the last few years as he’s seen fewer and fewer fastballs over the past three seasons. He’s not a good slider hitter and has to lay off that slider away in order to cut down on the strikeouts. AL pitchers are more off-speed heavy than their NL counterparts on average so it will be interesting to see who adjusts first.

    2.       Can he improve his two-strike hitting? In his career, he’s basically an out once pitchers get two strikes on him. Can new hitting coach Jim Presley help him become at least a passable two-strike hitter?

    3.       He’s hit best batting fourth with a .849 OPS vice a .798 batting 5th and .812 batting 6th.

    Overall, although it was tough to lose David Hernandez, the Orioles have some depth when it comes to right-handed relieving, especially if they resign Koji Uehara. Anytime you can trade bullpen arms for a potential impact bat just entering his prime you do it every day of the week and twice on Saturday. This looks like a good solid trade by MacPhail.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.