By now its no secret that the shortstop pool is easily the shallowest spot in fantasy baseball which cast a high price on the top two guys Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki. While those two both deserve their first round draft status, it wasn’t so long ago that another shortstop was seen as being worthy of those levels. I am referring of course to New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes who for three years running put up first round numbers in fantasy baseball leagues and was a sure fire first round pick. The last few seasons have knocked hid status down a bit however as leg injuries and a health scare ate into his at-bats and stats in both 2009 and 2010. Despite all that, Reyes remains the no doubt number 3 shortstop for fantasy baseball 2011 and after him there is a major dropoff in the position to aging injury question mark vets such as Derek Jeter (aging) and Jimmy Rollins (aging and injury prone). So once again Reyes will carry a nice price tag into the season thus many will depend on a big year from the Mets’ leadoff hitter. So what exactly can we expect from Reyes this season as far as numbers are concerned? Can he turn back the clock to 2007 and once again be a stud player? Lets take a look at what I think he will have in store for this season.
Throughout the offseason and all through spring training, everyone inside and outside the Mets organization to a man have raved about the shape that Jose Reyes is in. They note that seems to be faster than ever and has put on added muscle which is showing up in his scorching line drives and power. This is no doubt what you would like to hear about Reyes but we do hear this about scores of players each season, only to see them fail to live up to the hype once the games count. In Reyes’ case however I think its legit as he is playing for a new contract as he will be a free agent after this season. Word is that Reyes wants Carl Crawford ($140 million) money and obviously to come close to that salary he needs to stay on the field and produce.
The injuries have been the major issue holding Reyes back the last two seasons as 2009 was ruined with leg injuries, while 2010 was more health related with a thyroid issue early on and than a quad injury in the summer. Despite all this, Reyes still amassed 563 at-bats which is a very high numbers of plate appearances. And really when you look at it, 2009 was the only season he was really on the shelf as his at-bats read like this from 2005-2008:
Those are some massive plate appearance seasons and so its overblown to say Reyes has been injury prone. On the contrary he was easily one of the most durable players during that time and even last year he was close enough to 600 at-bats to leave 2009 as the outlier. No doubt the drive for the next contract will keep Reyes on the field as much as he can help it and in order to prevent the injuries, Reyes bulked up and got in great shape in the offseason. Hence all the glowing compliments about his condition and physical looks.
Delving into the numbers now, Reyes can do it all. There is no debating that fact. Despite not having an ideal OBP for a leadoff hitter, Reyes is still a .286 career hitter who will easily threaten to score 120 runs with full health. The drop to 30 steals last season was a bit disconcerting but Reyes has proven to be among the best stolen base guys in the game and so a run at 50 is certainly possible. The days of 60-plus steals could be a thing of the past but again we are talking about a contract motivated guy who will probably go all-out to get the numbers he needs to cash in.
Finally as far as pop is concerned, you wont get more than around 15 home runs from Reyes. That’s not his game and never has been. Sure he could see a slight uptick there as he further fills into his frame but looking for anything more than 15 is not being realistic. All in all though, Jose Reyes stands a great chance of supplying first round value in 2011 for a third round price.
2011 PROJECTION: .284 108 R 15 HR 54 RBI 51 SB