Career Profile: Mark Reynolds
Mark Reynolds is one of the most unique players to come around in awhile. I did a Prospect Retro for him three years ago, and I thought he is an interesting case to revisit. What can Orioles fans expect?
Mark Reynolds was drafted in the 16th round in 2004, from the University of Virginia. Scouts respected his power: he'd hit 15 homers as a freshman in '02 and 11 more as a junior in '04 along with 18 steals. But he was unable to hit even .300 in college ball, due to his all-or-nothing approach. That problem, a wrist injury, and questions about his defensive position hurt his draft stock. He slammed 12 homers in 64 games of rookie ball after signing, but struck out 65 times. I didn't put him in the 2005 book for space reasons, but he would have rated as a Grade C prospect, interesting but with flaws.
Reynolds spent 2005 at South Bend in the Midwest League, playing shortstop and third base. He hit .253/.319/.454 with 19 homers. Good power, but a lowish batting average and weak OBP. I rated him as a Grade C, and again he didn't make it in the book. I didn't think he'd make enough contact against better pitching.
Reynolds moved up to Lancaster in the Cal League in 2006, hitting .333/.419/.667 in 76 games. That's a great place to hit, but he also showed improved plate discipline with a higher walk rate. Promoted to Double-A Tennessee, he hit .272/.346/.544 in 30 games, a smallish sample but nevertheless an indicator that he would, in fact, produce against better pitching even though his strikeout rate remained high. I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2007 book, projecting him as a Mark Bellhorn-type super utility player.
Reynolds hit .306/.394/.537 in 37 games in Double-A last year, then hit .279/.349/.495 in 111 games for the Diamondbacks, with 17 homers.
Obviously his hitting for Arizona was solid, though I remain concerned about his high strikeout rate (129 whiffs in 111 games) eating into his production. His walk rate is OK. Visually he appears to me to be an average third baseman, neither particularly good nor particularly bad. The defensive metrics agree with this, rating him as average or slightly below in most ways.
I think the Bellhorn comp still holds, though Reynolds should be slightly better and has an advantage in that he's already established in the majors at age 23 and Bellhorn didn't break through until he was 27. Reynolds should continue to produce good power numbers, but I expect his batting average will take a hit this year and in the long run I think he's more of a .240-.250 hitter most seasons than a .275-.280 one. Reynolds is still pretty young, and if he can improve his plate discipline a bit more, he could exceed that. He has shown flashes of being able to improve his strike zone judgment.
That's what I wrote in February of 2008. How do things look now?
Reynolds hit .239/.320./.458 with 28 homers, 64 walks, and 204 strikeouts in 539 at-bats in 2008, OPS+ 95, WAR 1.4. He followed that in '09 with a .260/.349/.543 season, including 44 homers and 223 strikeouts, OPS+127, WAR 3.6. He had one of the most unique seasons in major league history last year, hitting below the Mendoza Line at .198, but with 32 homers, 83 walks, and 211 strikeouts, 98 OPS+, WAR 2.4. I think the.198 last year was just a BABIP correction to hitting .260 in 2009. His career slash line of .242/.334/.483, 108 OPS+ is his level of ability, with yearly variation on either side of that, and is fairly in line with what I expected in the 2008 Not a Rookie piece.
Reynolds was below average defensively in '08 and '09 according to Fangraphs, but was a tad above last year. His reliability has improved, with yearly boosts in fielding percentage, but his range is nothing special. He's adequate enough to remain at third base as long as he hits.
The Mark Bellhorn comp turned out to be not especially accurate; Bellhorn's career slash was .230/.341/.394, OPS+92. The most comparable list by Sim Score through age 26 is interesting: Mike Schmidt, Dean Palmer, Ron Gant, Matt Williams, Bill Melton, Pat Burrell, Cory Snyder, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Young, and Pete Incavigila. Reynolds isn't Schmidt obviously (especially on defense), but most of the other comps make sense: sluggers with low batting averages but considerable power and some walks. Adjusting for league/park effects, Reynolds is pretty much the player that his minor league numbers said he would be.
He's with Baltimore now, so it will be interesting to see how the switch of leagues and parks impacts him. Put me down for a .234/.330/.479 mark.