Not a Rookie: Mark Reynolds
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.
Projections for 2008 vary:
Ron Shandler: .260/.325/.467
Bill James: .294/.367/.537
Shandler is the pessimist, James the optimist, ZIPS in the middle. I'm on Shandler's side and even a bit lower at .258/.321/.455, as I think the pitchers are going to adjust to him this year and cut out some of his batting average and OBP, though he'll crush enough mistakes to keep the SLG respectable.