Before this post begins, I’d like to make one point. Yes, I know that in general, it’s preferable that young players play daily (usually in the minor leagues) rather than occupy a seat on a major league bench. And for the most part, I agree with this. However, with that said, I’d like to make a case for Matt Reynolds to begin the season with the Mets.
Mar 25, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Mets second baseman Matt Reynolds (55) works out prior to the game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Assuming Daniel Murphy is ready by opening day, he and Wilmer Flores will be the starting double play combination. Ruben Tejada is projected as the primary backup middle infielder. However, I’d like to see Matt Reynolds in that role.
First, let’s look at what the Mets have in Tejada. He’s a career .254 hitter, with a career OBP of .328. Tejada provides neither power nor speed on offense. Defensively, in a role that he’ll likely be asked to fill for Flores late in games, Tejada projects as slightly above average, with a career UZR/150 of 1.8. Tejada is not likely to outperform his career averages on either offense or defense. Essentially, Tejada is a mid-range backup, who isn’t likely to intimidate the opposition at the plate late in games.
And then there’s Matt Reynolds. Reynolds has become the darling of Port Saint Lucie, as many are enamored of his .343 average in Double A and Triple A (combined) in 2014. Reynolds has shown some power (6 home runs) and speed (20 stolen bases) in the minors last year. Defensively, there is some question about his ability to play shortstop, however, he has played solid defense this spring.
So why might it make sense to have Reynolds on the roster rather than Tejada? It’s simple. Reynolds is more athletic, has gap-to-gap power, and is an offensive threat late in games. Reynolds may project as slightly less effective than Tejada in the field, but Reynolds’ offensive prowess more than compensates for the defensive differential. Reynolds clearly has a much higher upside than does Tejada.
Will sitting on the bench be detrimental to Reynolds’ development? It might be. He would not be playing every day. However, there’s a value to having him on the big league club, facing big league competition, and being around big league teammates. The Mets aren’t sure that Reynolds is a future starter. So why not let him stick with the major league team, and provide a stronger option off the bench? This is the year the Mets expect to contend. Why not try to populate the team with the best possible 25 players?
I realize the scenario above will likely not be a reality. However, I really question why it should not be. Conventional thinking may be to have a displaced starter (Tejada) on the bench. There are also 40-man roster issues that would have to be worked out to keep Reynolds on the team. However, maybe I’m over-simplifying it, but I’d rather see the most talented players on a team that is ready to contend.
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