Navigating The Grey Area: Reyes The Roof Because It’s All On Fire

So I had a dream the other night after coming home from a local craft brewery that I frequent, which had some excellent options on tap. A vanilla barrel-aged bourbon stout (several good stouts), a dry-hopped Mosaic sour ale, and a citrusy IPA. They were all fantastic, I kid you not (If you arrived here searching for craft beer, welcome). Which, may or may not have enhanced my sleep. I digress. In the dream, I was in an underground hip-hop club downtown. The crowd was in rhythm, and needless to say, the place was hoppin’. It was a Tuesday. And I saw Dave Chapelle there with his boy, Karl Lake, tearing up the dance floor. I look to the stage and I see Chuck D MCing. He then calls up to the stage the Grandmaster Melle Mel, for the duo to perform together (if you are here researching the history of hip-hop, also welcome). It was a lit freestyle to a bass and drum beat. After enjoying the music for a minute, I look over to the bar… and whom do I see, none other than Emilio Estevez, the Mighty Duck man. And he tipped his hat to me like *this*, also in approval saying, “Damn, this is off the chain.” To which I replied, “Okay boomer” proceeding to tell him to get woke like any self-respecting millennial would. Following the set, I go to the restroom for relief and I hear a bomb drop. Someone was doing work in the stall. The mystery laborer then emerged as Franmil Reyes. He washes up, and as he was leaving the restroom I noticed toilet paper stuck to his cleat…

I awoke in a cold sweat! Reality settled in that it was only a dream. What did it all mean? Then it hit me, this was prophetic… Franmil has unfinished business. I shook the wife awake, “He has unfinished business!” She tells me to shut up and goes back to sleep. No matter, I just had a premonition (word of the day). In a moment of complete clarity, I saw everything. I saw how the pieces fit like a giant, glorious jigsaw puzzle. I connected the dots: hops to hip-hop, hip-hop club to breakfast club, Chuck D to Ducks, dropping bombs on the mic to dropping bombs on the john, the robot to the homer bot, and lastly Gordon’s unenlightened words echoed in my head, “off the chain”… he’s about to be unchained at DH on the Indians, no more lost ABs. Everything pointed to him! Everything was about Franmil Reyes. The Franimal is about to be unleashed. My mission became clear, let’s dive in…

 

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Franmil emerged last season as a reliable power threat, continuing where he left off in his debut 2018 season. I directly direct your attention in the direction of this table:

BB% K% AVG OBP BABIP SLG ISO
2018 8.4 28.1 .280 .340 .345 .498 .218
2019 8.6 28.5 .249 .310 .279 .512 .263

Looking at the first layer under the hood, we see that his power ratios actually took a step forward and increased. Though SLG and ISO trended up (especially ISO by nearly 50 points) his on-base metrics trended down. His BABIP dropped almost 70 points lowering his average by 30. Which begs the question, was he unlucky or is this his reality in a full season? His career BABIP across all levels is .302, so he definitely had a bit of bad luck there. I then see that his xBA (expected batting average) last season was .264 compared to .251 in 2018. The metrics further support that luck was not on his side despite more power. Let’s take a look at his batted ball profile.

GB% LD% FB% HR/FB% Pull% Hard%
2018 50.3 22.1 22.1 29.6 29.3 47.5
2019 43.8 25.5 26.7 31.1 32.2 51.0

So the first thing I see here, which is one of the few knocks on him, is he hits way too many groundballs, hence sleeper. But last year he trimmed that down 6.5% which is certainly a step in the right direction. His HR/FB rate is Joey Gallo high and now that he’s accumulated 833 PAs plus the gear that he found in AAA prior to his call up, this looks to be his norm. When he connects, he really connects. This holds true looking at his 51% hard-hit rate which was good for 5th in all of baseball. And behind him some guy named Olson that gets tossed around these circles quite often. So, recalling the data above he improved his batted ball profile yet his average went down. If he takes another step forward in elevating the ball, there could be a positive slingshot in regression (progression?) to the mean. Let’s move on to some statcast data.

Barrel% EV EV+ (FB/LD) LA xSLG xwOBA xwOBACON
2018 11.6 92.3 6.8 .448 .331 .430
2019 14.8 93.3 98.2 9.5 .539 .360 .478

Now we’re talking. Looking at quality of contact metrics, as well as expected stats, all suggest he got better and improvements are coming (including LA which is likely the cause of his high GB%). His Barrel% was 15th in baseball; his Exit Velocity 4th; his EV+ (what I call it, EV only on FB and LD which is really nice statistic) also 4th – behind only Miguel Sano, Aaron Judge, and Nelson Cruz; and breakfast-ratio (ha!) good for 11th in all of baseball. What that means is he is getting really good contact; additionally, 2018 he did better than he should have, and last year he got better with worse results. Expected stats aren’t gospel, but because of the elite level he’s at a modest improvement in his GB rate via Launch Angle would likely have a significant effect. What he needs to do is go to the Tommy La Stella School for the Launch Angle Challenged. In my 2019 Season Recap, I outlined the major jump in HRs across the league and the top performers in AB/HR with many of them joining the LAR (Launch Angle Revolution), including those Reyes shares elite contact with.

Did my dream actually happen or was that in itself a dream? Who knows? What’s important is you can fight the power early when guys like Reyes can be found late. If you start your draft with speed like Turner/FTJ/Mondesi etc pair them with power bargains like Reyes to balance your team out. Last season he finished with 37 HR and 81 RBIs in 494 ABs. Now as a DH in Cleveland he should get even more ABs over a full season. Grey has him projected for 73/39/90/1/.271 in 544 ABs. His average might be more in the .265 range but we’re splitting hairs. That’s a steal at his current ADP of 148 when you could swipe him a couple rounds earlier. 40 home runs at pick 120+ is a hell of an OF3 or UT. He can be the Chuck D to your Flava Flav. With all kinds of speed in front of him: Lindor, Mercado, and Ramirez, he could threaten 100 RBIs with a lot of movement into scoring position. Prophetic dreams aside, Franmil hits bombs and that can be had cheap. Don’t follow the crowd, you gotta give it up.

 

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