Diamondbacks Spring Spotlight: Mark Reynolds

Coming off an impressive spring, Mark Reynolds went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, leaving three men on base in Arizona's season opener. What lies in store for the powerful third baseman in 2008?

In 2007, Mark Reynolds made his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After a splashy, torrid start, Reynolds settled down a bit, finishing with 17 homeruns, 20 doubles, and 4 triples in only 111 games, but also with only 37 walks to go with 129 strikeouts (yes, over a strikeout per game) and a .279/.349/.495 line which bears promise but also shows issues.

 04 Yakima 234 58 64 19 1 12 41 4 1 25 65 .274 .372 .517
  S Bend 15 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 .067 .125 .133
  Lancstr 12 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 4 .083 .083 .083
05 S Bend 434 65 110 26 2 19 76 4 1 37 107 .253 .319 .454
06 Lancstr 273 64 91 18 2 23 77 1 1 41 72 .333 .419 .667
  Tenn 114 23 31 7 0 8 21 0 1 11 37 .272 .346 .544
07 Mobile 134 28 41 9 2 6 22 2 1 20 32 .306 .394 .537
  Ariz 366 62 102 20 4 17 62 0 1 37 129 .279 .349 .495
Minors 333 1216 239 339 80 7 68 238 11 5 135 20  .279 .360

Statistics courtesy of The Baseball Cube

But Reynolds has learned a lot about the things he did right and the things he did wrong in 2007 in his first taste of big league action, and he has spent the spring working on becoming a more mature, patient hitter, and thinking about helping the team a little bit more while chasing the glory stats – homeruns, namely – a little bit less, as this following quote from the Arizona Republic reveals:

"I realized that's not me. I'm swinging at the first strike I see. Hanging curveball, hanging slider, fastball, whatever. That's what got me here, so I don't think I need to change it. I just realized, 'Why am I trying to change something that got me to the major leagues?' Strikeouts are going to be there. I've accepted it. I don't care what anybody writes about it or anybody says. It's just me."

Oh. Never mind.

It is hard to believe that Mark Reynolds has become the third baseman of the future for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Just two seasons ago, that moniker belonged to Chad Tracy who, frankly, is a better-looking player than Reynolds – more patience, more mature hitter, better peripheral stats. But Tracy missed more than half of the 2007 season with injuries, had knee surgery in September of last season, and does not look to be a part of the plan for the D-Backs in 2008.

To be sure, Reynolds has talent. He put up dominant displays of power in 2005 and 2006 in the minors (albeit Single-A), and was ripping up Double-A when he was called up in 2007. But his minor league strikeout-to-walk ratio was over 2:1, and he struck out almost once per game. While some power hitters can live with those numbers, a window can shut on a player awfully quickly when he is capable of hitting 25 homeruns but striking out 150 times and not posting particularly good AVG/OBP/SLG numbers.

It is important to remember that the Diamondbacks have a history of tolerating bad peripheral stats as long as the traditional numbers look good. Hence, guys ranging from Matt  Williams and Jay Bell to Chris Young and Eric Byrnes are given every opportunity to succeed. If Reynolds can hit 25 homeruns at the third base position, it may not matter that his on-base percentage is under .300 and he sets a major league record for strikeouts. Additionally, if he turns out to be an elite defensive player – which the early returns don't indicate to be the case – then he may meet the Pedro Feliz definition of "third base asset."

On the other hand, if Reynolds looked like he could take walks, then the Diamondbacks could handle his enormous strikeout totals – a la Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome, Ryan Howard, etc. – but if he is here to swing for the fences and live with the outcome, and can't be an elite power hitter, his days as a major league starter may be numbered.

Mark Reynolds has stated that he is just going to keep doing what he has been doing: the things that have gotten him to the major league level. While this is fine with guys like Dunn, Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano, and Cecil Fielder – quirky guys who remain incredibly valuable despite things they do that drive their coaches nuts – one has to wonder whether Mark Reynolds is this caliber of player.

Prediction: 145 G, 27 HR, 89 RBI - .267/.312/.467.

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