Earlier this week, Franmil Reyes found his name in headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The Cleveland Indians’ slugger was halted from returning to Progressive Field after video surfaced of him attending a Fourth of July party without wearing a mask. By doing so, he forced the team to stonewall him from practice until he tested negative for COVID-19.
Reyes has since been cleared and, for what it’s worth, was extremely apologetic while swearing this was a one-time occurrence.
The hope is that’s true, mainly so he can get back to doing what he does best -- annihilating baseballs.
In fact, as he prepares for his first full campaign in an Indians uniform, there’s reason to believe Reyes is about to make his presence known across the majors.
Well, you know those impressive power numbers he displayed last year? You can make the argument that they should’ve been even better.
For the 2019 season, Reyes slashed .249/.310/.512, hitting 37 home runs and generating an extremely impressive ISO (.263).
He did see production dips upon arriving in Cleveland through a trade with San Diego, which he attributed to struggles getting comfortable in a new environment.
Still, he was able to improve his performance during the final month of the campaign.
Admittedly, Reyes has some things to work on, especially when it comes to strikeouts. Still, his future looks bright, especially after displaying an above average slugging percentage (.512) and wOBA (.338) last year.
Per Baseball Savant, those two numbers weren’t accurate. And I mean that in the best possible way.
By breaking down the quality of contact Reyes displayed in 2019, the outlet estimates his slugging percentage and wOBA actually should’ve been notably higher. This may have been because only 13 players had a higher barrel-per-plate-appearance rate last year (9.3%).
Or because Reyes was in the top 2% of the league when it came to hard hit percentage (51.0%).
Or because only three players had a higher average exit velocity last season (93.3).
Thanks to this absurdly high quality of contact, Baseball Savant estimates his slugging percentage actually should’ve been .539, while determining a .360 wOBA would’ve been a more accurate portrayal of his offensive value.
Think about that.
Reyes’ actual slugging percentage was already 77 points higher than league average (.435). His wOBA was 18 points above average (.320). Yet, based on how frequently he obliterated opposing pitches, those impressive numbers still weren’t deemed authentic enough.
It certainly makes it easy to believe an impressive summer is around the corner.
So, too, does the improved contact Reyes displayed against all pitch types last year.
During the 2018 season, Reyes had strong average exit velocities against fastballs and breaking balls, while not quite seeing the same with offspeed pitches. That said, the average launch angle he generated with each pitch type left a little to be desired.
After spending that year topping almost 40% of his total batted balls, Reyes appeared to make better reads across the board last season. His launch angle increased against all pitch types, while his exit velocity with offspeed offerings escalated by almost ten miles per hour.
Overall, it appears there isn’t a type of pitch Reyes can’t turn into a souvenir.
As impressive as this was, we do need to revert back to our conversation about his strikeouts. Along with the wholesale launch angle upticks he generated, Reyes’ whiff rate with each pitch type also increased dramatically.
Make no mistake, trimming his 28.5% strikeout rate is the biggest task on Reyes’ plate this year. While it’s lofty to expect his discipline to drastically improve overnight, shrinking it back down to what he displayed during his final year with Triple-A El Paso (23.6%) would be a move in the right direction.
Regardless, there remain plenty of reasons to be bullish when it comes to Reyes’ 2020 performance.
His quality of contact reached astounding highs last year. He saw a 143% year-over-year increase in barreled balls last season, 34 of which landed in the bleachers. He arrived to camp this past spring after having shed 18 lbs over the winter.
Wrap that all together, and you can see why this coming season could represent the start of Reyes' rise to stardom.