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2020 was the best and worst of Franmil Reyes

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He’s large, he’s in charge, and he’s ninth in our voting

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cleveland Indians David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

For years prior to his arrival the role that now Franmil Reyes fills for Cleveland was done by a guy at the tail end of his prime or a lottery card. Whether Edwin Encarancion, Mike Napoli, or even Shelly Duncan, the “huge guy who blasts dingers” was either a memory of something past or a desperate hope for something special, but never anything with a sense of continuity. With the Trevor Bauer trade a year ago, and now after his first “full” season in Northern Ohio, we have a man who is here for the long haul, built to smash baseballs. He’s not a finished product yet, but in 2020, Reyes was a blast to have on the team.

Admittedly, the sub-.500 slugging percentage is a bit of a letdown, with Reyes clocking just .458 in that mark along with a .178 isolated power percentage (compared to .263 last year). But for the most part, Reyes was everything that was advertised. He ranked in the 91st percentile in exit velocity at 92.4 mph, the 79th percentage in hard hit rate, and the 81st percentile in barrel percentage. That’s the good side. The other part of that advertisement, the fine print if you will, is the 18th percentile strikeout rate and third percentile whiff rate. When Reyes hit the ball, it went a long way, and fast. The issue lay in that particularly important “hit the ball” part of his game.

That part was fun, though — Reyes had some absolute mammoth blasts this year. Throughout August he posted a .954 OPS with seven dingers. That’s that kind of power we wanted to see from him, and he delivered. The apex of the season was probably a 19-game stretch in August that saw a .394/.457/.690 line, and included this absolute moon shot:

This was what everyone was looking for out of Reyes, and while we only got nine of them, each one was a precious gem that we treasured. Here’s another, from two days later.

Again, we got nine of these beauts this year. It doesn’t seem like the right number; with how much power he packs.

The issue was how hard Reyes fell off. We all know that he’s not perfect. He swings and misses at astronomical rates. He hasn’t seen a high fastball he hasn’t wanted to try (and fail) to demolish. As Cleveland ground its way through a tough September, Reyes hit just .244/.330/.360, notching just a pair of dingers in the whole month. It was about as far as you could fall from that incredible June. Heck, you just get that slugging rate over .500 and we’re feeling alright, but Reyes just wasn’t making hard contact and judging from his 51 percent grounder rate and a mere 19.7 percent fly ball rate, he wasn’t getting any lift to the ball.

This is the most troubling thing about Reyes’ entire season. He hits the ball extremely hard. He upped his walk rate to 10%, which was kind of a best-case scenario for him in just his third season. He just needs to not keep hitting so many grounders. FranWheels Reyes is a real thing, sometimes (he scored from second on a single twice and took the extra base 28 percent of the time!), but dingers and doubles is his game. He gave us those, for a month, and it was beautiful. If we can get more of that, more of Good Franmil, then we have a horror show for opposing pitchers on our hands. If this is who he is though, that’s not bad either.

At the end of the day he was an above average at bat who made pitchers have to be very careful when they pitched to him. He kills mistakes. Growth is hoped for, almost expected, and a more refined hitter would be a nice adjustment for 2021. Whatever happens, it’s at least nice to know he’ll always love us.