I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Franmil Reyes is striking out a lot.
The worst strikeout percentage in MLB among qualified hitters is 34.8%. Because of his stint on the injured list earlier this season, Reyes doesn’t have the requisite number of at-bats to be a qualified hitter yet. If he did, his 41.4% strikeout percentage would rank as the worst in MLB.
It’s the worst strikeout percentage of his big league career, up from 32% a season ago.
In this day and age though, strikeouts aren’t quite the mortal sin they once were. Well, as long as you’re making an impact when you are able to put the ball in play. Unfortunately, Reyes isn’t making much of an impact. At least not a positive one.
Even with a .337 BABIP, he is batting .205 this season through 174 plate appearances. Worse, in a Guardians lineup in desperate need of some thump, Reyes has been more of a thud, slugging a career-low .311 with a paltry four home runs to his name.
What’s interesting is that Reyes still ranks in the top 2% of the league in average exit velocity (94.1 mph) and hard-hit percentage (54.4%). But his xBA is a career-low .210, which ranks in the bottom 5% of the league. Reyes’ batted ball profile is almost identical to previous seasons, with a career-low flyball percentage (21.1%) and a 24.4% line drive percentage that is up from 21.7% last year.
It’s not as if he is chasing more pitches, which is what you’d expect from a player experiencing a surge in strikeouts. His 26.8% chase percentage is the second-lowest single-season mark of his big league career, though is making contact less than usual when he does chase. His 34.7% chase contact percentage is a steep drop from the 49.3% mark Reyes finished with last season.
The problem is that he can’t hit anything but fastballs.
Breaking pitches have been particularly difficult for Reyes. Accounting for 39.3% of the pitches he has seen this season, opposing pitchers are throwing him a higher percentage of breaking balls than at any other point in his big league career. Of the 280 breaking pitches he has been thrown this season, Reyes has only converted six of them into hits, all singles. His 61.8% whiff percentage on breaking pitches this season is a huge step backward from last season, when his whiff percentage on breaking pitches was 43.6%.
He has fared even worse against offspeed pitches. They’ve only accounted for 9% of the pitches he has seen this season — 64 pitches, to be exact — but Reyes has yet to convert one of them into a hit. He is batting .000 against offspeed pitches.
His average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage are propped up entirely by his modest success against fastballs. Reyes is batting .284 and slugging .463 against fastballs, with an xBA of .296 and an average exit velocity of 96.3 mph. All four of his home runs have come against fastballs.
If you’re an opposing pitcher, the scouting report on Reyes seems pretty cut and dry. Be careful where you throw your fastballs — definitely don’t throw them down the middle — and get him flailing at your curveballs, changeups, and sliders.
Seems to me his pitch recognition has cratered, which is unfortunate because he only has one job with the Guardians: Hit. Only being able to hit fastballs makes that kind of difficult. I don’t know how you help a 26-year-old designated hitter in his fifth year in the big leagues relearn pitch recognition, but Reyes is going to be dead weight in Cleveland’s lineup until he does.