Listed at 6’5” and weighing in at 275 pounds, Franmil Reyes is a massive human being. Reyes appears more likely to protect a Quarterback’s blindside than shag flyballs in the outfield. There is no question of his raw power. However, for the Indians and their fans, the hope is that he can develop into a more complete hitter like Frank Thomas, who combined power with patience and a high contact rate.
Coming off a solid season split between the Padres and Indians, in which he hit 37 HR, 81 RBI with a .249 average, Reyes is looking to improve on those numbers. Looking at a few chosen advance stats gives a clearer picture of his power. Last season, he finished in the 89th percentile in expected slugging, a formula taking exit velocity and launch angle into account, in the 98th percentile in hard-hit percentage, measuring the percentage of balls hit 95 mph or harder, and in the 99th percentile in exit velocity. All that to say that when he hits the ball, he hits it hard.
However, common to today’s slugger, the strikeouts have hurt him early in his career. His strikeout rate hovers around 30% with 236 strikeouts to only 71 walks. Somewhat concerning for the Indians is the fact that he appears to have become more of a free swinger in 2019 vs. 2018. He swung at everything in and out of the zone. Opposing teams especially attacked him low and out-of-the-zone, throwing in those zones 40% of the time. Overall, he only batted 2-for-57 on pitches completely outside of the zone. At this point, he does not seem to be a good outside-the-zone hitter. Therefore, he needs to consistently lay off these pitches. The hope is that he’ll revert to the form he showed in San Diego during the last two months of the 2018 season where he altered his two-strike approach and dropped his strikeout rate substantially.
What is encouraging for the Tribe is his willingness to be coached and make adjustments. Going into the offseason, the Indians wanted him to lose weight to give him the ability to play the outfield more effectively. He came into Spring Training eighteen pounds lighter. Further, like many large players, he had a very long swing when entering the league. Over the course of his early career, Reyes has shortened his swing and appears willing to make further changes to grow as a hitter.
Although the sample size is relatively small, these changes were producing results for Reyes in Spring Training. He appeared to be seeing and recognizing pitches sooner and better. Reyes was making solid, barrel-of-the-bat contact while reducing his strikeouts. Prior to the suspension of Spring Training, he went 12-for-27 with five HRs and eleven RBI. Further, he only struck out three times and walked twice. Clearly, those results are not sustainable over a full season, but they are encouraging nonetheless.
There is hope that he can take these improvements into the regular season.