Few players had a better opening week than Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds. He has started the season by going 9 for 22 with three home runs, four runs scored, and eight RBIs. His early production caught the eye of fantasy owners who made him one of the most-added players of the past week. Reynolds’ ownership percentage has gone from 4 percent to 41 percent in CBS leagues. He experienced a similar spike in ESPN leagues, where he went from 1.5 percent owned to 41.6 percent owned. Reynolds was the second-most added player on Yahoo this week, checking in behind only Kendall Graveman. In 60 percent of leagues, there’s still a chance you could add Reynolds to your roster. The obvious question is: Should you?
We’ll start by looking at the good and the bad when it comes to Reynolds. At the close of the article, a suggested decision will be offered (buy, sell or hold). Is Reynolds a viable fantasy option moving forward?
At this point owners, are only dealing with a week’s worth of data. It’s an incredibly small sample, and it’s impossible to spot any long-lasting trends yet. But if there is one positive sign to be optimistic about, it might be Reynolds’ strikeout rate.
For his career, Reynolds has a whiff rate of 31 percent. He’s never finished a season with a strikeout rate under 25 percent. However, he did take a positive step forward a season ago by dropping it to a career low 25.4 percent. So far in 2017, Reynolds’ whiff rate is 16.7 percent. If there was any real change to his approach this past season, it looks like those gains might hold this year.
Reynolds also has shown the ability in the past to provide major power production. From 2009-2012, he had three straight seasons hitting at least 32 homers, and he clubbed a career-high 44 in 2009. It’s been a number of years since he’s looked like that type of player, and it’s safe to assume that, at his current age, his power production will be diminished.
The move to Coors Field seemed to provide Reynolds with a bump in a couple of categories in which he’s typically struggled. His batting average was a career-high .282 a season ago, and his .356 OBP was noticeably higher than his .327 career mark. Somewhat surprisingly, he didn’t see much of a bump in power production at the same time.
The obvious issue with Reynolds is that he could quickly be out of a job. Ian Desmond was supposed to be the starting first baseman in Colorado this season, but he’s been out since mid-March with a broken hand. Publicly, the team has said that Desmond should only be out four-to-six weeks, and it sounds as if he’s progressing on schedule. Desmond could be back in Colorado’s lineup in a matter of weeks. Even with a hot start, that would leave Reynolds without a regular spot in the Rockies lineup. The team has much more incentive to play Desmond, who they signed to a 5-year, $70 million deal this offseason, than Reynolds (1-year, $1.5 million). There really is nowhere else they can play Reynolds defensively (unless you wanted to put him in the outfield, but my guess is you don’t).
Reynolds’ track record should also give fantasy owners plenty of caution when assessing this recent outburst. He hasn’t hit 20 home runs since 2014, and the highest batting average he tallied since 2010 was .230 before last season’s .282 mark. PECOTA projected Reynolds to finish this year with a .237 BA and 12 home runs. Those numbers are much closer to what owners should expect than something like .260 with 20+ long balls. At 33 years old, it’s more than likely that Reynolds’ best days are behind him.
Buyer’s Guide: Sell (unless he’s simply a short-term CI option).
The playing-time concerns hang over Reynolds’ hot start like a dark cloud. Unless Desmond experiences a setback, there’s just not any realistic way Reynolds will see regular playing time this season. You might hang on to Reynolds through the first few weeks of Desmond’s return to ensure the injury doesn’t flare up but, beyond that, there’s not much season-long value here.
The one exception to selling on Reynolds is if you simply need a short-term stopgap at a corner-infield spot. He’s going to be the everyday first baseman until Desmond returns, and he’s likely to return more value at this point than any other option readily available in the free-agent pool. If you’re heavily relying on Reynolds for the rest of the season, something could have gone wrong on draft night.
If you own Reynolds, now is the time to try and deal him for whatever you can get. Maybe there’s an owner in your league struggling at 1B/3B. Reynolds could be an attractive option to them given the production they’re looking at after a week’s worth of games. If you can get an owner to bite and return anything of value, now is the time to do it.
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