The Mark Reynolds problem

And no, the problem we're referring to isn't defense and it's not specifically the Ks. Everyone understands that Mark Reynolds(notes) has certain blemishes.

The problem -- and it's not a terrible one for fantasy owners -- is that Reynolds has significantly outperformed even the most aggressive preseason projections. (Bill James forecast a 101-32-105-10 line; Reynolds is on a 108-44-116-32 pace). He's currently the No. 13 overall player in the Yahoo! ranks, yet his average draft position was 204.7. There's a buy/sell/hold decision to make.

Reynolds is an outlier in all sorts of ways. He and Jayson Werth(notes) are the only players in the N.L. who've reached double-digits in both homers and steals. Reynolds leads the league in standard home run distance according to Hit Tracker; the typical Reynolds bomb travels 417.5 feet. His homer-per-flyball rate is 27.7 percent, the third highest in baseball.

So he's got a little power. This is something we all knew heading into the season, of course. Reynolds belted 28 homers in 2008. He also swiped 11 bases in 13 attempts last year, so the steals aren't a complete shock, although he rarely burgled in the minors.

The number that really seems impossible is the .275 batting average. Last year, at age 24, Reynolds hit .239 while establishing a new single-season strikeout record (204). Not surprisingly he also posted the league's worst contact-rate (62.3 percent). The strikeouts are still there in '09 (95 in 244 at-bats) and the contact percentage remains low (61.6), but Reynolds' average is suddenly respectable.

Why? Because nearly everything the guy puts in play falls for a hit. His current BABIP is .374. That's a remarkable number when you consider the fact that Reynolds has one of the lowest line-drive rates in baseball (14.2 percent).

In the table to the left you'll find the ten players who've hit the fewest line-drives as a percentage of total balls-in-play (minimum 200 at-bats). You'll notice that a low BABIP generally accompanies a low LD-rate...with one exception. It's tough to imagine how Reynolds can possibly keep this up, though his career BABIP is actually .357. (Home runs are excluded from BABIP, by the way).

If you think Reynolds will finish the season with an average north of, say, .260, then please share your reasoning in comments. Those of us who overinvested in him back in March are worried about the possibility of total collapse. The fear is that he's Rob Deer. The hope is that he's Adam Dunn 2.0: Stronger, faster, strikeoutier.

Were he to maintain something close to his current pace, then Reynolds would be no worse than a second round pick in 2010 drafts. That's how useful he's been. He's the most valuable third baseman for fantasy purposes year-to-date, just ahead of Evan Longoria(notes) (14) and David Wright(notes) (20) in Y! rank.

So...are you optimistic about his next 90 games? Or did the Reynolds market peak with the home run off Zack Greinke(notes) on Wednesday? It's important that we settle this today. Trade offers are pending...


Photo via Getty Images, data via Fangraphs

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