The comparisons between Jemile Weeks and Jose Reyes are only natural. The make-up, the speed, the dreadlocks, both resemble each other immensely. The only real difference is age. Weeks is only three years younger than Reyes, who has already played nine major league seasons.
Coming off a rookie season in which Weeks led the A's in average, perhaps the comparisons are justified. He hit .303 last season, while Reyes hit only .273 in his first full season. Hitting for average is only one part of the game, however, and Weeks still has a lot of work to do to become a better all-around player.
Since his first full year in 2005, Reyes has emerged as one of the league's biggest game-changers. Weeks possesses all the skills required to achieve similar status; it's just a question of whether or not he can put it all together.
Sophomore seasons are usually indicators of whether or not a young player is for real, so this year will be a big step in terms of his development.
Here's how Weeks currently stacks up against Reyes, and what he'll have to improve if he wants to compete on the level of Reyes.
By far the best part of Weeks' game, look for him to only improve in this area as he gets more comfortable with major league pitching.
This is also the area where Weeks has the ability to outshine Reyes. Despite the talent Reyes brings to the field, he's hit .300 or above only once since 2006.
Reyes also has a different philosophy when he comes to the plate. If given the opportunity, Reyes will look to drive the ball with power, sometimes hindering his average. Weeks is more focused on getting on base, resulting in a higher average.
This is one aspect of Weeks' game that is slowly starting to rise. Though smaller than Reyes, Weeks still has the potential to surprise opposing pitchers with his power.
This spring training, Weeks amassed as many home runs as he did all of last year in 360 less at-bats. That includes a game on March 15th against Texas that saw him hit two home runs, one from each side of the plate.
Though Reyes doesn't put up the big home run numbers, he is a very good gap hitter. When he hits a ball into the gap is when he's most dangerous, stretching doubles into triples while the outfielder tries to chase it down.
Playing in the vast confines of the Coliseum, Weeks will be able to take advantage of all the space in the outfield and use it against the opposing team to rack up extra-base hits just as Reyes does.
Speed is one area of any sport that you just can't teach, and Reyes owns the edge over Weeks in that department. Now, when it comes to speed there are very few who can compare to Reyes, but there are tactics that can aid a baserunner in his abilities.
In 2006, MLB's all-time steals leader Rickey Henderson joined the Mets in a special instructor capacity to mentor players in baserunning, most notably Reyes. Over the past couple seasons, Henderson has worked with the A's periodically in a similar position, working with Weeks. The A's also have a good veteran in Coco Crisp from whom Weeks can learn as well.
Last year, Weeks was caught stealing a third of the time, being thrown out 11 times while stealing only 22 bases. With room for improvement, expect Weeks to work on his approach and how he reads pitchers. A better understanding may result in a higher percentage of stolen bases, but don't expect him to match the kind of numbers Reyes has put up in years past.
Second base is a position that doesn't require much arm strength, but it's still important when turning double plays. Surprisingly, this aspect of the game has given Weeks some trouble despite its apparent insignificance in reference to the position.
Numerous times last season Weeks had errant throws, as he was unable to make plays an everyday big leaguer should make. Oakland fans shouldn't fret, however, as these are plays that can easily be remedied, especially after working with former Athletic and current special adviser Phil Garner.
Weeks' fielding is without question the biggest flaw in his game thus far in his young career. In fact, he had the most errors of any American League second baseman with 13, despite playing in only 96 games.
As previously mentioned, working with Phil Garner will help improve Weeks' defense, but don't expect Weeks to garner Gold Glove consideration anytime soon.
Reyes' defense, however, isn't much better. Last season, Reyes' .968 fielding percentage was actually a point lower than Weeks'. Apparently this is one area where both players can improve.