Arguably the most electrifying player in Major League Baseball, 25-year-old shortstop Jose Reyes has seen himself become the heart and soul of the New York Mets.
Whether or not that is a good thing, however, is up for debate.
Reyes broke into the big leagues at 20 years old in 2003 when he hit .307 with 32 RBI and 13 stolen bases in just 69 games for the Mets. But that sort of success could not be duplicated in 2004, where he hit a lowly .255 with an OBP of .271.
It seemed as if the Mets had found another Alex Escobar.
"He's young. Give him some time."
Those were the words of the wise around Queens, and boy were they right. Since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2005, Reyes touts a .287 batting average with 264 RBI and 258 stolen bases in 633 games for New York, while winning a Silver Slugger Award in 2006 and making All-Star appearances in 2006 and 2007.
Even though the Mets have faltered as a team the last few years, Reyes (despite what others may say) has been consistently productive every season. Couple that with the fact that he is only 25 years old, the name "Reyes" just becomes downright scary to other teams in the NL East.
Despite all of his success, Reyes has been on the recieving end of a lot of criticism in New York the past couple of seasons. As a 23-year-old stud in 2006, Reyes put up phenomenal numbers (.300, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 64 SB).
When he was not able to completely repeat those numbers in 2007 and 2008 and the Mets fell short of the playoffs, many blamed Reyes for his inability to carry the team and be a leader.
I'll reiterate it once again: He's 25 freaking years old.
Given everything this young man has put up with the last couple of years, I'd say the Mets are lucky he has responded somewhat well to the criticism.
That hasn't always been the case, as most fans know, with top prospects of the past.
At 25 years old until June 8, Reyes continues to improve on many of the little things that turn athletes into superstars.
He has frequently expressed displeasure with his defensive performance (even though he has the ability to make plays no one else can make) and production in September, and has vowed to continue to do whatever it takes to become the player he is capable of becoming.
The crazy thing about it is, if anyone can mold this kid into a mature star-athlete, it's Jerry Manuel.
In 2009, expect Reyes to do his thing once again and bat around .300, with between 15-20 home runs and around 60-65 stolen bases.
There's no question about it, if the Mets are going to be a contender, they're going to need this man to be the spark.
How does the old saying go?
"As Jose Reyes goes, so do the Mets."
159 G, 688 AB, 113 R, 37 2b, 19 3b, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 56 SB, .297/.358/.475
157 G, 675 AB, 125 R, 34 2b, 18 3b, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 68 SB, .302/.375/.470