Fantasy Baseball: The Implications at Shortstop After Jose Reyes' Injury

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Fantasy Baseball: The Implications at Shortstop After Jose Reyes' Injury
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News today out of New York Mets camp has Jose Reyes missing between two and eight weeks to allow his thyroid levels to return to normal.

He will almost certainly miss Opening Day, and he could be out until June.

Before this revelation about his timeline for recovery, most projections had Reyes playing in about 145 games and racking up 575 at-bats, 12 home runs, 70 RBI, 40 steals, a .285 batting average, and a .355 OBP.

Let’s say the best-case scenario for his recovery is the third week of April. He’ll obviously miss the start of the season against the Marlins and the team’s first dozen games before joining up with the team at Citi Field for a 10-game home stand against the Cubs, Braves, and Dodgers.

Give or take, that’s essentially 50 at-bats he will lose, assuming he would have played in each of the Mets' first 12 games.

Fantasy owners may have lost a home run, half a dozen ribbies, and two or three steals, but it’s not awful. Most people would still be pretty happy with 10 homers, 65 RBI, and 37 steals from Reyes. He's still one of the top five shortstops, even with those reduced stats.

But let’s take a look and see what happens if he is out for the first two months of the season. If he rejoins the club in June, he will have missed 52 games—almost one-third of the season.

What price can you put on seven home runs, 55 RBI, and 23 steals? His batting average may drop a few points, but that shouldn’t differ too much from the expectations. He’s a lock for an average between .275 and .295, although expect something in the middle of that range.

In mixed five-by-five mock drafts last week, Reyes was the fourth shortstop taken off the board (behind Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Jimmy Rollins), around the end of the second round of a 12-team league.

This was consistent for leagues organized by Yahoo!, ESPN, and CBS. Reyes was the 14th overall pick in NL-only leagues, still the fourth shortstop behind the previously mentioned trio.

Now, you have to assume that Derek Jeter (Yankees) jumps automatically above Reyes. Jeter is the last of what I guess can be considered the “elite” shortstops. None of the other shortstops have been going within the top 100 picks (or eight rounds) on average.

The question becomes, where does Reyes fit in with the next tier of talent?

Jason Bartlett (Rays) is a similar player to Reyes in that he will hit for a decent average, swipe a lot of bases, and drive 60 to 65 runs in. He is the closest like-for-like replacement to Reyes—he will get a lot of at-bats, hit low double-digit home runs, steal 30 bases, and bat around .290. He therefore leapfrogs Reyes.

I don’t think he’s worth the fifth-round pick that I have seen some spend on him, but if he’s still there in the seventh, you should grab him up.

Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks) and Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) are both much more prolific power hitters than Reyes, but neither has the speed that the Mets’ shortstop does. Still, with the uncertainty, you have to bump them up in your rankings too.

What you will probably be left with is Reyes putting up stats comparable to Rafael Furcal in L.A. Furcal has below-average power and above-average wheels. Like Reyes, he will hit a couple out the park, and projections of 50 RBI, a .285 average, and 12 to 14 steals are not too far from what Reyes will post.

Therefore, worst-case scenario, I think you need to be ranking Reyes in between Miguel Tejada and Furcal, somewhere in the 11th or 12th round.

Elvis Andrus (Rangers) and Everth Cabrera (Padres) will help out with stolen bases if you really need some speed early on, but you will sacrifice 20 or 25 points on the batting average, and you won’t get much of the way in production in home runs or RBI.

You will obviously need to monitor the situation and adjust the rankings according to Reyes’ progress over the first few weeks of the season. Bump him up if he’s out for four or five weeks, but hold firm if he’s out until June. Shortstop is pretty deep once you’ve exhausted the elite four, and Reyes’ speed will still be valuable even if he only plays in 95 games.

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