Jose Reyes: The Quintessential Leadoff Hitter

Michael GanciCorrespondent IApril 23, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 19:  Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field on April 19, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Throughout the off season, one hot topic for conversation has been Jose Reyes, and where he fits best in the Mets’ lineup. There has been talk of putting Reyes in the three hole on occasion, and moving Luis Castillo up to the lead off spot, but I am here to put all of those rumors to rest. In terms of the first man that belongs in the lineup, Jose Reyes fills the role perfectly.

Since Reyes’ first full year in the major leagues, his patience and abilities have improved nicely. One thing that has been nice to see is his rise in on base percentage. In 2005, his OBP was just .300, which wasn’t at all helped by the fact that he walked just 27 times in well over 600 at-bats. In 2008, however, Reyes walked 66 times, and his OBP rose to .358. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Pitchers fear Reyes, and that is certainly justified. Whenever he is on base, he becomes an instant distraction. Pitchers have to focus on keeping him close, and that plays right into the Mets’ hands. Because, even if he doesn’t steal the base or two, the batter behind him, such as Luis Castillo or Daniel Murphy, will see more fastballs to hit. That is one place in which Reyes’ value lies.

Reyes is also an above average defender. I won’t call him great, but he is a heck of a lot better defensively than the other guy who starts at shortstop in New York. Reyes has an amazing sense of range and a cannon for an arm, which helps him record some outs that wouldn’t even be figments in Derek Jeter’s imagination.

Reyes also scores a ton of runs. In his last three seasons, his lowest total was 113 in a single season, and that is still an impressive number. When you have other guys, such as David Wright and Carlos Beltran who score a lot as well, it makes for a nice trio of guys crossing the plate more frequently than others.

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While Manuel may experiment from time to time with Reyes in the three hole, I think we can all agree that the place where Reyes helps this team more than anywhere else is leading off. Plain and simple.