After a season of historic offensive ineptitude at first base in 2013, general manager Doug Melvin brought in Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay to compete with Juan Francisco for the 2014 starting job. Fortunately, the Milwaukee Brewers made the right decision installing Reynolds as the main man at first.
Reynolds will swing and miss a lot and he won’t win a gold glove, yet the big-swinging slugger is a perfect fit for this particular lineup. He was clearly the best option compared to any players who were legitimately available.
Because of his propensity to strikeout (league leader from 2008-2011) and a .233 career batting average, a lot of fans underestimate the value Reynolds brings to a team.
Unlike Francisco, Reynolds gives you quality at-bats by seeing a lot of pitches, draws about 70 walks a season with regular playing time and will even swipe you some bases at opportune moments — a collection of stats unmatched by Overbay and Francisco.
Reynolds’ surprisingly well-rounded talents were on display in the Brewers’ 9-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night. The 30-year-old first baseman was only 1-for-4, but he drew a leadoff walk, stole second and then scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
He stepped to the plate again in the ninth frame and blasted a majestic home run to the left-center field stands for his second dinger of the road trip and a pair of insurance runs to cap off the Crew’s fifth straight win.
Batting seventh in what has been a ridiculously effective lineup thus far, Reynolds slides in beautifully to give the Brewers a power threat and menacing presence in a spot not known for weak output in the NL.
Last season, the NL’s average seven hitter hit 15 home runs with a .307 OBP, .381 slugging percentage and a .687 OPS. The Brewers actually got some good production there last season; unfortunately, their fifth and sixth hitters were brutal.
Currently, Reynolds owns a .375 OBP, .619 slugging percentage and an eye-popping .994 OPS — yes, it’s a small sample. However, from 2007-2012, Reynolds had an .807 OPS and averaged 30 home runs a season. Those numbers would indicate an excellent year lies ahead from his spot in the order.
There will be plenty of ugly hacks, some frustrating plate appearances and enough strikeouts to make you tense up, but when push comes to shove, Reynolds will produce if he starts a vast majority of the time, which he should be doing.
Overbay has the better glove, but he can’t keep up with Reynolds at the dish or on the bases. And in fairness, Reynolds has been a decent defender at first base with alright range. He’s far ahead of Francisco in the field where the former Brewers struggled with the basic acts of catching, fielding and finding first base.
Overall, Reynolds brought the most sound skill set to the position, including an OBP that would sit about 30 points higher than Francisco’s, who finished at .296 for the season.
That ship has sailed now and it appears Ron Roenicke is recognizing everything Reynolds offers, as he has now started four consecutive games heading into Thursday’s tilt. If Reynolds can reach 500 plate appearances this season, you’ll see 30 bombs, the “longest” lineup in the league and an offense destroying pitchers on its way to the top of the offensive leaderboards.