By: Noah Wright
Justin K. Aller / Getty Images
We all know who’s going to win The Rookie Of The Year award in each league this year. It’s going to be one of Shohei Ohtani, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres in The AL, with Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, and Walker Buehler for The NL. But one guy that won’t appear within the top 3 of voting is Franmil Reyes. Reyes is probably having one of the most underrated rookie seasons in the last few years, but where did this outfielder come from, and how does he compare to to other ROY candidates?
Franmil Reyes was born on July 7th, 1995. The San Diego Padres went on to acquire Reyes through an international signing in 2011, and he never looked like a consensus top 100 prospect. Reyes started his professional career in 2012, and between then and 2016, Reyes’ highest OPS was .775. He showed some speed, some contact, but nothing super impressive. That was until 2016, when he hit 16 home runs, and for a .452 slugging %, and 112 wRC+ in High-A ball. Plus, he carried a decent overall batting average and OBP, with a .278/.340 line in 547 plate appearances. This would mark his highest OPS season yet, with a .792 OPS. Reyes would further built off of power in 2017, blasting 25 home runs, and carrying a now career high .464 slugging % in double-A.
After 2018, The Padres elected not to protect Franmil from The Rule 5 Draft. Luckily for them, he was not picked. But Reyes was still not viewed as a future piece for The Padres. But The Padres were willing to give him a chance in the major leagues after DFA’ing veteran infielder Chase Headley, and optioning Carlos Asujare. After all, Franmil was one of the team’s hottest hitting minor leaguers. Over 150 plate appearances, Reyes was batting .346/.440/.758 (748 slugging %\!). He had also blasted 14 home runs in that limited amount of time. With his well deserved promotion, Franmil struggled in his initial time in the minors. In his first 96 MLB plate appearances, Reyes only hit for a .228/.260/.457 batting line. With that, he was back to Triple-A once corner fielder Wil Myers was activated from The DL, where he continued to crush the ball. However like he usually is, Myers landed back on The DL, and Franmil got another chance at The MLB. Through his 15 plate appearances in July, Reyes only collected 2 hits, struck out 3 times, and walked 3 times. Like before, once Myers came back, Reyes was sent down. When August hit, Franmil was called back to the major leagues, and he capitalized on the opportunity this time. From August 4th to September 30th, Franmil Reyes was one of the hottest hitters in baseball. In 174 plate appearances, Reyes batted .318/.385/.548 with 10 home runs, and 23 RBI’s. All told this season, Reyes finished 2018 with a .280/.340/.498 batting line, along with 16 home runs, 31 RBI’s, a 129 wRC+, and .218 ISO all in just 285 plate appearances. His fielding, while not a huge asset, is around average. All of his innings have came in right field, and he’s been worth -.4 dWAR, -1 DRS, and -4.4 UZR.
So how does he stand up to other top rookies this season? Well for starters, his .838 OPS is 4th among rookies. Higher than Gleyber Torres and Harrison Bader, and only two AL rookies ranks higher than him in that stat; Miguel Andujar and Shohei Ohtani. His slugging percentage of .498 also ranks 4th among rookies. He’s only. 019 points behind Juan Soto in that department. Reyes’ 126 wRC+ is just 002 wRC+ behind AL Rookie Of The Year candidate Andujar.
No doubt, The Padres will likely use Reyes as a building block. The guy is only 23, and has shown plenty of reason for The Padres to give him a bigger role in 2019. Will he win Rookie Of The Year?; Probably not. Will he at least get consideration?; Absolutely. However even though he ranks higher than a lot of top rookies in the game right now, he doesn’t get nearly enough attention. This, in my opinion, has made him the most underrated rookie in 2018.