Written by Tony Meale
Published: 19 May 2009
Okay, it has to be said, so I’m just going to throw it out there: Jose Reyes is the most overrated player in fantasy baseball.
Now, before you laugh or shake your head in bewilderment or call me this or that, hear me out. In fact, sip on a beverage. Relax.
I know Reyes plays shortstop, which is by no means a talent-heavy position, and I know he gets a lot of runs and steals. I get the appeal. But the asking price for Reyes is absolutely asinine. His services require a first-round pick, and in many cases, an early first-round pick.
In my league this year, Reyes went second overall (after Hanley Ramirez), but is his production worth the billing? Let’s assume that the greatest predictor of fantasy performance is a player’s production the previous year. If Ramirez and Reyes both play the same position and were drafted one and two, respectively, then you could reasonably assume that their production is similar; so let’s compare the 2008 stat lines of these shortstops.
Last season, Hanley hit .301, swatted 33 long balls, had 67 RBI, scored 125 runs and stole 35 bases. Reyes, meanwhile, hit .297 with 16 homers, 68 RBI, 113 runs scored and 56 steals. Ramirez and Reyes, who both posted these numbers from the leadoff spot, were a virtual wash in average and RBI, with Hanley getting a slight edge in runs scored. And while both get a good amount of steals -- with Reyes having a clear advantage -- the disparity in power is significant, as Reyes had fewer than half as many homers as Hanley.
Sadly, Reyes’ power numbers last year were slightly higher than usual. In his first four full seasons in the big leagues -- from 2005 to 2008 -- he played in at least 153 games each year, hitting a combined .287 and averaging 14 home runs, 66 RBI, 113 runs scored and 65 steals. Reyes equaled -- or surpassed -- four of those marks in 2008, the lone exception being steals. As a .287 hitter with per-season averages of 14 homers and 66 RBI, Reyes -- needless to say -- has never exactly been drafted for his power. Many fantasy owners are readily willing to overlook Reyes’ Ruthian void for his run scoring and base-sealing ability, but should they?
Of the 12 players -- all hitters -- taken in the first round of my draft this year, Reyes ranked last in homers, last in RBI and fourth-to-last in average (using 2008 stats). For the 11 hitters taken in the second round, Reyes -- the second overall pick -- ranked third-to-last in homers, second-to-last in RBI and seventh-to-last -- or fifth best -- in average. These figures beg the question, Is Reyes really worth being a first-round selection, much less one of the top picks?
A first-round pick, maybe. The second overall pick, no. Sure, Reyes automatically puts you near the top of your league in steals, but he’s going to drag you down in just about every other offensive category. The Reyes owner in my 12-team rotisserie league has a 9.5 in steals, so he’s done well in that area. But he has a 1.5 in home runs, a 7 in RBI, a 5 in average and a 2 in runs scored.
On the other hand, I used my first three picks on Miguel Cabrera, Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay -- a combined 14 steals in 2008. Yet, I am currently atop my league in stolen bases, and because I placed primacy on power, I have a 10 or better in every other offensive category (even with Manny’s suspension). There are plenty of speed guys available much later in the draft -- like Carl Crawford -- and through free agency -- like Jason Bartlett, who is outplaying Reyes. Entering play on May 17, the Tampa Bay shortstop had a higher batting average (.359 to .284), more homers (five to two), more RBI (16 to 15), more runs scored (22 to 18) and almost as many steals (10 to 11).
The moral of the story is that Reyes is overrated. He’s a valuable commodity, but you must bypass too many well-rounded players with legit power to take a guy who is essentially a two-stat contributor. Reyes may excel on the base paths, but the only thing he’s stealing is your chance of winning a league title.