There are a number of places that you can start with Mark Reynolds and his 2016 season. I would like to start with the topic of nicknames and a real missed opportunity.
The fabulous baseball nicknames of old are lacking these days. We just shorten and combines names: Tulo, CarGo. Charlie Blackmon being known as Chuck Nazty is good, but even then it’s not really a nickname as much as a variation on the player’s name.
In that context, I found myself on the Baseball Reference page for Reynolds, which lists the “Sheriff of Swattingham” as one of his nicknames. How did I not know that before this week? That’s a great nickname and I’m genuinely bummed I didn’t know about it during the season. I will call him that from this day forward, whether he’s with the Rockies or not.
You know what isn’t a great nickname? “Mega-Mark,” also listed on his BR page. Just no.
I think it’s safe to say that there was a generally agreed upon prediction for Reynolds when he signed with the Rockies last offseason: a part-time player who will mostly be the same guy he always has been, a guy who strikes out a ton and hits a bunch of dingers, but that he would at least provide entertainment by hitting some of those massive dingers at altitude.
That assessment painted Reynolds as an underwhelming signing, even if he was expected to be little more than a placeholder for a team that didn’t look ready to contend just yet. After a couple unexpected developments this past season though, Reynolds might be in the picture as a valuable veteran whom the Rockies will want to bring back in 2017.
That starts with the defense Reynolds provided at first base. When you’re looking back at a season in which Gerardo Parra and Daniel Descalso honest-to-goodness started games at first base after Reynolds was sidelined with a fractured hand, being a competent fielder would have probably been enough for us to be happy. Reynolds was definitely that, and he was arguably a legitimately good defensive first baseman. If nothing else, with each scoop on a spectacular play from Nolan Arenado or DJ LeMahieu, you appreciate the importance of the Rockies having a real first baseman.
The true surprise came in the way that Reynolds provided offensive value. He posted career highs with a .282 batting average and a .356 on-base percentage. If you had told me to guess which Rockies hitter would put up a .282/.356/.450 slash line before the season started, Mega-Mark might have literally been my last guess.
He still struck out plenty of times, with 112 Ks in 441 plate appearances, but his strikeout rate was also a career-best at 25.4 percent. You combine that with his slash line and the fact that he would have had a good chance at 20 home runs if he had stayed healthy, and I dare say you have a pretty well-rounded hitter on your hands.
That’s something I truly never thought I would say about the Sheriff of Swattingham.
Reynolds is a free agent and the Rockies need a first baseman. Flashier or more powerful options are tempting, with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion also available. There is also the option for a trade, but it remains a distinct possibility that Reynolds returns. We maybe wouldn’t have thought this a year ago, but if the Rockies think that 2016 Mark Reynolds is the real Mark Reynolds and not a one-year fluke, then bringing him back would probably be just fine.