Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.
No. 14: Mark Reynolds (0.9 rWAR)
After signing Ian Desmond to a monster contract this past offseason, the Rockies seemed to have first base all figured out. In February, the Rockies signed Mark Reynolds to a minor league deal worth $1.5 million and gave him a chance in spring training to win a backup job. One Desmond injury later, Reynolds became the primary first baseman on Opening Day. Funny how things work out. Reynolds ended up having a nearly All-Star first half (he lost to Justin Turner in the final NL vote) on his way to slashing .260/.345/.480 for the year and garnering a few Comeback Player of the Year votes. It was a great year for Reynolds and even inspired a trendy hashtag. #BeLikeMark.
For Reynolds, it was two distinct seasons. He started the year on fire, hitting .295/.383/.542 with a 126 wRC+ through the end of June. From July 1 through the end of the season, he hit just .237/.318/.424 with a 79 wRC+. His walk rate fell from 12.3 percent to 10.8 percent and his strikeout rate jumped from 26.6% to 32.9%. He continued to start almost every day through the end of the season and the Rockies, who would have been happy with any sort of production from him, struck first half gold with Reynolds. Unfortunately, the magic faded a little too early.
Reynolds had another eye-opening split in his home and road numbers. At home on the year he hit .294/.393/.584 with a 123 wRC+, interestingly almost identical to his first half numbers. On the road, his slash line dropped to .242/.311/.492 with a wRC+ of 84, again strikingly similar to that second half split. He hit 21 of his 30 homeruns at home and walked at a rate almost five percent higher at home (14.3 percent) than on the road (8.9 percent). Obviously, Reynolds loves hitting at Coors and he seems to pick up the ball a lot better there than anywhere else.
There is one more interesting split that fits this narrative and that is Reynolds’ platoon splits. As a right handed hitter the natural assumption is that he likely struggled facing righties, but that’s not the case here. Against eighties, Reynolds hit .281/.355/.515 on the year with a 111 wRC+ while he hit .231/.347/.446 with an 83 wRC+. This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon for Reynolds who has always hit righties better than lefties but it has become a more extreme split later in his career.
Looking at the splits, it seems Mark Reynolds has plenty of value remaining but the team that gives him a shot will probably want to use him as more of a situational hitter and part-time player than a full-time starter. His splits suggest he wore out as the year went on but thrived in the hitter friendly environment of Coors Field all year long. His platoon splits point to a more specific role, although they aren’t so extreme that he’s unusable against lefties. Reynolds will be 34 for the majority of next season so he should be able to carve out a role somewhere fairly easily.
The Rockies brought Mark Reynolds in as competition for some younger guys and a backup option for their big money free agent signing. Anything they got out of him was just gravy. That gravy helped push the Rockies to their first playoff birth since 2009. It was a shot in the dark that hit just right for both the Rockies and Reynolds.
Reynolds is a free agent and will likely get some interest in the market. The Rockies could try to sign him as a backup but with Desmond in year two of five and Ryan McMahon looking ready for the show, odds are Reynolds will be wearing a different uniform in 2018. If so, it was a great ride and Rockies fans will certainly wish him luck in his next career stop.