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Reyes to Third Spot the Right Move

by: Bryan Zarpentine

It’s easy to be skeptical of change. When change means taking the game’s best leadoff hitter out of his familiar spot at the top of the order and moving him to third in the lineup, there’s plenty of justification for that skepticism. But with Jose Reyes, there are plenty of reasons to believe that such a move is the right move.

The first reason is Reyes’ ability as a hitter. He’s obviously not the power hitter Carlos Beltran would be in that spot, but Reyes hit at least 30 doubles, 12 triples, and 12 homeruns a season between 2006 and 2008, so he is a guy who accumulates plenty of extra-base hits. Consider the spacious dimensions at Citi Field and Reyes should be able to add to his total allotment of extra base hits by hitting in the gaps and using his speed to get doubles, triples, and the occasional inside-the-park home run. The added extra base hits from Reyes will do two things: allow him to drive in runs which we know he is capable of doing from his 81 RBI performance in 2006, despite hitting from the lead off spot. It will also put him in scoring position for the middle of the lineup guys like David Wright and Jason Bay, something we already know he can do, but with more extra base hits he won’t have to rely on stolen bases as much. Essentially, Reyes will be able to do the same things he has always done, the only difference will be instead of producing runs by using his speed to steal bases he will be able to produce runs by using his speed and the dimensions of Citi Field to hit more extra base hits.

Another reason why moving Jose Reyes to third in the lineup is the right move is the effect it has on the batting order. With Carlos Beltran missing until the middle of May, the presence of Reyes down in the order is necessary to add depth to the lineup. Reyes in the third spot will allow David Wright and Jason Bay to be pushed back a spot, lengthening the lineup. It will also allow for some combination of Jeff Francoeur, Daniel Murphy, and Rod Barajas in the six through eight spots, where those guys will match up better with the six through eight hitters of opposing teams. Most importantly, Reyes hitting third allows Angel Pagan and Luis Castillo to first and second respectively, which is the best way to utilize each of those hitters, as they would both be less effective if they hit towards the bottom of the order. Pagan has the speed and on-base percentage to be a leadoff hitter, which is the best place in the lineup for him until Beltran comes back. While Castillo is not the player he use to be nor is he the player the Mets would like to have at second base, but he is still the prototypical number two hitter who can get on base and help get Pagan in scoring position for Reyes to drive in.

Lastly, moving Jose Reyes to the third spot in the lineup is the right move because it’s necessary if he is going to take his game to the next level. With Carlos Beltran out for an extended period of time, it’s not a stretch to think that Reyes is the most important position player the Mets have, and they will need him to have an MVP-caliber season if they are going to be competitive in the National League East and be in contention for a playoff spot in September. While Reyes is the best leadoff man in the game, there is only so much he can do from that spot in the lineup, and shifting him to the heart of the order is the challenge he needs to reach his potential, and become the player the Mets need him to be if they are to have a successful 2010. Furthermore, with Beltran out for a while and Reyes happy just to be playing baseball, it is the perfect and perhaps only opportunity to make this move, and such an opportunity should not go to waste.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to imagine placing a player as electric as Jose Reyes anywhere but the leadoff spot, and despite the skepticism that comes with such a move, there is great potential in making such a change. No one said it had to permanent if it doesn’t work, especially after Carlos Beltran comes back. But with the opportunity there, it’s wise to take a chance, and possibly make a great player even greater, and more importantly, make a good team even better.

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