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2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – Victor Reyes

With a 457 ADP in 2020 NFBC leagues, Detroit Tigers outfielder Victor Reyes is an afterthought in all but the deepest leagues.  Perhaps the 25-year-old shouldn't be, though, as Reyes was quietly solid in 2019, slashing .304/.336/.431 in 292 plate-appearances, with three home runs and nine stolen bases.

Having made stops in Arizona and the Venezuelan winter league since being drafted by Atlanta in 2012, Reyes struggled in his major league debut with Detroit in 2018, slashing .222/.239/.288 in 219 PA. However, Reyes has shown an a combination of excellent contact skills and exciting speed at every place he's played, posting a 15% strikeout-rate over the course of his minor league career and double-digit steals in almost every season.

In 2019, Reyes added some pop to his contact- and speed-based profile, putting up a .127 ISO that was a 64-point bump from 2018. That may not make him Peter Alonso in the power department but adding any sort of pop to Reyes' already fantasy-friendly profile, makes him someone to keep an eye in 2020.

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A Powerful 2019

It appears that these power improvements may have been the result of a new focus by Reyes, as he reportedly added more than 10 lbs of muscle entering 2019, with the extra bulk seemingly translating to on-field results. Finishing with an average 86.4 mph exit-velocity that was 2.5 mph higher than in 2018, Reyes also posted a 30.8 hard-hit rate that was almost a five-point gain from the year prior. 

Once again, those numbers won’t have anyone confusing him for a power hitter, but in the context of his overall skillset, Reyes doesn't need to crush that much in order to be more than adequate.

In addition to his above-average speed and baserunning instincts, Reyes' impressive batted ball profile helps him perform well despite his mediocre power. Spraying the ball to all fields -  with a 29.4% pull-rate and 32.7% oppo-rate - Reyes posted a 28.7% line-drive rate that topped every qualified batter last season. Given this batted-ball profile, it's not unreasonable to think that Reyes' .384 BABIP may only drop in the .350 range, especially as balls are frequently in play for the switch-hitting outfielder, as evidenced by a 72% in-play rate. 


Looking to 2020

Reyes’ biggest opportunity for improvement entering 2020 is his plate discipline. Although a strong 74.5% o-contact rate keeps his strikeout-rate down, Reyes’ near 40% chase-rate not only dampens his walk rate but also negatively impacts his in-play rate. These plate-discipline issues trended in the right direction last season, with his chase rate dropping from 47.2% to 39.1%, but his production could really see a jump in improvement if he can cut it to under 35%.

Overall, Reyes has shown himself to be a line-drive hitter with solid power, borderline elite contact skills, and 20+ steal potential. As a result, Reyes’ realistic floor this season is an OPS above .700 with double-digit steals and a better than average strikeout rate. Considering that his draft price is basically free, that sort of skillset shouldn't be ignored.

But enough about floors; let's talk about ceilings! Consider the following player comparison and dream of tail-end probabilities:

2019 Line Drive % Average EV xwOBAcon O-Contact % Z-Contact % Spd (ft/sec) Chase % FB%
Whit Merrifield 28.5 86.4 mph 0.369 73.4 87.2 28.6 34.1 33.5
Victor Reyes 28.7 86.4 mph 0.364 75.4 87.0 28.9 39.1 26.3

Make no mistake, Reyes is not Whit Merrifield and probably never will be. Reyes would have to maintain his power bump, increase his fly-ball rate (without hitting many pop-ups or sacrificing line-drives), and improve his chase rate (among other things) in order to reach Merrifield’s level of production in 2020.

Highly optimistic, for sure; but when you're drafting Reyes in the last rounds (or grabbing him off of the wire), you're not drafting him to be Merrifield, you're drafting him for a skillset that could return a massive profit, given some more incremental improvements. Still, the comparison highlights Reyes’ enticing upside which he pairs with a relatively high floor for his price, making him a strong sleeper pick this season.

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