Every major league baseball team seeks power for their lineup.
Consider what the game changing home runs of players like Aaron Judge, Kyle Schwarber and Yordan Alvarez have done for their teams. And they are just a few of the consequential sluggers.
At one point considered to be a major power threat, no player in baseball has disappeared from the MLB landscape as quickly and as quietly as right-handed hitting Franmil Reyes. His decline has been stunning.
About Franmil Reyes:
Everything about Franmil Reyes begins with his huge, 6-5, 265 pound frame. Reyes is a tremendous presence on a baseball field and in a batter’s box.
Reyes’ nickname is La Mole-The Mole. He has also been called Franimal.
In 2011, the San Diego Padres signed 16-year-old Franmil Reyes as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. The Padres gave Reyes a $700,000 signing bonus. The team made a significant investment in the potential slugger.
Reyes spent considerable time in the Padres minor league development program, finally getting his promotion to the parent Padres in 2018, at the age of 22. He opened up plenty of eyes when he hit 16 home runs and drove in 31 runs as a rookie in 285 big league plate appearances.
Reyes followed that breakout rookie season with 37 home runs and 81 RBIs in 2019.
To be clear, Reyes was never seen as a quality major league defensive outfielder. However, despite his defensive shortcomings, he did play right field for the Padres.
It was his powerful bat that got Franmil Reyes to the big leagues.
It would have to be his powerful bat that would keep Reyes in the big leagues.
And it was his lack of a powerful bat that removed Reyes from the big leagues.
Reyes Is Traded to the Cleveland Indians:
Only 27 of his 2019 homers came in a Padres uniform, as Reyes was traded to the Cleveland Indians at the July 2019 trade deadline. He was part of a three-team deal that included the Padres, the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds.
Reyes, infielder/outfielder Victor Nova, and pitcher Logan Allen went to Cleveland. Cleveland sent pitcher Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati. Cincinnati sent outfielder Taylor Trammell to the Padres. The Reds also sent pitcher Scott Moss and outfielder Yasiel Puig to the Indians. Indeed, it was a blockbuster.
At the time, few analysts, including this scout, could understand why the Padres would trade a slugger in the midst of hitting 27 home runs.
For whatever the reason the Padres chose to trade Reyes, the Cleveland franchise and their fans were delighted. Reyes hit 10 more homers for the Indians, driving in 35 runs in 194 plate appearances.
With Cleveland, Reyes was used primarily as a designated hitter, rarely playing in the Indians outfield.
Reyes fit nicely in the middle of the Cleveland lineup that was in search for power to surround All Star third baseman Jose Ramirez, shortstop Francisco Lindor, and first baseman Carlos Santana. At the time, Reyes was a superb fit.
Reyes hit well in the pandemic shortened 2020 season, registering another nine home runs in 241 plate appearances. He hit a respectable .275/.344/.450/.795, proving himself to be a source of power and run production.
His 2021 season with Cleveland was outstanding. Reyes hit 30 homers, drove in 85 runs and helped provide the type of power Cleveland thought they were getting in their massive trade with the Padres.
Then it happened. Franmil Reyes simply stopped hitting. Franmil Reyes became an unreliable and disappointing part of the Indians 2022 lineup.
During the 2021 offseason, Reyes was scheduled to play baseball with Albert Pujols in the Dominican Republic. Reyes looked forward to watching and learning from the future Hall of Fame slugger. It never happened. Reyes didn’t play winter ball in the Dominican.
It has been reported that Reyes didn’t play baseball at all in the 2021 offseason. In fact, he came to Cleveland’s Arizona spring training camp looking heavier and out of shape.
Once the new season began, the results at the plate began to decline markedly for Reyes.
Reyes was being fooled badly by off-speed pitches and breaking balls. His swing and miss rate soared.
This scout watched as Reyes couldn’t catch up with fastballs, especially those up in the zone.
To put it mildly, Reyes wasn’t anything close to the hitter of the previous season. His power was gone. Making contact was a chore. In 280 plate appearances with the Indians, Reyes struck out 104 times. He had nine doubles and nine home runs. He drove in just 28 runs.
Reyes was in a baseball free fall.
When the calendar turned to August, the Cleveland Indians had seen enough of Franmil Reyes.
In a move that was not unexpected, the Indians put Reyes on waivers. They had virtually given up on the power source they thought they traded for in Franmil Reyes.
Chicago Cubs claim Reyes:
The Chicago Cubs claimed Reyes on August 8, 2022. Reyes would be returning to the National League, where his career began with the San Diego Padres.
In his early days with the Cubs, Reyes looked like he was rejuvenated. He had 14 hits in his first 42 at-bats. He hit two home runs and drove in seven. Maybe Reyes had saved his career.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Reyes went on to hit .234/.301/.389/.689 in 193 plate appearances with the Cubs. He had a total of 41 hits, five of them home runs. He struck out 53 times. His struggles had continued.
Now, Franmil Reyes is no longer with the Chicago Cubs. Reyes is a free agent.
Major League Baseball now includes designated hitters in both the American and National Leagues. The universal DH adds years to some careers. Maybe Reyes can catch on with a club that hopes the power can return to his bat.
But maybe not.
As a potential designated hitter, however, Reyes has stiff free agent competition. Players like JD Martinez, Michael Brantley, Jake Lamb and Matt Carpenter, Nelson Cruz, and Andrew McCutchen have found new MLB homes. There are still designated hitters available on the open market, waiting to sign their next contract. Reyes is on that list.
What is the future for Franmil Reyes?
At some point, Reyes will have to demonstrate that he is in good baseball condition and that he can still hit the ball with power.
Reyes played for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. Reyes had 74 plate appearances in 19 games. He had one home run and two RBIs. He hit .254/.324/.328/.693. He struck out 12 times, which isn’t bad.
His winter statistics won’t open many eyes.
It does not appear Escogido made the playoffs. As a result, Reyes’ winter season is over.
It will be interesting to learn if any club offers Franmil Reyes an opportunity to resurrect his major league career.
Perhaps the early success Reyes achieved was, indeed, fleeting.
At this point, both the San Diego Padres and the then Cleveland Indians made good decisions to proceed without Franmil Reyes on their respective rosters. The Chicago Cubs then followed suit.