Franmil Reyes Has Power Everywhere

Hitting the ball over the fence in San Diego can be difficult, though not quite as difficult as it used to be after the team changed the dimensions in 2013. Similarly, hitting the ball out of the park to center and the opposite field is generally a more difficult task for hitters. Around 60% of home runs this season are pulled by batters, while only 15% of dingers are hit to the opposite field. These difficulties have proved to be of little consequence for 23-year-old Franmil Reyes.

The young slugger’s statistics can leave you slightly underwhelmed when compared to his imposing figure and powerful bat. Reyes has a 120 wRC+, which is good but not great, and his defense in the outfield keeps his WAR at 0.8 on the season. Reyes doesn’t walk a ton, he strikes out a bit too much, and he doesn’t add anything on the basepaths, but he can do this:

Fourteen of Reyes’ 19 homers have gone out to center or the opposite field. That figure is the most in baseball and two clear of Christian Yelich and Peter Alonso, and includes five homers to the opposite field. Ten of those 14 homers have come in Petco Park, one of the more difficult stadiums for lefties to hit homers, and they have the advantage over Reyes in being able to pull the ball to right field. Trying to hit homers to the opposite field is generally not advisable, but for a man of Reyes’ size and power, it’s a worthwhile strategy. And when Reyes hits the ball in the air to center or the opposite field, he hits the ball harder than anyone in the game, per Baseball Savant:

Non-Pull Power Exit Velocity Leaders
Player Results Avg Exit Velocity (mph)
Franmil Reyes 63 97.4
Javier Báez 60 97.2
Bryce Harper 56 97.1
Josh Bell 66 97.0
Yandy Diaz 56 96.9
Christian Yelich 65 96.9
Carlos Correa 52 96.8
Avisail Garcia 62 96.2
Christian Walker 62 96.2
Tommy Pham 57 96.0
Marcell Ozuna 51 95.7
Manny Machado 55 95.6
Buster Posey 50 95.5
Hunter Pence 51 95.3
Rafael Devers 68 95.3
Matt Chapman 64 95.1
Peter Alonso 50 95.1
J.D. Martinez 70 94.9
Jose Abreu 66 94.8
Brian Anderson 68 94.8
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
Line drives and fly balls to center and opposite field with minimum 50 such balls in play.

It should come as no surprise then, that Reyes is one of the game’s leaders in wRC+ on balls hit to center or the opposite field:

Non-Pull wRC+ Leaders
Name Tm PA wRC+
Javier Báez CHC 109 278
Brandon Lowe TBR 75 238
Christian Yelich MIL 107 236
Josh Bell PIT 108 234
Jorge Alfaro MIA 84 233
David Dahl COL 95 230
Avisail Garcia TBR 94 229
Franmil Reyes SDP 94 229
Joc Pederson LAD 72 226
Bryan Reynolds PIT 74 220
Luke Voit NYY 84 219
Bryce Harper PHI 88 217
Freddie Freeman ATL 120 216
Willson Contreras CHC 76 215
Clint Frazier NYY 73 214
Tommy Pham TBR 105 210
Peter Alonso NYM 85 207
Carlos Correa HOU 84 206
Austin Meadows TBR 85 205
Anthony Rendon WSN 89 204
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
Batted balls to center and opposite field with minimum of 50 such balls in play.

It’s not that Reyes doesn’t pull the ball. His spray chart from this season shows pulled homers and a whole lot of ground balls:

When we compare Reyes’ batted ball profile to last year’s, we might assume he’s pulling the ball less, but the number of balls he’s pulled has actually gone up over last season. When we split up groundballs and fly balls into the direction they are hit, we can see where Reyes has changed:

Franmil Reyes Batted Ball Percentages
Pulled GB% Pulled FB% Center GB% Center FB% Oppo GB% Oppo FB%
2018 21.5% 6.6% 22.1% 12.2% 5.5% 11.0%
2019 21.6% 5.4% 15.5% 15.5% 2.7% 15.6%
Does not include line drives.

When we look at the balls Reyes is pulling, we don’t see a difference from a year ago. Where he’s made changes is to balls to center and the opposite field. A year ago, groundballs up in the middle and to the opposite field made up around 28% of all his batted balls, while fly balls to the same locations accounted for 23% of batted balls. This season, grounders up the middle and to right are only 18% of his batted balls, while 31% are fly balls to center and right. He’s also hitting more line drives to left field. More fly balls to center and right plus more line drives to left have helped Reyes to his solid season thus far, though his overall hitting line is still below where he was last season.

In 2018, Reyes struggled for much of the year before turning it on in August and September. During the final two months of last season, Reyes hit .318/.385/.548 with a 155 wRC+. He took a walk 10% of the time and only struck out in 22% of his plate appearances. Reyes was hitting very well, but his line was supported by a .367 BABIP that wasn’t going to sustain itself, even if he did hit the ball hard. While Reyes ended the season with a 129 wRC+, Statcast’s xwOBA indicates Reyes might have been the benefit of some good luck as his .360 wOBA came with a .331 xwOBA, only slightly above average for a non-pitcher. This year, Reyes’ numbers have gone the opposite direction. While his .357 wOBA matches the results from last season, his xwOBA is .386, so Reyes might not be getting all of the benefits of his hard contact. In addition to those improvements, Reyes had pretty drastically changed his approach. His swing percentage on pitches out of the strike zone is similar to last season at a little over 30%, but his 15 percentage point jump on swings in the zone is the most dramatic leap in the game, as the graph below shows:

All those swings aren’t going to give him huge walk numbers, and he’s still going to strike out a fair amount, but swinging at strikes should allow him to get to his power, and no matter where he’s pitched, he’s hitting the ball hard and in the air when he makes contact. Reyes is putting himself in position to get to his power, which is his best attribute. In Reyes’ 500-plus career plate appearances, his lower-than-average walk totals combined with higher-than-average strikeout rates as well as prodigious power, a decent BABIP, and good overall numbers felt fairly unique. Using our +Stats section of the leaderboard, I looked for seasons since 1960 where a player was similar relative to the league, like Reyes has done so far. These were the players within 10 of Reyes in strikeouts, walks, ISO, BABIP, and wRC+:

Franmil Reyes Comps Using +Stats
Season Name AGE BB%+ K%+ ISO+ BABIP+ wRC+ AVG DIST
2012 Corey Hart 30 86 126 155 105 122 3.2
1969 Bobby Murcer 23 81 126 151 100 118 3.6
2012 Alfonso Soriano 36 87 130 155 100 117 3.8
1996 Terry Steinbach 34 90 129 153 94 117 4.2
1969 Willie Horton 26 93 126 157 98 118 4.4
1976 Richie Zisk 27 92 126 157 109 129 4.6
2003 Andruw Jones 26 89 118 145 98 118 4.8
1983 Larry Parrish 29 92 117 149 98 116 5.2
2018 C.J. Cron 28 80 119 144 100 122 5.4
2001 Jose Cruz 27 87 134 159 103 118 5.4
1995 Jim Edmonds 25 86 137 157 108 124 5.6
2003 Preston Wilson 28 91 130 157 104 111 5.8
2008 Alfonso Soriano 32 94 119 158 100 117 6
2010 Corey Hart 28 83 124 160 107 130 6
2010 Alfonso Soriano 34 93 122 158 98 114 6.2
1991 Juan Gonzalez 21 80 134 160 101 118 6.6
1976 Amos Otis 29 99 121 158 109 127 6.8
1999 Eric Karros 31 84 117 146 108 133 6.8
2011 Nelson Cruz 30 79 126 164 98 116 7.4
2018-2019 Franmil Reyes 23 89 127 150 101 125 0

What Reyes is doing now looks a lot like Alfonso Soriano’s Cubs’ years. Early in his career, his walk rates were considerably lower, which excluded those seasons from consideration. Only Murcer, Edmonds, and Gonzalez were 25 and under when they had their Reyes-like seasons. That’s a pretty good group to be comped with, though Murcer and Edmonds are both left-handed. Reyes has plenty of time to adjust and send his career on a higher trajectory. As he gets more dangerous, his walks are likely to rise, and he will have to continue working on his defense to be a more complete player. As for the homers, Greg Vaughn’s Padres record of 50 long balls in a season is probably safe, but it’s not entirely out of reach. Forty-two homers, which would put Reyes second on the Padres, seems very reachable, as he could join Phil Nevin, Ken Caminiti, and Adrian Gonzalez as the only Padres to hit at least 40 homers in a single campaign.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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3 years ago

23 years old and he’s averaging a homer every 12 PAs? And a 50% hard hit rate?

So, the guy has clear areas where he can improve and is already basically an average regular.

I still can’t believe he got passed over in the Rule 5 a few years ago.

3 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

At the time he was viewed as an incredibly raw kid with a body that limited his defensive abilities. He was also less than a month removed from surgery to address a broken hamate bone suffered in the Arizona Fall League. He healed very quickly and worked very hard that offseason to shed some pounds and improve his lower body flexibility and agility. Some mechanical tweaks to shorten his swing gave him a little more time to assess ball/strike and react to offspeed & breaking pitches. He put it all together in a remarkably fast time frame. He’s a smart guy and a very hard worker.