Cleveland Guardians: The outlook for Franmil Reyes in 2022

Franmil Reyes #32 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Franmil Reyes #32 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Franmil Reyes
Franmil Reyes #32 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Franmil Reyes has become one of the heartbeats of Cleveland baseball since arriving in 2019. Let’s take a look at what could be in store for him in 2022.

Six-foot-five, 265 pounds, a fan favorite and a smile as wide as the scoreboard at Progressive Field. Those descriptors could only be indicative of one man on the Guardians’ current roster. Franmil Reyes has made his presence in Cleveland felt since day one with the organization, whether it be at the plate mashing mammoth home runs, or with the media showcasing his unique personality.

For a team looking to get back into contention in a crowded AL Central, Reyes is a large part of the current and future core of the ball club (physically and metaphorically), being under team control through the 2024 season.

Let’s dive into what some of the expectations are for the big man in the upcoming 2022 season.

Franmil Reyes: From Padre to Guardian

Reyes came to Cleveland in 2019 as a part of the Trevor Bauer trade. At first glance, it seemed like Yasiel Puig was the impact presence coming back to the then-Indians, but further examination of the pieces headed to Cleveland showed a gem in Reyes. With the crowded makeup of San Diego’s outfield and the lack of a DH in the NL at the time, there wasn’t a place for a suspect defender even if he had a massive power stroke.

Reyes didn’t have a ton of time with Cleveland in 2019 (or 2020 for that matter), but he made a good impact on arrival with his attitude and quick acclimation to the team. In his first 162-game season with the Indians in 2021, Reyes was a lineup stalwart and one of the most consistent bats on the team. Even with time missed on the IL, he hit 30 home runs and finished the year with an OPS of .846.

As a member of the inaugural Guardians squad, expectations for plus-production will be heaped on Reyes. With his power potential, as well as his entrance into the prime of his career, the sky could be the limit in the coming 2022 season.

Big Swings, Plenty of Strikeouts, and Tape-Measure Dingers

On the surface, Reyes is an exciting piece of the Guardians lineup, and certainly passes the eye test as one of Cleveland’s most impactful bats. That said, it is still worth diving into the story the statistics tell to better understand the nuances of his game.

Given the size of Reyes’ frame, he generates immense power through his swing. You can count on a couple of things from his massive swing radius and the torque he creates when bringing the bat around: lots of hard contact and barreled balls, and lots of swinging strikes. According to Baseball Savant’s 2021 percentile rankings, Reyes scored in the 86th percentile or higher in xSLG (expected slugging), hard-hit percentage, average exit velocity, maximum exit velocity, and barrel percentage (where he ranks in the 94th percentile).

On the opposite end of those elite rankings, he ends up in the 6th percentile or lower in whiff and strikeout rates. For reference, he struck out 149 times last season in 418 at-bats.

Looking broadly across his profile at the plate, Reyes is a cut-and-dry DH with huge power and lots of strikeouts as the trade-off. However, Reyes maintains a fairly consistent batting average when examining his numbers across his time in San Diego and Cleveland. For his career, he has accumulated an average of .260 over his four seasons, showing a level of depth at the plate outside of simply relying on the long ball. He doesn’t walk a lot (only 43 times last season), but he still managed to find his way on base at a .324 clip.

At times, Reyes can be a bit complacent at the plate, taking strikes and laying off of pitches he could potentially put a charge into. He also has a tendency to get pull-happy, trying to shoot balls into left field instead of taking pitchers the opposite way. In that way, Reyes can be a bit prone to streaks where he doesn’t expand the field and opens up his swing. He also goes through phases where it seems like he’s able to barrel up every pitch he sees, showing a sharp duality between the hot and cold spells. More consistency in his approach at the plate could be the missing link in Reyes’ offensive game.

The Outlook for Franmil Reyes in 2022

Coming into 2022, Reyes is expected to be one of the offensive pulses of the Guardians. The Franimal will likely hit cleanup on a regular basis, and will have plenty of chances to drive in runs. With a full season of Myles Straw leading off (OBP of .349 last season) and Amed Rosario likely filling the two-hole, there should consistently be men on base, assuming José Ramírez doesn’t drive them all in from the three-hole.

As far as the lineup after Reyes goes, the picture is a bit murkier. Bobby Bradley is a likely choice for the five-hole, and assuming he makes meaningful adjustments to his approach following his extended stay in Cleveland in 2021, he can hopefully provide some protection for Reyes in the lineup. The science (or pseudoscience according to some) around lineup protection should bode well for the Guardians if Bradley has successfully tweaked his plate approach, with Reyes being the beneficiary of more honest pitches to attack.

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The 2022 season should also offer some statistical rebounds from the prior campaign. From 2020 to 2021, Reyes saw an increase in his strikeout rate (28.6% to 32%), as well as a decrease in his walk rate (10% to 9.2%). There were also drops in BA (.275 to .254) and OBP (.344 to .324). These statistical changes could very well be an aberration due to the small sample size from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and are not likely to be part of a larger trend for Reyes.

With the hiring of Chris Valaika onto Cleveland’s staff as the new hitting coach, there is optimism that many players in the Guardians lineup could see better success at the plate. For Reyes, addressing some of his troubles hitting curveballs would be a way to help propel him into the upper echelon of MLB’s designated hitter ranks. He has a good track record against most varieties of fastballs, but he bears some resemblance to Pedro Cerrano when tasked with figuring out most breaking pitches, whiffing on more than half of the curveballs he sees. If Reyes can develop more discipline and lay off pitches tumbling out of the strike zone, he could demand better offerings to mash towards the Progressive Field scoreboard.

For reference on the positive outlook for Reyes’ 2022, FanGraphs is projecting him to slash .260/.326/.850, with an OPS of .850 and 116 RBI. All of those statistics would indicate progression from his 2021 totals, which should provide Guardians fans with plenty of optimism.

I personally see Reyes having a stronger season than most his projections indicate, based on his ascension into what should be a very productive prime period of his career. At age 27 by season’s end, he will just be reaching his most productive window while thankfully doing so in a Cleveland uniform (hopefully for the foreseeable future). If Reyes is able to stay healthy, continue crushing moonshots, and drive in 100+ RBI while increasing his OBP, Cleveland’s lineup could have a legitimate gauntlet at the top of the order.

As MLB and the MLBPA get their affairs in order to provide baseball to the masses in 2022, Reyes’ name will be one to watch closely. The development of his own game, the maturation of the team around him, a new hitting coach, and the return of Terry Francona should all bode well for a strong showing from Cleveland’s premier power hitter in the coming season.

Hopefully by year’s end he will have finally met his goal of hitting Progressive Field’s scoreboard, as well as helping the Guardians return to October.