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Franimal Magnitude

Surprise! Reyes Is Easily the Padres Rookie of the Year

Chris Ello
September 21, 2018 - 5:06 am
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I walked around Peoria, Arizona, this past February along with everybody else. Players, media, coaches, front office personnel. I surveyed all of the Padres' young talent along with everybody else, too. Players, media, coaches, front office personnel.

So many young players to watch. The list of future superstars seemed endless. But out of absolutely nobody's mouth came the name, Franmil Reyes.

Think of the odds you could have gotten on this: a 23-year-old giant from the Dominican Republic, who carries a bat around like it's a pencil, and flashes a smile as wide as a split watermelon, will be the runaway choice this year as the Padres' best rookie.

That Reyes is the one player who stands above the rest, in a way, isn't so surprising. That's because he does, at 6-foot-4, 250-pounds (?), stand above the rest. But that he has become the best player of them all? Now that's a shocker.

Think back for a moment to spring training, and all of the excitement surrounded young infielders Luis Urias and Fernando Tatis, Jr. Just how soon would they be starring at the big league level, we wondered? In Urias' case, it wasn't until late August. For Tatis, because of an injury, it wasn't at all.

There were many others. Pitcher Joey Lucchesi nearly made the starting rotation out of spring training, then did make it when Dinelson Lamet went down with a season-ending injury. Eric Lauer, another rookie lefty, would soon join him. Later there would be other exciting young arms like Brent Kennedy and Jacob Nix, who would make their major league debuts.

As April unfolded, the Padres had the best rookie in the National League, maybe even the best in all of baseball. Hammering away at third base, Christian Villanueva took home N.L. Rookie of the Month honors for the first month of the season. 

A new young buck in the outfield soon arrived as well. His name was Franchy Cordero, and he was hitting home run shots nearly out of the state of Arizona. Yet another superstar, it seemed, was on the big stage. Then at the All-Star break, the team acquired one of baseball's brightest young talents, plucking catcher Francisco Mejia from Cleveland in a deadline deal that sent closer Brad Hand to the Indians. Mejia would hit two home runs in his first game as a Padre.

Yet as the season ends, not Mejia, nor any of the others, can come close to matching the Franimal. The S.S. Reyes, as broadcaster Ted Leitner loves to call him. His impact has been seismic. 

But it didn't start out the way. After Reyes hit .182 his first time to the big leagues in May, he was sent back to Triple-A where the chances were likely that he would be forgotten, lost in the shuffle among all of the other young talent.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. Reyes wound up getting another crack after correcting a couple of flaws in his swing. He has done nothing but crush the ball ever since. At Petco Park in a July game, he hit a ball so far beyond the center field bleachers that when it landed past the Park in the Park, it seemed as if it had landed in another zip code.

And he has kept hitting them. And not just homers, either. Currently, the Big Fella has a career-high 11-game hitting streak going that has raised his batting average over 100 points higher than it was in May, to .284. He is hitting line drives to all fields, and (with 16 HR's) still clearing most fences on a consistent basis.

He has been so good that, along with the Padres' other corner outfielder Hunter Renfroe, he has perhaps made Wil Myers, a former cornerstone of the franchise, expendable this coming offseason. If nothing else, Reyes has helped precipitate a move by Myers from the outfield to third base.

Yep. There's no questioning it now. Reyes has surpassed everybody's expectations. And among an almost endless array of young stars, it is his star that has shined the brightest.

Who could have seen that coming?