The fans in Toronto are really excited, and why shouldn't they be? For the first time in many years, the Blue Jays have some dynamic talent on the field and in the starting rotation. The American League East is wide open as every team has holes. The key to it all, from this office chair, is Jose Reyes. If Reyes stays healthy and has a good season, he will be the fire that lights up the rest of the Blue Jays lineup. If that happens, he could very well win the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
Here is why it can happen:
Batted ball data from 2012 shows that Jose Reyes hit more ground balls in 2012 than he has since his 2005 season. While his line drive percentage has remained constant, his ground ball to fly ball ratio rose to 1.43 while with the Marlins. Perhaps because of the ground balls and perhaps because of data positioning, his BABIP was lower in 2012 than his career average.
It seems likely, considering his batted ball stats since 2007, that his ground ball rate will drop to previous levels. And even if his ground ball rate stays the same, since Rogers Centre has artificial turf, that same ground ball rate gives him a chance to raise his BABIP.
The turf can also increase his production of doubles and triples. Reyes has hit double-digit triples in seven of his last eight seasons. There is no reason why that will not continue in 2013. Most projection systems give him double-digits in triples but on the lower end of the scale. He could beat those projections. Reyes usually finishes with 30 or more doubles in a season. With the turf, that could increase to 40 with not too much difficulty. Add in ten or more homers and he should better his career .440 slugging percentage.
The quality of the hitters behind Reyes might just be the best he has ever played with. Melky Cabrera, PEDs or no PEDs, has really turned his career around and is a solid number two hitter who will allow Reyes to continue to steal bases with abandon. Reyes has stolen 79 bases in the last two combined seasons.
After Cabrera comes Jose Bautista. Bautista has the best plate discipline on the team and, though there is some concern from his wrist injury, he has to be figured being a dangerous hitter with a pile of walks. After Bautista comes Edwin Encarnacion, who became the Bautista of 2012 as he blossomed into one of the best combination power hitters and on-base guy in the American League last year.
That top four can rival a lot of lineups around baseball. If they all perform, there is no reason Jose Reyes cannot score 110 runs or more.
Reyes has fallen off somewhat in his fielding statistics. Fangraphs rates him at a little more than three runs below average for the past two seasons. Baseball-reference.com is even harder on him at 17 runs below average for 2012. The turf at home can do two things. It can give him truer balls to field helping him a bit, or it can cause more balls to zip right by him thus causing him problems with his range scores.
But say he has a good season in the field and can play at least league average in the field. Then, all of his offensive rankings will add positively to his WAR total with a positional boost from playing shortstop.
Sure, this sounds like a lot of "ifs." But if Jose Reyes stays healthy, and if he has a good season in the field, Jose Reyes could be the spark that ignites the Blue Jays with his personality and his bat and legs. He seems to be in a perfect fit with the Blue Jays and the timing seems just right for him to have a big year. He is this site's predicted choice for the MVP in 2013.