In 2008, Mark Reynolds put up a .239-28-97-87-11 fantasy line as a 24-year old. The RotoTimes Player Rater valued that season at $12.14, making Reynolds the 76th most valuable hitter in fantasy. Only 31 pitchers recorded a higher dollar value that year.
Coming into the 2009 season, fantasy players were not impressed with Reynolds. Not only did they forecast no improvement from the Arizona third baseman, they predicted him to be significantly worse than he was the previous year.
If you forecasted Reynolds to duplicate what he did in 2008, you might pick him around 107th (76 + 31). If you used a 60-40 hitter-pitcher split, you might figure the 76th best hitter to go around pick 127. Instead, fantasy players drafted him around 100 spots lower than those methods. Reynolds’ ESPN page gave him an ADP of 218.9 for 2009.
Clearly, fantasy players did not believe in Reynolds. What did the preseason projections predict for him?
Bill James – .269-32-105-101-10
CHONE – .252-22-81-77-5
Marcel – .260-23-82-78-7
ZiPS – .257-28-89-88-7
Only the James model, frequently the most optimistic projection system, saw him bettering his 2008 numbers. ZiPS had him with a better AVG, but basically the same in HR, RBI and R, while suffering a drop in SB. Both Marcel and CHONE predicted a better AVG but drops in the other categories due to playing time issues.
But even the most pessimistic of the projection systems saw Reynolds putting up roughly an $8-10 season. For a comparison, see 2008 Adrian Beltre, who posted a .266-25-77-74-8 line, which RotoTimes gave a $10.23 dollar value. Beltre had an ESPN ADP of 103.9 for 2009.
Why did fantasy players think so poorly of Reynolds heading into the 2009 season?
Obviously the strikeouts were a major red flag for a lot of people. Reynolds set the all-time single-season strikeout record in 2008 with 204 Ks and he had a 37.8 percent K%. Additionally, he had a .329 BABIP, which seemed elevated with his 19.1 percent LD%. Even the Dutton and Bendix xBABIP model thought he was lucky in 2008, as it gave him a .304 BABIP.
Evidently, fantasy players must have been worried about the strikeouts and the low average ultimately preventing Reynolds from keeping a starting job in 2009. The pessimistic projection systems had Reynolds as a solid player even with 75 fewer ABs. Fantasy players must have figured he would not even reach the 468 ABs that CHONE projected.
The Diamondbacks did have a reasonable alternative at third base on the roster in Chad Tracy. A knee injury was the main culprit causing Tracy to log just 552 ABs in 2007-08 but all of the preseason reports were bullish on Tracy, who had a 132 OPS+ in 2005 and who carried a lifetime .285 AVG heading into the 2009 season.
But even when Reynolds struggled in 2008, he hit .226/.303/.409 after the All-Star break, Arizona kept him in the lineup along with Tracy, who saw most of his action at first base. That should have been an indication that Reynolds was going to have a long leash in 2009.
Clearly, no one saw the 44-HR, 24-SB season that Reynolds enjoyed in 2009. But since the team stuck with him through a record strikeout season in 2008, gave no indication that they thought Tracy deserved playing time ahead of him at third base and that the team did not have a top prospect at the position waiting in the minors, thinking that he was a likely candidate to lose his job in 2009 was a poor prediction.
Reynolds may have broke his own strikeout record in 2009, but the biggest whiff came from fantasy owners who relegated him to the 18th round or lower in drafts this year. RotoTimes gave his 2009 season a $27.58 value, making Reynolds the 12th-best fantasy hitter this year and one of the biggest bargains in the game.