The first part of Reynolds' game that I would like to address is his ability to get on base. It's not uncommon in game threads to see people expressing surprise that Reynolds can take a walk, or questioning his eye. I know I'll be preaching to the choir for many of the members of this site here, but Reynolds knows how to take a walk. In fact, he is far and away the best player on the Orioles at doing so. To emphasize this point, let's do a quick comparison between Mark Reynolds and Nick Markakis. Most fans would consider Markakis to be a player with a good eye that can take walks. And that would be true; Markakis has a 9.7% walk rate in his career, above the league average of 8%. Reynolds boasts an 11.7 BB% in his career. In fact, this year Reynolds and Markakis are tied for the team lead with 22 walks, although Reynolds has done it in almost 100 less plate appearances.
In his two years with the Baltimore Orioles, Mark Reynolds has drawn the ire of a lot of fans. He has become a player that is easy to blame when the Orioles are struggling. In some ways, this is understandable. For an everyday player his fielding has been hard to watch. It has been beyond bad; in his two years with the Orioles his fielding percentage is .874, even worse than his already low career mark of .928. Even a team enduring a decade and a half of losing expects more from its 3B. Reynolds has also taken a lot of criticism for his offense, and the rationale behind that is much harder to explain. Below the jump I'll make the case that Reynolds has not only been a very valuable hitter, but that he also will be a perfectly average fielder going forward.
So yes, Reynolds strikes out a lot. And maybe because a strike out is such a disappointing thing to see, his mistakes have been more visible for fans. But his strike outs do not do more harm than any other kind of out would, and despite his low batting average, he has always gotten on base at about the league average. On top of this, he hits the ball hard. Reynolds generally bats in the second half of the lineup, even though on this Orioles team he is one of the best hitters. For a guy hitting in his spot in the lineup, expectations must be awfully high for him to draw so much criticism. Or maybe it's just the anger at the terrible and frequent errors bleeding over into people's perception of his hitting. If that's the case, fans should have a lot less to complain about going forward.
I have reason to believe that Reynolds is going to become even more valuable to this team. Not because I think he's going to show us anything offensively that he didn't last year, but because I think his fielding is going to improve dramatically. Buck seems to have finally made Reynolds the regular at 1B. This is good news for all of us. That abysmal fielding percentage I pointed to earlier was for Reynolds at all positions throughout his career. However, Reynolds has played 655 games in his career at 3B, where he posted a .928 FP. He also has 87 games at 1B, and while that is a much smaller sample size, his fielding percentage is .982. If Buck keeps Reynolds rotating between 1B and DH, his defense should hurt us significantly less often. So he'll be able to focus on doing what he does best, which is hit the ball hard.