To say the Brewers had a giant hole at first base last season is a major understatement. Not only could the first basemen not provide offense, but they also could not field either. Players like Juan Francisco and Yuni Betancourt stumbled on even the most routine plays. Every play became and adventure. This off-season the Brewers made an unpopular choice by signing the slugging Mark Reynolds. Each time he steps on the field he has proved that while he was not met with much fanfare, he may be the right choice for this power hitting ball club.
The reason that many were not excited that the club signed Mark Reynolds was his primary weakness. He strikes out in bunches. Four times Reynolds has led the league in strikeouts, including a single season high of 223 strikeouts in 2009. In his career he has struck out in just over 37 percent of his at-bats. Currently he is 14th among active players in strikeouts although he has many less at bats than any other players on the list. In a lineup that is often too aggressive, many clamored that adding a strikeout prone bat is not a good fit.
However, there are several reasons that he is the perfect fit for the Brewers lineup. First he has gigantic raw power. Although he strikes out at an alarming rate, the ball jumps off his bat when he connects. Throughout his career he has been one of the most powerful hitters in the game. Taking away his rookie season, in which he hit 17 homers, Reynolds has never had a season with less than 20 homers. Adding that bat to a hitter friendly Miller Park should help this trend to continue.
His track record of power would be expected to be in the middle of the lineup, but with the Brewers he hits in the bottom of the order. This should help him to see even better pitches and terrorize opposing pitchers. They cannot let up after getting through the heart of the order with his bat lurking. Already his bat has paid dividends with three homeruns and six RBIs in his first ten games as a Brewer.
Defensively, Reynolds has also performed admirably. As a former third-baseman, Reynolds has shown soft hands at first especially with hot shots to his right. He has also already saved numerous errors by scooping the ball on low throws and he has started several nifty double plays. His glove has been a major upgrade around the first base bag.
Weighing all of their options the Brewers front office decided that Reynolds was the best choice at first this year. After last season’s black-hole at first, anything that Reynolds provides is an upgrade. With his fearsome bat buried in the backend of the lineup, he should have no problem putting up solid power numbers again this season and helping the Brewers slug their way back to the top of the NL Central.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference