Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jo-Jo Reyes: Lefty Specialist?

When the Blue Jays picked up Yunel Escobar in a trade with the Atlanta Braves last season, they also acquired lefty Jo-Jo Reyes in the same deal. Reyes made only one Major League appearance last year. On April 12, while still pitching for the Braves, he allowed 9 runs in 3.1 innings. Starter Jair Jurrjens also pitched 3.1 innings that game, allowing 8 runs, so Reyes really did not do much worse. But both pitchers were quite ineffective against a rather poor Padres lineup.

With Reyes challenging for a spot in the rotation for the 2011 Blue Jays, I thought this was a great time to say that based on his prior stats, I think Reyes would be a great option as a lefty specialist with this year’s team. It is true that the team has many options for a lefty coming out of the bullpen, but I just do not see Reyes making the team out of Spring Training as a starter, barring any injuries to other pitchers. Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil are the top 3 pitchers, with as many as six other players competing with Reyes for the final two spots in the rotation.

Reyes has pitched in 41 Major League games over 4 seasons, starting 37 and coming into 4 others as a reliever. In that time, opposing batters have hit .297/.379/.512 against him. Those numbers are not exactly great. During that time, he has posted a 47.5% groundball rate, and averaged about 90.6 MPH on his fastball and throwing it 64.7% of the time according to FanGraphs.

But once you take a look at Reyes’ lefty/righty splits, you start to see some different numbers. Throughout his career, Reyes has struggled against righties, who have hit an alarming .320/.399/.549 against him. To put it in perspective, Vladimir Guerrero’s career slash line is .320/.383/.563, and is not exactly a hitter many pitchers want to face on a regular basis. Reyes’ numbers against lefties, however, are a much better .215/.301/.374.

The differences in these numbers make me think that Reyes would be a problem as a starter due to his inability to get right-handed batters out, but could be dominant as a lefty specialist. Other players such as David Purcey may be better options for a bullpen job at the moment, but with Reyes being out of minor league options, using him as a reliever may be the only way for him to stick with the Blue Jays this season.