Considering Mark Reynolds has been essentially guaranteed a spot on the opening day roster, it is safe to assume he's in line to receive, if nothing else, plenty of at bats against left handed starters. He is a career .361 wOBA hitter facing southpaws, with a truly frightening .238 ISO and much more favorable K and BB percentages compared to his rates versus right-handers (29.1% and 15.3% vs. 33.6% and 10.2%, respectively).
But forget numbers. Mark Reynolds was acquired because dingers. If the organization is to exhibit any philosophical consistency, his reliever on the cold corner ought to be there for the same reason. Well -- consistency, and the whims of the half-drunken viewing audience.
In Milwaukee there is a traditional hitter archetype that carries heroic, mythical overtones which override any potential inhibition about a player's actual offensive value. Many of you are likely familiar with it - the "3TO". Three true outcomes. Walk. Home run. Strikeout. Among Brewers purists, Russell Branyan and Rob Deer are titans of the category, with fellow 3TOs Adam Dunn, Justin Upton, and Dan Uggla carrying the torch around the league (go Braves!)
Primed with dinger bias and nostalgia for gimmicks, let's take a look at the Brewers' left-handed options to share time with Mark Reynolds*:
- Age: 37
- Size: 2nd biggest
- Platoon Nickname: Lark Roverbay
- Crowd chant: OOOOOOOOOOOOOverbay
- vs. RHP (career): .267/.348/.434
- K%: 19.0%
- BB%: 10.9%
- PA/HR: 37.4
- 3TO%**: 34.1
Arbitrary facts that helps his case: Seasoned veteran; former Brewer; held the team's single season doubles record for a while; made the Sexson trade look better
Opinion: Inviting Overbay to spring training probably would've seemed to make more sense had the Brewers never signed Reynolds. There was a little pressure to improve from in-house options, and Overbay was always in the fold considering that something is usually considered to be better than nothing (see 1B for Brewers in 2013 for counterexample). Overbay's never been much of a 3TO kind of player, so the uninspiring number there is no surprise.
It will warm my heart to see Lyle suit up in a Brewers uniform once again this spring, but I don't see a place for him. Overbay did play 4 games in RF for the Yankees last summer, but at the age of 37 with very little experience sprinting after fly balls, trusting him to handle outfield duties is unlikely and downright irresponsible. I have a hard time imagining the Brewers keeping a third exclusive-to-first basemen around, all else being equal. Overbay may be the odd man out.
- Age: 25
- Size: Smallest of the 3 bigs, but still big
- Platoon Nickname: Huntark Morynolds
- Crowd chant: MOOOOOOOOOOOOOrris
- vs. RHP ('11-'13 minors): .287/.338/.516
- K%: 19.3%
- BB%: 6.1%
- PA/HR: 24.4
- 3TO%: 29.9%
Arbitrary facts that helps his case: relatively high draft pick; Brewers' offensive minor leaguer of the year in 2012; baseball-sounding name; played for Auburn, which is in the south where the weather is okay so I'm guessing they probably have a good baseball program; he's the first baseman of the future*
Opinion: I have to admit to a bit of in-house bias and an inkling of hope that Morris starts the season platooning with Reynolds, but the 3TO test puts the kaibosh on that ridiculous notion. The kid can't even crack the 30% mark? He needs to strike out more.
The overall splits are encouraging, but most are skeptical after Morris failed to follow up his sterling 2012 season with Huntsville with a similar performance at AAA last season. Morris missed a prime opportunity to thrust his way onto the major league roster this spring after posting a mediocre .247/.310/.457 line in 2014.
But it isn't all bad news. The Brewers most certainly haven't committed to a long-term option at the position, and he should get plenty of chances with the big club if he starts out hot at AAA, especially if Reynolds, Francisco, or Overbay are struggling at the ML level.
He likely starts the season at AAA and will keep close to a telephone throughout the season. He's fallen out of favor in many circles and many feel his floor lies lower than Francisco's or Overbay's . I'm not sure I agree, but I get it. He's going to have to earn it. Swing harder, Hunter.
- Age: 27
- Size: Biggest
- Platoon Nickname: Muanark Reyncisco
- Crowd chant: FranciscOOOOOOOOOOOOO
- vs. RHP (MLB career): .234/.305/.443
- K%: 33.6%
- BB%: 7.0%
- PA/HR: 24.1
- 3TO%: 36.0%
Arbitrary facts that help his case: Nickname kind of makes the platoon sound like royalty; most tenured of the group; was the heir apparent to Scott Rolen in Cincinnati; hit an important home run in the Caribbean Winter League; swings really hard, so the ball goes far when he hits it
Verdict: It's getting a little depressing, isn't it? The 3TO standards were admittedly quite high given the reputation of the aforementioned Branyan and Deer. Here's visual help:
Francisco does have a slight edge in our current realistic field of applicants*. Take a look at each individual's 3TO progression over the last 7 years:
Morris and Francisco are both on the ascent, while Overbay has remained steady, with Reynolds on a gentle decline. Overbay has never surpassed the 40% mark. We can only say Reynolds' 3TO% has regressed to the mid-40s because of how preposterously high it got in 2010***. Morris has made important strides in limiting outcomes in each of the last two seasons, but has yet to take the next step.
A step taken by Juan Francisco. Last season, Francisco committed to the 3TO philosophy like he never had before -- he struck out like crazy (35.3 K%), walked a little bit more (8.3 BB%), and dinged more frequently (21.4 PA/HR). We may have all gotten sick of him together last summer, but never take a 3TO for granted -- because sometimes the only alternative to a 3TO is a 1TO (1 pitch popups), and we've had plenty of exposure to that.
Let's face it -- every option is underwhelming. We may as well go with the choice that maximizes mythic moonshots and brings true 3TOism back to Miller Park every day at first base. If it isn't Reynolds, I'm hoping it's Francisco.
* -- Sorry, Sean Halton.
** -- That's (HR+BB+IBB+SO)/PA.
*** -- 55.9%, to be exact, in 596 PA. Branyan managed 58.3% in 2005 (242 PA). Deer never approached the number.