There’s no doubt about it. Elmer Reyes is not the biggest shortstop prospect in the system. In fact, he’s not the biggest shortstop prospect at A-ball with Jose Peraza at Rome. The 22 year-old native of Nicaragua would like to become just the second Atlanta Brave from the country in recent memory (the most famous baseball player from the country is Dennis Martinez). However, he has a long battle to get to the bigs on his hands.
While Ms. Reyes was getting ready to pop out a baby boy, the Braves were likely talking to Terry Pendleton, who they signed a week or so after Reyes came into the world. Born on November 26th, 1990, the dimunitive middle infielder signed sometime before the 2009 Dominican Summer Leage season. Sometimes, especially with smaller prospects, it’s difficult to find the date they actually inked their first professional contract. His first bit of experience was decent and got his feet wet with a good walk-rate.
However, that walk rate quickly disappeared in his North American debut in 2010. Still, he grabbed some attention when he hit .301/.363/.472 at rookie-ball with all but six of those games with Danville. His 19-age season made him a bit of a sleeper. While his walk rate fell (in 111 more PA, he walked three fewer times compared to 2009), he showed a surprisingly repeatable ability to get on base via the hit-by-pitch. In just 59 games, he was plunked 13 times. Amazingly, that is not his season-high.
2011 was looked on by prospect analysts as a chance for Reyes to become a notable prospect in the Braves system. He got off to a decent start, posting a .717 OPS through his first 12 games. However, the wheels came off and over his next 49 games, Reyes slumped to the tune of .159/.206/.203 and the Braves demoted Reyes back to Danville for the rookie season. Once back in the Appalachain League, Reyes began to hit again and even hit for the cycle on August 5th, getting the feat out of the way with a base hit in the 7th. He hit his only homer for Danville during 2011, but he’ll take it. Reyes came back to Rome to finish the season for three games and was tapped for a return trip in 2012. He did set a career-high with 14 HBP between his time at Rome and Danville.
While his offensive numbers were better – probably because he couldn’t be much worse – Reyes was hardly an offensive threat in 2012. Playing shortstop full-time for the first time since 2009, Reyes OPS’d just .686 with an 87 RC+. He did make it three consecutive years with double-digts in HBP, but that’s not much to prop up.
Nevertheless, Reyes got a little bit of a look in spring training this year, especially early. Of course, that was only because Andrelton Simmons was playing in the World Baseball Classic. He showed okay range, though his arm wasn’t much to write home about. The experience appeared to do him good as he’s turned in a good year with the Lynchburg Hillcats this season, hitting .291/.328/.738 – by far, his best experience in full-season ball. He’s had a pair of four-hit games and has been explosive in August, slashing .383/.419/.519.
The success will allow him the opportunity to head up a level for 2014. With Peraza pushing him, Reyes future at shortstop is grim. He has played a lot of second base, which he seems best suited for, and can slot over to third base, but that’s not ideal. He has shown a miserable 4.3% walk rate over his career so he depends on his batting average to get on base. Well, that and a ridiculous tendancy to get plunked. A career .260 batting average means he’s not going to get on base enough and he doesn’t possess tremendous defense and/or speed to provide another quality to make him more valuable.
All that said, he’s still young. This is his age-22 season. He will head to AA next year and with any luck, he could become a legitimate bench option with positional flexibility and enough pop off the bench to keep him around.