Waiting in the Wings: Reymond Fuentes

USA TODAY Sports

The former first round pick has had a bit of a bumpy ride thus far. Has he turned a corner?

I want to talk about Reymond Fuentes and since I am the author here, I get to talk about him. Fuentes was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Boston Red Sox, taken with 28th overall selection. He drew high praise at the time as a sure thing center fielder who was slight of frame but packed a wiry punch. Though he was never going to be a home run hitter, Fuentes excelled at spraying line drives all over the field and was a force on the basepaths with "elite speed" per Baseball America. Lauded for his willingness not to try to do too much, Fuentes was seen as a future leadoff hitter and comped to Johnny Damon at the time of his draft, though he was admittedly quite raw.

Fuentes signed quickly enough that he was able to amass 145 at-bats in 2009 and lived up to his first round billing while hitting .290/.331/.379 as a 18 year old in rookie ball. The next season he was pushed to Lo-A and seemed to justify the decision with a 705 OPS. That might not appear to be anything special but as a 19 year old in Lo-A, it's pretty good, especially considering the expected lack of pop and the 42 stolen bases in 47 attempts. Fuentes was then included in the trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, heading west with Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly. I don't think the Red Sox were giving up on Fuentes, but he was an expendable piece. He did more of the same in 2011, with a 711 OPS in Hi-A and 41 stolen bases. Only issue is, he had been caught stealing 14 times and this was the California League, where one would expect more impressive batting numbers. 2012 was a rough one for Fuentes and caused him to drop out of the Padres top 30 prospects for 2012 per Baseball America (though admittedly, the Padres have one of the deepest systems in baseball). Fuentes compiled a putrid .218/.301/.302 slash line in his first go at Double-A, and while some room for error is afforded by his seasonal age (21), it still was rather ugly. He did continue to steal bases at a near 80% clip, but that alone can't carry a prospect. 2013 then, has been something of a revelation. His to-date slash line is .332/.419/.472 as a 22-year old in Double-A. Yes, some credit is removed in that he is repeating the league but the amount of improvement is hard to ignore. Some will point to his .403 BABIP and say that this improvement is not sustainable. And they're not wrong... a .403 BABIP is unsustainable. But prior to the .292 BABIP he posted in 2012, Fuentes had never recorded one below .336, and given his speed profile, it's inconceivable to think he can sustain a BABIP higher than league average. But BABIP aside, there are real tangible changes made to Fuentes' game that can be focused on. He's upped his walk rate by 1.5% and has broken the double digit barrier in that category for the first time. Simultaneously, he has reduced his walk rate by 6.5% (!) in his second go-round at Double-A. Fuentes is also recording the highest ISO of his career and it's over .100 for the first time since 2010. So while BABIP is a major factor in some of these results, it's clear that there has been a change in approach as well. Oh - and he's still stealing bases, going 23 for 31 so far this year.

While Fuentes shows more than enough speed and range for centerfield, his arm is below average. At the plate Fuentes' game suffers from rawness. While it's clear he's taken steps to address some of these issues, prior to 2013, he struggled to maintain focus throughout games and throughout the season. He can struggle to recognize pitches, hindering his ability to get on base and make use of his best asset: his speed. Fuentes has near elite speed, earning legitimate 70 grades from scouts. His swing is compact and built for line drives more than power. His power is below average though there is room for improvement as he continues to fill out his 160 lb. frame. He likely won't ever be even an average power guy, but 10-12 might be possible down the line (though not likely if he plays in PETCO for half his games). It's also worth keeping in mind for development's sake, that even repeating Double-A, Fuentes has only faced a pitcher younger than him in 8.6% of his plate appearances.

Fantasy owners will find a way to let Fuentes into their hearts if he can continue to get on base, allowing him to access his speed. I won't try and convince you that his current numbers at Double-A are realistic, but I don't think they need to be for Fuentes to have value. His elite speed puts him on the map and if the approach improvements are real, Fuentes should be on the minds of fantasy owners even if there is some regression in other areas.

Source Material
Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference
FanGraphs

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