The level of necessity for defense from a shortstop at the major league level has continued to shift over the past couple decades. The days where a player who provides excellent defense at the expense of providing no offensive value at all are done, but it hasn't swung so far that teams can necessarily give up on defense entirely at the position if the player hits well. So with the Mets currently leading the NL East, it's not surprising that questions are being asked about whether the poor defense of Wilmer Flores is hurting the team. He's not hitting so well that the defense is really all that tolerable, and normally you would assume that the Mets just put up with it because there is no better option that can provide a better overall value on both sides of the game. This may not be the case though, as the Mets may have just that player waiting at AAA Las Vegas in Matt Reynolds.
Reynolds was drafted by the Mets in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Arkansas after hitting .323 with seven home runs and 16 stolen bases in 67 games his junior year, and signed for a bonus of just over $500K. The Mets sent him straight to Low-A Savannah, where he hit .259 with three home runs and five stolen bases in 42 games. He moved up to High-A St. Lucie in 2013, but hit just .223/.300/.335 with five home runs and nine stolen bases. The reports on him that year must have been fairly poor, as he fell out of Baseball America's top 30 Mets' prospect list in his first full season.
Something definitely clicked last year, and Amazin' Avenue's Justin Birnbaum noted a key difference in his profile of Reynolds:
After the 2013 season, Reynolds followed his agent's advice and began working with hitting instructor and part-time Mets scout Rick Strickland. Strickland was able to correct the mechanical errors in Reynolds's swing, and helped him regain the line-drive stroke that had brought him success in the past.
It worked. Reynolds split his time between AA Binghamton and AAA Las Vegas in 2014, hitting .343/.405/.454 with six home runs and 20 stolen bases. He didn't hit great in the Arizona Fall League, but was invited to spring training this year. The Mets opted to go with Wilmer Flores at shortstop primarily out of Spring Training, sending Reynolds back to AAA Las Vegas, where he's hitting .297/.367/.449 with two home runs and seven stolen bases so far.
The Mets have used Reynolds primarily as a shortstop this season (and in his minor league career), but there are questions about his defense at the position long-term. With Reynolds, it sounds more like a player that can play the position, but isn't ideal there because of a limited range, and would be a better fit at second base.
Reynolds is an interesting name because he could potentially provide a high batting average with a little bit of power and a few stolen bases, but most reports seem to point to him as either a starting second baseman or a utility player in the best case scenario. He's worth holding as a hedge in NL-only leagues on the chance that the Mets do finally send Flores down to get more practice and reps out of the spotlight, and in deeper mixed formats as well. The comps that keep getting mentioned are players like Mark Ellis and Mark Loretta, who were useful players a number of years but not very much above replacement level in shallow formats, which seems about right. He may be a player that has more value to the Mets than fantasy owners, but I like players like Reynolds in deep formats where you are hoping for a high floor of production even if there is little more upside than that.