By Mike Steffanos
I'm still trying to finish Part 2 of my Looking Back, Looking Ahead post. Hopefully I will have it up Sunday night, possibly Monday. I've been spending a lot of time job hunting this week and that has cut into writing time.
In the meantime, I've had a few emails asking me what I thought about the latest news with Jerry Manuel considering batting Reyes third in the lineup.
I could honestly see Reyes batting third, and can make a case for it. He won't hit 35 homers, but he has plenty of pop and always has driven in a fair number of runs.
Moreover, for all his speed and the energy that Reyes brings to the leadoff spot, I've always felt that Reyes was lacking something when it comes to the ability to really read pitchers compared to truly great baserunners like Rickey Henderson. Reyes gets by on great athletic ability, but some of the baserunning blunders he's famous for happen when he seems to be guessing rather than having a definitive read.
Reyes will probably improve somewhat as he gets older, but he'll also lose a few steps along the way. So yeah, it doesn't shock me at all to contemplate Jose not batting leadoff.
I can also understand the pressure on Manuel with Beltran out for at least a month. He's lost a middle of the order bat, leaving him only with David Wright and Jason Bay as legit mid-order guys.
This is going to force Manuel to slot in guys like Daniel Murphy, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur into key lineup slots where they really don't belong. Reyes batting third would be a better fit than any of those guys batting 3, 4 or 5.
On the other hand, the best candidates for leadoff besides Reyes are Pagan and Luis Castillo. Pagan won't even have a spot when Beltran starts playing regularly again and with Castillo there are constant health issues.
Moving Reyes to beef up the middle of the order would likely have the undesirable effect of weakening the top of the order. There just isn't a better choice for leadoff over the long haul of this upcoming campaign than Jose.
Another factor in favor of leaving him in leadoff is comfort level in a year where he is coming back from an injury. I want him as comfortable as possible because the Mets desperately need him to play well. I can't see where moving him around in the order helps that.
If the Mets groom or acquire a player who is a legitimate leadoff man, then this move would make a lot more sense. In the meantime, though, right now there is no better candidate for leadoff than Reyes, or anyone even close. I just don't think it makes sense to move him this season. I'm not dead set against it, but I don't think the right pieces are in place for this to work in 2010.