I like Matt Reynolds. I was a Matt Reynolds fan. I realize that he occasionally bombed a relief appearance in the worst kind of way – like the 8 runs in 2/3 inning kind of way – but I think he showed real promise. I think he’s a solid lefty specialist who, with some good coaching, could come out of the pen in the 7th or 8th inning and put away that Ryan Howard or Joey Votto so another middle reliever could come in with bases empty and have an easier time keeping them that way. But the Rockies gave up on Reynolds before he got to that point, trading him away in the offseason for infielder Ryan Wheeler.
So now the pertinent question is not where Reynolds’s ceiling is, but rather who is Wheeler? Unfortunately, the data on him is limited as he only debuted in the majors last July. In 50 games with the Diamondbacks, he collected 26 hits and 22 strikeouts. More often than not, he was brought in as a pinch-hitter late in the game, so most of his experience came at the bottom of the order. However, prior to his call-up he showed some decent power potential at triple-A Reno, hitting 15 homers in 93 games and amassing a .960 OPS. He plays good defense, mostly at first, and can also play third if necessary. He provides another back-up option to Todd Helton, as the Toddfather enters the twilight of his career and is limited to however much playing time his back will allow. In the end, Wheeler doesn’t need to be much to be a good swap for Reynolds. I like Reynolds, as I’ve said, but the pen is a bit crowded and we can probably live without him. What we need is a solid heir apparent for Helton, and Wheeler has the opportunity to step into that void.
Alas, in spring training Wheeler is hitting an abysmal .158. Now, we all know better than to base too much on spring training stats, since if those were any indication Brandon Wood probably would have been gunning for NL MVP last season. Still, Wheeler has a lot of stepping up to do if he really wants to be that new first base guy. He’s an experiment, and the results are not yet in.