The Detroit Tigers and manager Ron Gardenhire have decided on Victor Reyes for Center Field
JaCoby Jones was excited for meaningful September baseball, but the injury bug has bitten the Detroit Tigers center fielder for the second straight year and the team was forced to find a replacement for the power/speed Jones; this time opting for switch-hitting outfielder Victor Reyes to handle center field duties. The injury comes after a nasty hit-by-pitch to the hand against Brewers rookie Phil Bickford who struggled with command all night.
Rather than wait out their options, after the game, Ron Gardenhire announced the likely plan for the outfield with Jones’ injury: a combination of Christin Stewart and Jorge Bonafacio in left, Victor Reyes in center, and Demeritte in right.
Given the Tigers’ appetite to win this season, one must wonder their frustration with trading former right fielder Cameron Maybin just a day ago. While Maybin likely does not contain the defensive chops he once had to handle the position full-time, the organization likes the versatility Reyes brings to the outfield and Maybin could have afforded Reyes to move to a corner once in awhile.
Nevertheless, Reyes will be patrolling center in the vast majority of the Tigers’ remaining games. The sample size for Victor Reyes in center field is small; just five games so far this season. But in his limited time, he has posted positive defensive metrics: 1 Defensive Runs Saved according to Baseball-Reference and 1 Out Above Average according to Statcast, so the swap defensively is fairly lateral considering Jones grades negatively for Defensive Runs Saved and posts the same Outs Above Average as Reyes.
Offensively, Reyes has done well and is now up to a .303 batting average with a .810 OPS along with exit velocity and hard hit numbers above league average–but lately Reyes has been in the lineup almost every day. For this reason, Jones’ offensive production is more likely to be replaced by someone like Travis Demeritte, who did not see the field much prior to Jones’ injury but is likely to play more through the rest of the year in Jones’ absence.
There has been clamoring from fans for center fielders Daz Cameron and Derek Hill, who were both once highly-regarded prospects who have since lost their sizzle. Instead, Detroit opted to keep the promotion internal. It is difficult to say whether either or both deserve their shot with so much of the alternate training site being cut off from fans and media both, but GM Al Avila has hinted at Cameron staying down after his bout with COVID-19 claiming he needs at-bats, while Hill–although a defensive mastermind–has struggled to make consistent contact in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
The long-term value of someone like Reyes has been long debated on social media. The concerns of his offensive profile are certainly questionable in terms of their sustainability, but for this team right now, Reyes is the obvious option in center field. With Jones out, he may be their best outfielder on the team.