When New York Mets leadoff man and shortstop Jose Reyes debuted in the majors in 2003 as a precocious 19-year-old and promptly finished the season with a .307 batting average, including a 17-game hitting streak, visions of the next Rickey Henderson were dancing throughout the minds in the Big Apple.
However, it took the actual Rickey Henderson to make those revelations become a reality.
After wowing the league in his initial season, Reyes struggled to embrace the role of a true leadoff man, suffering through the 2004 and 2005 seasons with abysmal on-base percentages (.271 and .300, respectively) and pitiful walks totals (a combined 32 for the two years).
Enter Henderson and some much needed counseling during spring training in 2006. Hired by the Mets as a mentor to Reyes, baseball’s greatest leadoff hitter of all time (at least by his own admission) imparted his wisdom upon what could be his successor to that title, schooling him on the true principles of a leadoff man — reach base, however you can, and once you’re there, find a way to score.
The sessions clearly paid off as Reyes finally lived up to his immense potential in 2006, batting .300, while hitting 19 homers and 17 triples and scoring 122 runs. Also, just as important, Reyes picked up a respectable 53 walks (twice more than his career high), while posting a .354 OBP, to go along with his NL-leading 64 steals.
One year removed from his atmospheric rise, Reyes is now one of fantasy baseball’s most coveted commodities, thanks to his statistical strength in so many different categories.
His stolen bases, runs, triples and hits totals rank him as the top leadoff man in the fantasy ranks and most experts rate him no lower than 10th among all major-leaguers, with many publications evaluating him as a top-five player.
Reyes started last season slow, hitting .250 for April and May, but he exploded in June with a .373 average and he never looked back from there.
Consistency may be the only question mark for Reyes, who has just one solid season in the majors under his belt. But as a 23-year-old entering his fifth year in the majors, there seems to be no reason he shouldn’t be able to build upon his breakout 2006 season.
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