Jose Reyes will play his first major league game since last September tonight as he makes his return to the New York Mets. He’ll make that first start at third base, and he’s hitting leadoff. That’s absurd.
Strictly from a baseball perspective, Reyes hasn’t done anything to warrant that spot in the Mets’ lineup. After playing in nine games in the Rockies minor league system and getting released by that organization upon the completion of his domestic violence suspension, Reyes didn’t play in a professional baseball game for two weeks. He first took the field for the Brooklyn Cyclones on June 26, and in two games there and nine games with the Binghamton Mets, he hit .176/.256/.206. It’s a small sample size, of course, but he wasn’t exactly tearing up inferior competition.
In his press conference this afternoon, Reyes said that he’d be comfortable now that he’s back in the majors and would produce as a result. Last year in the majors, he hit .274/.310/.378 despite playing his home games in Toronto and Colorado, two of the most hitter-friendly places in the big leagues.
Every other hitter in the Mets’ lineup tonight has performed better at baseball’s highest level this year than Reyes did last year. Travis d’Arnaud worked his way back from another stint on the disabled list and has been hitting very well since his return, and he’s still stuck in the eight hole.
But Reyes gets to hit leadoff immediately upon his return, even though he hasn’t done anything on a baseball field to indicate he’s a good candidate for the role. Yes, he’s more capable than anyone else on the Mets’ active roster of stealing bases, but he’ll have to get on base before he can put that skill to use.
The allure of speed at the top of the order would seem to be Terry Collins’s top priority here. It would just be nice if it felt like Reyes—who spent so much time away from the game because of his own actions and decisions—had to earn a prominent spot in the Mets’ lineup. It’s not a lock that he’s going to be a good major league hitter, and the Mets shouldn’t be handing him the most at-bats in a game until he’s shown he can be productive.