Wright or Reyes?

Wright or Reyes? The two cornerstones of the Mets have quickly become the present as much as they are the future of New York’s National League franchise. Both had excellent seasons and were selected to the All-Star team. But who is better? Who has more upside?
If you asked most Mets fans at the beginning of last season, hands down, David Wright would have won. But with Wright slumping in the second half of last season, while Jose Reyes sizzled, perhaps assessing which player will be better needs reexamination.
    Clearly, the Mets organization, its fans, and even the writers who cover the club hope that these two great young-stars, the best duo the Mets have produced since the Strawberry-Gooden pair graced Shea Stadium in the 1980s, the caliber that will put them annually in All-Star games, or even, that they will become Cooperstown candidates. That Wright’s number 5 and Reyes’s number 7 will someday be plastered on the outfield wall of Citi Field alongside Tom Seaver’s 41, Gil Hodges 14, and Casey Stengal’s 37 (and possibly Mike Piazza’s 31).
    But who actually has the edge between these two young players? Though Wright has the obvious advantage in power: He out homered and out-doubled Reyes, the shortstop was clearly and understandably superior in the speed categories. Reyes’s numbers improved tremendously from 2005 to 2006, while Wright’s number were basically the same in those two seasons. The big jump for Reyes was his On Base Percentage which went from .300 in 2005 to .354 in 2006. Wright’s OBP actually dropped from .388 to a still solid, but lower .381. 
    It has already been stated that Wright has more power than Reyes, but the shortstop actually out-homered Wright in the second half 11-8 thanks to Reyes’s three home run game against Philadelphia, a feat Wright has yet to accomplish.  Given his higher OBP and his other statistics, Wright would seem to be a more polished player than Reyes. However, the gap between the top players is closing fast. Reyes, who was brought up one year before Wright, and is a year younger, was rushed through minors to the major leagues, in part because the Mets were awful in 2003 and needed a spark. However, for two years Reyes’s development was stymied because of leg injuries, mysterious injuries that made him miss over 100 games in two years. It wasn’t until 2005 that Reyes played a complete season and it seemed, particularly in the beginning that he was rusty, given the fact that it took him a month to draw a simple bases on balls: he only had 27 walks the entire year.  In 2006, Reyes basically doubled his walk total with 53, showing that he learns quickly once he can play entire season. In fact, his in-season improvement in both 2005 and 2006 is a great indication of his burgeoning talent.
    For Wright, last season’s second half was a disappointment. Many blamed his strong performance the Home Run hitting contest during the All-Star break for ruining his stroke, but the problem stemmed from the pressure he was putting on himself. All you had to do was to look at Wright’s eyes and see he was pressing. This would explain why when he played in Japan during a tour in November 2006 he began to hit like he had in the first half of 2006. Perhaps the fact that Reyes has lived under Wright’s shadow to some extent has allowed him to flourish. Whatever the case may be, both players have a chance to become superstars, even potential Hall-Of-Famers, but given Reyes’s tremendous growth and his still raw abilities, the New York shortstop would have the greater upside. We’ll see.

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Andrew Schiff is a freelance journalist who has written a biography on Henry Chadwick, The Father of Baseball to be published by McFarland late in 2007.
See www.henrychadwick.com.

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