I am generally reluctant to state that any ballplayer’s problems are mental or emotional. In the case of Joseph Albert Reyes, I am here to say that the guy’s a froot loop. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for him to not be a serviceable major leaguer by this point. He now has three seasons of dominating the upper levels of the minors under his belt, he has great stuff — I doubt there are ten more talented lefthanded starters out there — and he really hasn’t been pushed that hard. And his career record is now 5-15 with a 6.09 ERA, largely because he’s afraid to throw strikes to major league hitters.
He’s not the first. Bruce Chen, who if anything had more ability than Reyes, was the same way — if a guy had a major league uniform on, Chen wouldn’t throw him a strike until he absolutely had to, as in, the count was 3-1, two runners were already on and one already in. Chen’s managed to play in eleven major league seasons and is likely to make it twelve this year, but he hasn’t been a tenth of the pitcher he should have been, and Reyes is on the same track. Reyes’ walk rate in the minor leagues is 3.3 per nine. In the majors, it is 4.5. Perhaps even more important are the guys whom he doesn’t walk, the guys who he has to throw get-over fastballs to, leading inevitably to an inflated home run rate, 1.5 per nine. (In the minors, he allows few homers, just .6 per nine.)
Personally, I’m surprised he didn’t wind up getting measured for a Royals uniform this offseason. It could still happen. At some point, I think you have to either get rid of him completely, or see if you can salvage him by converting him to a reliever and simplifying his role. He does have massive platoon splits, which would bode well for him as a lefty specialist.