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NEXT RUNNER-UP: JOSE REYES

In November with the finale of the five-game series between the MLB All-Stars and their Japanese counterparts tied at three in the bottom of the 10th, Jose Reyes dug in at the plate. Suddenly, the Fikuoka Dome sounded like Shea Stadium, with the melodious chant of Jo-se, Jo-se sing-songing its way through the stands. reyes didnt disapoint: He belted reliever Hisashi Ogura's fastball over the right field wall for a "sayonara" home run, giving the MLB side its first sweep of japan in 72 years. Still, Reyes claims, "I'm not a power hitter, My game is my legs."

There's no argument about his wheels. In the past two seasons, he's stolen 124 bases and legged out 34 triples, both MLB highs. But it's his bat, not to mention his glove, that has made the 23-year-old Reyes the best young shortstop in baseball-and maybe the best, period. The 160-pound switch-hitter has muscled up at the plate, improving his average from .273 in 2005 to .300 in '06 and his slugging percentage from .386 to .487. In the process, he powered the Mets to the playoffs for the first time in six years.

"Jose is a lot more than just the explosive speed that people see" says former Mets third base coach Manny Acta, now manager of the nationals. "He's got great hands, great footwork, and he's not afraid to get up there and hit.

The Mets know Reyes is their future. thats why GM Omar Minaya protected the club's $23.25 million investment by prohibiting Reyes from playing winter ball with Gigante del Cibao in his native Dominican Republic. The high-energy leadoff man needs to remain healthy so that the Mets, who dropped a heart breaking Game 7 to the cardinals in last seasons NLCS, wont habve to hear a repeat of Redbird nation's derisive chant: No-way, No-way.