A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece that showcased just how well the Pirates were performing over their last 300 PA. In that article, a few things stuck out. Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, and Gregory Polanco all had exceptional second halves to their year last year. But the guy that stood out most, at the very top of the list, was Bryan Reynolds.
Bryan Reynolds, along with Kyle Crick, was acquired by Pittsburgh last January when the Pirates sent Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco. Kyle Crick has already proved his worth to the big league ball club and almost immediately had a major impact on the bullpen. Bryan Reynolds, on the other hand, started his Pirate career in AA.
Bryan Reynolds was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft after his junior year for Vanderbilt. He was the Giants’ first overall selection since they had surrendered their first-round pick when they had signed Jeff Samardjiza. Reynolds was offered $1,350,000, which was $260,000 more than the slotted bonus amount for the 59th overall pick. At the time the pick was made, Jonathan Mayo said that Bryan Reynolds was a first-round talent.
Despite hitting .300 at every level he has played at, from college to low A, to the major leagues, Reynolds hasn’t really been seen as a top prospect in the game. A lot of that has to do with the tools not being extraordinary, and him being a bit mature for each step of his career. For example, he was 23 in AA last year. That’s not necessarily old, but that’s certainly not young, either.
When he joined the Pirates in 2018, he quickly landed on the DL with a broken hamate bone, which set him back further. When he was activated off the disabled list, though, he came back slugging. With the Altoona Curve, Reynolds had a .302/.381/.438 slash line in over 383 PA. His OPS of .819 was good for second on the Curve, nearly 100 points below Jason Martin, but tied with Ke’Bryan Hayes.
As we all know, injuries have plagued the Pirates this year. Dickerson, Marte, and Polanco have all missed time due to injury. And despite only having a little over 50 PA above AA, the Pirates decided to give Bryan Reynolds a shot at the Major Leagues. Reynolds had hit 5 HR in 57 PA this year in AAA after just 7 in 383 PA in AA in the previous year. Obviously there is something to be said about AAA now using the ‘juiced’ Major League Baseball, but to basically match his HR production in about 15% of the PA, that’s just impressive.
Obviously, a centerfielder is inherently more valuable than a corner outfielder. If Reynolds doesn’t end up in center, it only becomes more important that his bat plays. He won’t be a center fielder as long as Marte is here, but with Marte set to become a free agent after the 2021 season, it won’t be long before the Pirates will need a replacement. So far I don’t think he’s looked very graceful out there, but it’s only been 80 innings, and PNC Park can be a tricky outfield to play.
Now, with that said, let’s try and pick apart where the offense is coming from.
Above is a still taken from 6/26/17 (when Reynolds was with the Giants, in high A) and 4/30/19. Both are taken as soon as the pitcher begins his windup. With the Pirates, Reynolds’ hands look like they are in a more comfortable spot pre-pitch.
Same at bat from above. The difference here again is clear. Reynolds set his hands ready to go and isn’t shifting his weight around nearly as much.
The change in his swing is pretty obvious, and the results are hard to ignore. He doesn’t have enough experience in the big leagues to really take much from his Statcast data, but the one thing that does really stand out is how aggressive he’s been at the plate. He’s swinging at pitches nearly 10% more than league average. To me, this means relatively nothing given it’s the first 44 PA for a rookie. However, it’ll be interesting to see if that trend continues. It’s hard to imagine he’ll have a high walk rate with that swing percentage, so hopefully, the power will continue to develop to offset that, if that trend does continue.
Coming into the season with a new swing, an almost club record-breaking hit streak, and a sweet mustache, Reynolds is an easy guy to root for. While he might not light up a room like Cole Tucker, if Reynolds can continue to hit just like he has at every level, he should quickly become a fan favorite. When the Pirates return to full strength, it’ll be interesting to see what the Pirates plan on doing with Reynolds.