Greetings sports fans, this week I want to highlight probably the most under-the-radar rookie campaign in the last 20 years (don’t bother looking it up, I didn’t. Just trust me, winky face). I’m talking of course about our boy Bryan Reynolds. Since he’s arrived in the league as an unheralded prospect, he has done nothing but hit. Hit after hit. BryRey is currently hitting .328 and would be pacing the entire NL. It takes approximately 502 ABs to qualify for the Batting Title, and he is currently at 444 ABs with 27 games left. So if he completes the season he just might sneak into the race, and win the whole damn thing. While we have been admiring Pete Alonzo’s bombs, BryRey just keeps knocking. Alonzo has been great posting a wRC+ of 145, and Reynolds is right behind him at 141. So let’s dive in and check him out:
Bryan Reynolds has no real standout tools, scouting grades have him nearly 50s across the board, without a big shiny toy. He doesn’t have Alonzo’s immense power or Tatis Jr.’s crazy speed and athleticism. He’s just a good ol’ fashioned ballplayer. You can see he has been consistently solid across the board. He hits, gets on base, and makes solid contact. That BABIP may look quite high until you consider that he has always been high; and wherever he’s been, he’s hit. Throughout the minors his lowest was .362 and a high of .452; so, what does that mean? He is one or possibly both of a great baserunner and keen (word of the day) at finding gaps with great bat control. Moving on…
Batted balls show us that our boy can indeed hit, and hit well. Then checking his xBA (.293) and wOBA (.392), both rank in the top 10% of the league solidifying that he can sniff out gaps. His one weakness is that 45% of his balls still find the ground with his average launch angle of 10. If he can elevate the ball a bit more, his 15.4% HR/FB rate would blossom. His hit distribution is just about as balanced as you could hope using the entire field… preventing the shift. How pretty is THIS? To top it off, he has a very respectable 45% hard-hit rate.
This was surprising both positively and negatively. First, based on his results I am surprised that his plate discipline numbers are as average as they are. Many of the numbers are pretty, well… average. Nothing amazing. But then you notice his Zone Swing rate is a couple of ticks higher and that his “meatball” swing rate is nearly 10% above average. What this tells me is that he has a skill for sniffing out pitches in the heart of the zone (the wheelhouse) and putting a swing on them. This might seem like a no brainer, but he clearly has an advantage over the field. A bit further look at it tells us, that he is good at finding mistake pitches and being aggressive with them with has led pitchers to throw in the zone only 44% of the time.
So we see here that BryRey likes him some fastballs (confirmed by 12 of his 14 HRs). And while he seems to have the most trouble with breaking balls (strikeout rate), he’s still managing to hit them at a .295 clip! If you want to limit his damage, it’s clear that you need to throw him more offspeed pitches as he has trouble barreling them. But in order for those to be effective, you have to throw him fastballs to setup the offspeed, and he still hits those a .299 clip! That’s what we call a classic catch-22.
Bryan may not ever be a superstar. Might not ever get a share of the spotlight. He never landed on anyone’s top 100 prospects list. He doesn’t have any tool that really stands out, but he is solid at everything. And sometimes not sucking at anything in itself is its own advantage. You can’t pick any one thing with him to exploit, you can’t focus on a thermal exhaust port. While everyone is marveling at the HR chase, the NL batting champ could be a rookie on a team that misses the playoffs. And he’s having the time of his life.