Bryan Reynolds burst onto the scene last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and as much as you get the impression he’d be just as happy you didn’t notice; you sure did. How could you not?
Check out these numbers and try not to dream, 4.1 WAR, 16 HR, .314 BA, 83 R, 68 RBIs (from the 2 hole), all in 491 at bats. Did I mention he is consistent from both sides of the plate? Majority of seasons this young man runs away with the Rookie of the Year award, but Bryan came up in a class of very impressive youngsters. Pete Alanso, he of the 53 home runs and Fernando Tatis Jr. with some seriously beautiful stats in only slightly more than 300 at bats.
If this is what the future of the National league looks like, I’m here for it. It’s easy to forget just how unheralded Reynolds has been in his time here. The pain of moving Cutch played a role in that, so did Kyle Crick making an immediate impact on the backend of the bullpen. See, it made Bryan seem like little more than a throw in, well, to those who don’t really look at and study the prospects anyhow. (Admittedly me far too often)
Right around that time, the Pirates acquired another young outfielder, and from the GM to the broadcast crew, Jason Martin got the lion’s share of attention. They talked up his power potential, they fawned at his smile and eyes (Sorry Greg, couldn’t resist), and they spoke to the excellence of his glove work. Then we actually got to see Jason play, and know what, he looked pretty good! Who’s that Reynolds kid again?
Then it happened, Erik Gonzalez and Starling Marte collided, Jason Martin was already on the IL the Pirates needed help, emergency help. I mean, why should the pitchers be the only one’s on the IL right? In steps Bryan Reynolds, tall kid, facial hair of a twelve-year-old, walkup music from the man in black (that’s cute), and he hit. Good for him. Something else happened after that, he kept hitting. He started sporadically at first, spotting Melky Cabrera and picking up the slack for injured outfielders all over the place.
Clint Hurdle to his credit avoided the urge to Austin Meadows the kid and my god, Bryan Reynolds just kept hitting, from both sides of the plate. Suddenly he wasn’t just a guy holding the outfield together with glue and twigs, now he was an obstacle for Corey Dickerson or Polanco getting back on it.
He understood his place on the team from day one, and he never gave them a chance to make the choice they always had. Bryan Reynolds not only stuck, he rose to the top two or three offensive threats on the club. Someday Bryan’s Gonna Cut You Down.
A sports cliché that has survived almost as long as the game itself is the curse of the sophomore slump, I hear History Channel has a pilot in the works, but I digress. One of Bryan’s teammates Kevin Newman has a stack of numbers that show he is primed for regression, if you’re honest you saw it in real life, just in case you’re one of those numbers is spooky types. He racked up a nice batting average by driving ball after ball into the infield grass and beating the dribblers out. Maybe for Kevin that is sustainable, but the numbers sure are stacked against him.
Bryan on the other hand has some numbers that show he could actually be trending up, in fact most projections for 2020 have him adding some power with a minimal drop in average. Obviously current events will alter what a full season looks like for all players, but none of that means he can’t have a strong sophomore season, and I’d never bet against this guy delivering on his promise. I’ve made that mistake before, and as Johnny Cash would say, I Hung My Head.
If Bryan is going to eventually be handed the keys to the Pirates club, it’s nice to know he only drives one direction, forward.