After Shedding McCutchen Trade Pressure, Bryan Reynolds Is An NL Rookie Of The Year Candidate

Matt Koll
June 06, 2019 - 8:43 am
Bryan Reynolds

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan)- Here's a trivia question.

Who currently leads the National League in batting average (.341) among rookies with at least 100 at-bats? 

Hint: He's the same man who leads the senior circuit in on-base percentage (.401) and is 2nd in OPS (.952). 

Answer: Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

Yes, the Bryan Reynolds who was called up after just 47 at-bats in AAA Indianapolis on April 20th when Erik Gonzalez and Starling Marte collided and both ended up on the IL. 

The call-up is even a surprise to him.

"I don't think I expected to get called up when I did," Reynolds said. "I wasn't betting against myself or anything but you know, just how baseball generally works, I wasn't expecting it that early. I was thankful for the opportunity and just trying to roll with however much I get." 

Reynolds was part of the package brought back to Pittsburgh from the San Francisco Giants for Andrew McCutchen, along with reliever Kyle Crick. 

Related: Joe Musgrove Still Adjusting To Find Success After Offseason Surgery

He says he carried that association with the former National League MVP and face of the franchise upon coming into the Pirates organization and it wore on him. 

"Probably the first Spring Training I put a little pressure on myself because I got traded in January and Spring Training is March, February. I didn't perform well there because I was putting pressure on myself. But after that, I haven't put any pressure on myself. I just haven't really thought about it, I've just been myself." 

For the former second round pick, "being himself" means keeping things as straightforward as possible.

"Just trying to keep it simple in the box, really. Try to get a good pitch to hit, put a good barrel on it and hit it hard. If it falls it falls. Just try to do what I did all through the minors, try to be myself up there and let the rest take care of itself." 

Until this last week and throughout the month of May, Reynolds had been hitting directly behind NL Player of the Month Josh Bell. When a player leads the Major Leagues in total bases (94), hits (46), extra-base hits (24), RBI (31) and ties for the lead in home runs with 12 throughout a month's play, it's got its benefits for the man behind him. 

"Well with Josh hitting in front of you, you don't really get guys on base because he's always hitting home runs," said Reynolds with a laugh. "Yeah, I like hitting behind him because you get to see the pitcher's best stuff before you hit because they've got to lock in fully on him or he'll hit them into the river. It's been a treat hitting behind him. It's been fun." 

Defensively, Reynolds agrees with the sentiment that PNC Park essentially has two center fields, as left field has a lot of ground to cover with its unique 411-foot notch in left center.  

"Left field here is pretty tough compared to other left field's [in other ballparks]. You get reads in batting practice and you might play back a few more steps or shade over toward that notch to try to take away triples if it gets hit over there."

If anything, Reynolds will make manager Clint Hurdle's day-to-day decisions a little more difficult once Gold Glove-winning Corey Dickerson comes back into the lineup. Reynolds has been a bright spot for this Pirates offense and may not be shining as much in the shadow of Josh Bell's monster season to date. 

For as much criticism as the Chris Archer for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz trade has gotten from Pirates fans, you don't hear as much about the McCutchen deal. 

Some of that has to do with a solid 2.66 ERA from now set-up man Kyle Crick.

But a lot of the hush comes from Reynolds' play and seemingly bright future.

He may not have the flash and flair of the Nationals' Victor Robles, the Braves' Austin Riley or the Padres' Fernando Tatis.

He may not have the pure power of New York's Pete Alonso or Arizona's Christian Walker. 

But Bryan Reynolds is quietly slashing his way to an impressive rookie season that has him in the discussion for some hardware.   

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