October 15, 2007
On the strength of two strong, short stints at Double-A, Mark Reynolds found himself in the majors this year on a team that's now in the NLCS. This surprised many who had followed his minor league career, as Reynolds was never considered to be much of a prospect up until last year, and initially didn't seem to rank too high on the team's depth chart at third base this season.
Mark A. Reynolds attended the University of Virginia, where he played from 2002 to 2004. He hit well enough during his time there, but his draft stock was hurt by an injured wrist during his junior season:
Year Team AB AVG/ OBP/ SLG XBH% ISO 2B+3B BB% K% 2002 Virginia(NCAA) 205 .283/.355/.561 47% .278 12 8.5% 22.6% 2003 Virginia(NCAA) 200 .295/.364/.530 44% .235 17 8.1% 21.3% 2004 Virginia(NCAA) 234 .274/.387/.504 42% .230 16 12.9% 20.6%
He hit 35 homers over three seasons, and his batting eye improved during his last season, though his strikeout totals remained in the low 20 percent range. For his efforts, Reynolds was selected in the 16th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 476th pick in the draft, and signed shortly thereafter.
Reynolds ended up splitting his first professional season between three places, though all but 27 of his 261 at-bats came at Low-A Yakima:
Year Team AB AVG/ OBP/ SLG XBH% ISO 2B+3B BB% K% 2004 Yakima(A-) 234 .274/.372/.517 50% .243 20 9.0% 23.5%
Reynolds picked up right where he left off in college, hitting for a decent average and some respectable pop while drawing walks. These were very good offensive numbers for a shortstop or a third baseman, the two positions Reynolds saw the most playing time at during his professional debut. The numbers from his short stops at South Bend and Lancaster in 2004 don't speak well of him, but he also played for the two clubs for all of eight games total.
There was no mention of Reynolds in the prospect world heading into the 2005 season, which is understandable given his spot in the draft and the short time for which he played at Yakima. Reynolds was also considered the third option on the farm at third base behind Brian Barden and Ricardo Sosa, according to Baseball America. Reynolds would spend all of 2005 at South Bend, with results that were much better than they appeared to be once they were given the proper park context:
Year Team AB AVG/ OBP/ SLG XBH% ISO 2B+3B BB% K% 2005 South Bend(A) 434 .253/.319/.454 43% .201 28 7.6% 22.1%
South Bend played towards pitchers in 2005 more than it had the previous few seasons, with Baseball Prospectus 2006 giving it a park factor of 948. Take that into consideration when deciding whether this was a disappointing showing for a 22-year-old who was once again splitting time between third base and shortstop.
Baseball America once again left Reynolds off of their organizational rankings, even moving him down a peg on the depth chart, behind Barden, Jamie D'Antona, and Agustin Morillo at third base. Baseball Prospectus 2006 gave him a brief comment, though it wasn't extremely positive or negative:
Showed some good pop in a park that traditionally favors pitchers. After playing shortstop throughout college, he's seen time at second and third in his pro career. Unless he develops a more discerning eye at the plate, he's likely staring at a career of utility infielding. If the D'backs ever need to sacrifice a Virginian to the Volcano Gods, Reynolds is their man.
Reynolds would do a little of both in 2006, as he played all over the diamond yet improved his offensive performance in the meantime. The major difference between the two seasons statistically was his BABIP, which was just .295 at South Bend but .388 and .333 at Lancaster and Tennessee, respectively:
Year Team AB AVG/ OBP/ SLG XBH% ISO 2B+3B BB% K% 2006 Lancaster(A+) 273 .337/.420/.670 47% .333 20 12.8% 22.5% 2006 Tennessee(AA) 114 .272/.346/.544 48% .272 7 8.7% 29.1%
I'm sure you are all shocked that he hit well at Lancaster, but like almost everyone else who passes through there, he did. Lancaster's park factor for 2006 was 1096, while Tennessee was at a closer-to-neutral 1021. You still have to like the plate patience, although his strikeout rate did take an unhealthy jump during his short time at Double-A.
Baseball America's 2007 Prospect Handbook finally included Reynolds in it, with some nifty things to say about him:
He broke out in 2006, hitting 31 homers between two stops before playing for Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament…Reynolds always had bat speed and power potential, and he finally put together a consistent approach at the plate to tap into his ability. In the past he would show his strong hands in batting practice but float out on his front foot in games and sellout to pull the ball. Now he's staying back and is a threat to put a charge in the ball every time up. He's a versatile defender who played at first, second, third and the outfield last season. He's an average runner. While Reynolds can play a lot of positions, he'll never be a stand out with the glove. His best spots are second and third base, and his ceiling is as a power-hitting second baseman in the Jeff Kent mold. The slow change in his approach illustrates how stubborn he can be. Reynolds will probably begin the season as the second baseman in Double-A, though he'll get time at other positions as well.
Reynolds was ranked as the seventh-best prospect in the organization, that despite failing to appear on the list the previous two seasons. He was also named the best power hitter in the system, and the top third baseman left in the minors, both healthy jumps despite not doing much else different on a statistical level. Of course, there was legitimate improvement at the higher levels in terms of how he earned his production; Reynolds was a better hitter for utilizing his strong hands in-game rather than simply pulling the ball, and his ability to play all over the diamond made him more useful, though his bat demands daily play.
Baseball Prospectus 2007 was also a fan of Reynolds:
Just when you thought it was safe to ignore the D'backs' glut of middle infield prospects behind Drew and Callaspo, Reynolds went and dramatically raised his stock, improving across the board in 2006. He hit for Lancaster, for Tennessee, for Team USA, and in the AFL. Given his big step forward, it wouldn't make sense to expect another, and scouts kibitz over his unorthodox swing. While he'll have to start the season in Triple-A, he's reached the point at which the Snakes are going to have to decide whether to change his position or trade him.
PECOTA forecasted a .260/.325/.483 weighted mean line for Reynolds at the major league level, which would have been a league-average .261 EqA. He ended up somewhere between that and his 75th percentile projection of .280/.349/.538:
Year Team AB AVG/ OBP/ SLG XBH% ISO 2B+3B BB% K% 2007 Mobile(AA) 134 .306/.394/.537 41% .231 11 12.9% 20.6% 2007 Arizona(MLB) 366 .279/.349/.495 40% .216 24 9.2% 35.2%
His stint at Mobile was excellent, though the .365 BABIP makes me a little nervous in terms of future production. He kept his power up for the positions he plays-namely third base and second-and his plate discipline was excellent as well. The D'backs promoted him to the big leagues, where he immediately made an impact. Reynolds hit .426/.484/.815 in 54 May at-bats before tanking in both June and July, hitting only .178/.239/.336 over those 146 at-bats. He did manage to resuscitate his season by August, and hit well the rest of the way after adjusting to major league pitching.
Still, Reynolds struck out 129 times in just 366 at-bats. To put that into perspective, Ryan Howard struck out every 2.66 at-bats this year while setting the single-season strikeout record in a season where he missed 19 games; Reynolds' rate was a strikeout every 2.84 at-bats, not all that far off. The good news is that last time he punched out that often was during his short time at Tennessee, and he was able to curb that issue during his next stint at Double-A. If Reynolds is able to improve on his strikeout rate, he'll be able to replace some of the production he will miss from his soon-to-regress BABIP. Taking a look at this chart, you will see that he will need to do so in order to succeed in the near future:
Year P/PA FB% LINEDR% GB% IF/F% HR/F% BABIP eBABIP Diff. 2007 NA 38.4% 20.2% 41.3% 17.5% 20.0% .367 .322 -.045 2007 3.9 43.8% 20.0% 36.3% 14.3% 16.2% .386 .320 -.066
If you adjust Reynolds' line for the difference between his BABIP and expected BABIP, his line should be somewhere around .213/.283/.429. The power is still there, as evidenced by the .216 ISO in that adjusted line, but the average is not. Of course, Arizona's BABIP is a bit higher to begin with thanks to its offense-inflated environment, but it is pretty clear that Reynolds will need to reduce his strikeout rate if he doesn't want to find himself suffering a severe sophomore slump.
Part of the reason Reynolds has struck out so much during his time in the majors has to do with his chasing of balls out of the zone and his inability to hit pitches on the corners, as this chart from ESPN.com shows us:
Chances are good that pitchers will stop throwing Reynolds so many easy pitches down the heart of the plate based on the above numbers, especially when he can't hit-yet continues to chase-pitches off of the middle of the zone. Major league sliders are a real problem for Reynolds as well, as he hit just .137 off of them this year. He's bashed fastballs, curves, and changeups for .300-pllus averages though, but the slider gives him trouble coming from both lefties and righties. Reynolds is also a little pull-happy:
The wall in left field in Phoenix is tempting since it's only 328 feet away from home at its shortest point, so it's easy to see why Reynolds would try to take advantage of it. He's had some success turning on inside pitches as well, hitting .290 on those pitches middle-in. He'll need to work on going the other way and utilizing all parts of the field if he is to remain a successful hitter, though, and not just someone with a little pop.
Reynolds is an important part of the D'backs' future, given some of the problems they have had with other prospects who were ranked higher than he was. If he's able to adjust to the majors further and cut down on his strikeout totals like he did in his second stint at Double-A, he will be able to retain a significant amount of his 2007 production despite likely regression in the BABIP department. If it takes him a bit longer and his luck deserts him, he may be in for a long 2008 campaign (or a short one, depending on how patient the D'backs are with him). As long as the adjustment comes though, you're looking at a fun player who can move around the diamond and hit for some serious pop at his position.