Nobody expected Bryan Reynolds to play a major role in the Pirates’ 2019 season. Acquired alongside Kyle Crick in the January 2018 trade that sent Andrew McCutchen to the Giants, Reynolds was tabbed for, at minimum, a lengthy stay in Triple-A, where he’d develop his game and prepare for his major-league opportunity.
That came knocking sooner than anticipated, as injuries wrecked the Pirates early in the 2019 campaign. Reynolds stepped into the lineup, and he started to produce. Then he produced some more … And some more.
Now, 120 games into the 162-game season, Reynolds leads the National League with a .335 batting average and sits second in all of MLB, just behind Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu‘s .338 clip.
The production alone — which also includes 13 home runs and 49 RBIs for good measure — impresses, but it becomes a little more special when you consider this: Reynolds has never played more than 121 games in a professional season (2017 with the High-A San Jose Giants).
He’s currently at 110 this year between his time with the Class AAA Indians (13 games) and the Pirates (97 games). So with that, does Reynolds prepare differently? Is he more focused on his conditioning than usual?
“I didn’t do anything specific, just working out hard in the offseason, trying to build the body up, trying to maintain it throughout the year,” Reynolds was telling me at his locker before Friday’s game against the Cubs at PNC Park. “I just kind of do the normal thing, just work out, get the body ready. It’s an extra month, so it’ll be tough on the body, but doing cold tub, working out, not letting it totally degrade.”
Feels strange to put the “classic” label on a rookie, but that is just classic Reynolds. Throughout everything this season, he’s remained calm and level-headed, almost eerily unfazed by the scope of it all. Back in late May, Josh Bell called Reynolds a “video game character.”
Just today, Cole Tucker, who was originally called up with Reynolds in April then demoted back to Triple-A in June before being called up again before today’s game against the Cubs, added this:
Reynolds’ production impresses nearly everyone on every level in the organization, but I had to circle back on that conditioning. OK, so you didn’t do anything special to prepare. But there had to be a stretch this season where you started to feel tired with all the traveling, the games, the attention and the stress that comes with it, yeah?
“I felt tired, but not like I needed a break,” Reynolds fired back. “When I started feeling that, I just got back in the weight room, did some cold tub stuff, and then it was good after that. But nah, nothing major.”
Instead of focusing too much on that aspect, Reynolds keeps his head down and goes to work. He’s not chasing the batting title necessarily, but his constant preparation and his calculated approach is allowing things to fall into place.
“Trying to, in the cage, work on little things, my swing, positioning, timing — that kind of little stuff and then the rest of it will kind of take care of itself,” Reynolds said.
But then there was a minor malfunction in Reynolds’ programming. His coding cracked just a bit and he showed some emotion when I asked him about the bigger picture here. He’s a 24-year-old playing at a high level at the highest level of the game.
That, even to somebody of Reynolds’ disposition, is pretty cool:
Reynolds and the Pirates face the Cubs tonight [Friday] at PNC Park. Follow along right here for all our live, onsite coverage before, during and after the game.