Rookie Review: Will The Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds Continue His Breakout Or Will He Regress In 2020?

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As the Pirates battled injuries in their outfield, you have to wonder if the opportunities created helped them strike gold. Seemingly out of nowhere Bryan Reynolds emerged as a strong option, putting up the following numbers in nearly the entire season (he played 134 games in the Majors):

491 At Bats
.314 Batting Average (154 Hits)
16 Home Runs
68 RBI
83 Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.377 On Base Percentage
.503 Slugging Percentage
.387 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Obviously the first number that jumps out is the BABIP, which appears to be on the lucky side. He did seemingly have all of the underlying numbers that we look for and could support a strong mark:

  • Hard% – 42.6%
  • Oppo% – 26.3%
  • Fly Ball Rate – 29.8%

Those types of numbers will allow an elevated BABIP, though .387 is extreme. That doesn’t mean that he can’t maintain a strong average, though a regression there would have a significant impact. It’s not like he was posting an impressive approach, with an 11.5% SwStr% and 31.1% O-Swing%. Maybe there would be more optimism if he had improved as the season progressed, but he had an 11.1% SwStr% in the second half . A 9.8% in ’18 shows promise, but that was all the way down at Double-A and a regression against more advanced pitching was to be expected.

He particularly struggled against non-fastballs, which again isn’t a surprise and led to opposing pitchers only throwing him 55.79% hard pitches. Just look at the Whiff%:

  • Hard – 7.82%
  • Breaking – 17.84%
  • Offspeed – 19.41%

Now consider he hit .402, courtesy of a .448 BABIP, against fourseam fastballs and it tells an even greater story. There’s a regression coming, and that will have a significant impact.

The fact that he hit 14 of his home runs against fastball variations adds to the risk, and while he did add 37 doubles and 4 triples you have to wonder just how much upside he has in that department as well. Unless he suddenly finds a power surge, the regression in his BABIP coupled with the strikeout risk (22.7% in the second half) creates a lot of pessimism.

It is possible that he does discover a little bit more pop. As Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 mentioned prior to the 2019 season:

“Unfortunately, he started the year on the disabled list after having hamate surgery prior to the start of the season.  While he only managed seven home runs, he did hit 18 doubles and posted a .438 SLG.  I expect his power to increase after his wrist completely heals from his surgery. “

With the number of doubles he could take a step forward, though would you expect it to be more than in the 20-24 HR range?

If Reynolds is a .275ish hitter with even 22 HR and no speed, is he someone you’d want to invest in? Keep that in mind before getting too bullish heading into 2020.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Prospect 361

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