The history of baseball is full of success stories of players who were supposed to be anything but. Mike Piazza was the 1,390th player selected in the 1988 draft. Albert Pujols watched 401 other players get drafted before the Cardinals finally came calling back in 1999. While Matt Reynolds won't be thought of in that regard if he becomes a star, the Mets' 2012 second round pick is nevertheless enjoying a breakthrough year in his third professional season that has club executives, teammates, and rival talent evaluators taking notice.
The Mets selected Reynolds with the 71st pick of the 2012 draft, a pick they received from the Marlins as compensation for their signing of Jose Reyes the previous offseason. A third baseman during his time at the University of Arkansas, the 23-year-old has a short, quick stroke that generates enormous bat speed but little in the way of power. After batting .203 and .243 during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Reynolds exploded to hit .340/.441/.535 his junior season, his last as a collegiate athlete.
Reynolds began his professional career with Single-A Savannah in 2012 and reached Double-A Binghamton a year later, compiling just a .234/.309/.343 line, but like his collegiate career, his third season has proven to be his best. Through 107 games between Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas, Reynolds is hitting .344/.411/.440 with an .851 OPS, including a .332/.389/.460 line in 49 games with the 51s. The former Razorback garnered Pacific Coast League Player of the Week honors for the week ending August 3, batting 16-for-30 (.533 average) to go along with six multi-hit games.
Now primarily a shortstop, Reynolds is getting more and more attention from the baseball world. The Oklahoma native credits his success to hard work.
"I'm not going to wow you with my power, I'm not going to wow you with my speed, but I guarantee that I'll give it 100 percent and play the game right and play the game hard."
A former standout basketball player in high school who was recruited by Kansas and Iowa State, Reynolds is happy with the path he has chosen. In addition to his strong work ethic, Reynolds also cites an adjustment to his outlook on the game.
"Last year I kind of beat myself up if I had a rough game. This year I just take a positive attitude to the field and every at-bat. Even if I strike out, I try to find a positive in the at-bat, if I took a close pitch or something like that."
Las Vegas skipper Wally Backman certainly didn't expect this type of production from Reynolds, who began the year with Binghamton in the Eastern League before his promotion to Sin City.
"He’s a grinder. He’s a kid that’s been pushed pretty hard (through the system). I know he can play shortstop and second, so he’s definitely a prospect for us. It’s just a matter of getting more games under his belt. Last year and this year he’s been on the fast track. He was on the radar screen coming out of A-ball, where he had an off year. He’s made some adjustments, and he’s knocking at the door right now."
Reynolds is more than knocking on the door; he's pounding on it. The Mets are listening.