In 2018, Muckdogs fans have watched perhaps the most intriguing player in the NYPL
Muckdogs Manager Mike Jacobs says Sean Reynolds, is, without a doubt, his most valuable player in 2018.
That might surprise anybody who knows that Reynold's has one of the lowest batting averages in the NY-Penn League (.192, fourth lowest of qualifying players) and has already broken the league's single-season record for most strikeouts (currently, 121, with nine games to go, breaking the previous record of 117 set in 1982).
But Reynolds also leads the league in home runs (16), RBIs, (47), Runs scored (47), base on balls (40) and leads his team in stolen bases (13). He's also the only player in the NYPL to play every inning of every game (70 so far).
"Without a doubt, he’s having a great year," Jacobs said. "It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to watch the progression of watching him continue to get better every day."
This is the second season in Batavia for the 20-year-old Southern Californian who was a fourth-round draft pick right out of Redondo Union High School for the Marlins in 2016.
The Marlins will be patient with their young power bat, Jacobs said.
"What he can bring to the table you just can’t find that every day," Jacobs said. "I think the more he plays, the more games he plays, he will cut down on his strikeouts. I think he will put the ball in play more, and ultimately if he just does that, all those numbers are going to continue to rise."
Reynolds is well aware of his strike out record and his average but he's also pleased with his progress and believes he will continue to improve the more he plays.
"Obviously, that’s the thing going forward in my career that’s going to be the focal point, being able to put the ball in play more," Reynolds said. "Personally, I don’t see any reason why I can’t improve because it’s all about getting at-bats. This is my first full year in a sense of playing over 70 games and getting 300-plus plate appearances."
At 6'7", Reynolds invites comparisons to Dave Kingman, AKA "King Kong," who hit 442 major league home runs over 16 seasons starting in 1971. He also struck out in prodigious numbers (153 times in 1975, when he hit 36 homers for the Mets, and 138 times in 1979 when he hit 48 homers for the Cubs). He finished with .236 career average.
Whether Reynolds makes contact more often, time will tell, but he is arguably already better than Kingman in one key aspect of baseball: Defense.
Where Kingman was atrocious in the field (career .895 fielding percentage including 3B and outfield) Reynolds is already doing better (.983) and has improved throughout the season.
"A lot of people may not realize it but he’s played outstanding first base for us," Jacobs said.
Jacobs knows a thing or two about hitting the ball hard at the major league level (100 career homers, including 32 for the Marlins in 2008) and Reynolds credits Jacobs for helping him get better.
"Jakes is a big the influence on me, him and Jesus Merchan, our hitting coach," Reynolds said. "He’s been able to help me with things I wouldn’t even think about because he’s played and been around the game for 20-plus years now. He’s been in the big leagues and able to have a lot of success in the big leagues for the time he was there. When I’m not going good, he knows what to say and how to help me out without saying too much, and then when I'm going good, it's a high five when I’m going around third base and that’s all I need."
Reynolds knows he's getting better and he's obviously playing with more confidence.
"It’s funny we should talk about this right now because this was probably my best series of the year," Reynolds said (he had five hits, three homers, six RBIs). "I was more consistently putting bat to ball and making loud outs even if I wasn’t getting on base, so that was good to feel but obviously for every success and every home run there’s been a lot of struggle."
If Reynolds were hitting .250 instead of .192, he would probably already be holding down first base in Greensboro or Jacksonville. As it is, State College last night showed enough respect for his bat that they used a defensive shift on the left-handed hitter, something you rarely if ever see in short-season Class A ball.
He was also a member of the NYPL's 2018 All-Star Team.
"You look at where he was last year and you look at even where he was in spring training and the improvement is 10 fold," Jacobs said. "He didn’t hit one homer in spring training and he played in a lot of games down there and obviously you see the numbers he’s putting up and, really, the batting average, it is what it is. He has a lot of swing-and-miss but there’s also a lot of damage that’s in that bat."
Photos: File photos by Howard Owens.