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Digging into Bryan Reynolds’ slow start to the season at the plate

Reynolds is only hitting .216 in 40 games

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates
Bryan Reynolds
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Bryan Reynolds has become one the most recognizable players on a Pittsburgh Pirates team looking to turn the corner on their recent rebuild.

An All-Star starter and Gold Glove Finalist in 2021, Reynolds quickly drew the attention of other ballclubs as the apple of their eye and a frequently sought-after trade piece.

Reynolds, now 27, burst onto the scene in mid-April of 2019 as a 24-year-old outfield prospect most notably known as the significant piece acquired for Andrew McCutchen.

The acquisition is now only a footnote buried in a long list of growing accomplishments.

But something is different about Reynolds in 2022. The switch hitter has not delivered production remotely close to his breakout 2021 campaign, mirroring similar, yet worse results during the shortened 60-game season two years ago.

In four seasons, the Vanderbilt product has seesawed between great and poor seasons. Reynolds hit .314 in his rookie campaign with 16 home runs and 68 RBI, finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. He followed it up with a .189 batting average in 55 games during an abbreviated sophomore campaign.

Reynolds was spectacular last season, leading the league with eight triples and setting career highs in walks (75), homers (24), RBI (90), and OPS (.912).

Through 40 games, nothing appears to be clicking the same for the fourth-year pro who received a two-year extension at the start of the season to buy out two years of arbitration for 2022 and 2023.

Reynolds is slashing .216/.314/.365 with five long balls and nine runs driven in, good for only a .678 OPS in 148 at-bats.

He has already grounded into six double plays through close to two months after only 10 last season. “B-Rey” is not seeing an increase in a certain type of pitch usage, only a 2% increase in fastballs thrown his way.

Baseball Savant provides startling numbers as to why the Pirates center fielder is struggling at the plate and places Reynolds poorly in multiple categories.

Reynolds is in the 19th percentile in Barrel Percentage, with higher percentiles qualifying hitters as great, and 23rd in both Whiff Percentage and Outs Above Average.

The simple fact of the matter is Reynolds is not getting the barrel to the baseball to provide the ability to drive it consistently. The five home runs may try to tell a different story, but overall Reynolds is swinging and missing at a fair amount of pitches.

He does have 20 walks compared to 36 strikeouts making his xSLG average among qualifiers.

Reynolds also places average in Hard-Hit Percentage (41st), Chase Rate (44th), and Max Exit Velocity (45th). The most eye-popping ranking is in Average Exit Velocity, where Reynolds is way below average in the 22nd percentile.

The Pirates’ best hitter is not hitting the ball hard enough to get out of the infield and past defenders in the infield and outfield. Compared to 2021, his numbers have dropped to back up the slow start.

Exit velocity (-2.1%), Hard Hit Percentage (-2.4%), Launch Angle (-3.7%), and Barrel Percentage (-5.9%) provide the key focal points for Reynolds to improve on to turn his season around heading into June.

His average is not hovering around the Mendoza Line, or below it, like it was a short time ago but still needs an improvement of around .80 points to reach last year’s mark.

Reynolds could heat up with the summer sun and put all current concerns to rest, but the numbers are troubling and shouldn’t be ignored.

With three seasons of club control following this season, Reynolds might be in the midst of playing for his next contract right now with the Bucs showing signs of starving for a long-term deal.

The Pirates need Reynolds to shape back into his All-Star form, especially with the likes of Oneil Cruz, Henry Davis, and others not that far away.