Down on the Farm: How Reynolds went from undrafted to Giants' top 2016 pick


Down on the Farm: How Reynolds went from undrafted to Giants' top 2016 pick

The Giants lost their first-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft after signing Jeff Samardzija to a five-year, $90 million contract on Dec. 9, 2015. Exactly six months later, the Giants’ front office saw a first-round talent slip to Round 2. 

San Francisco selected outfielder Bryan Reynolds No. 59 overall after starring for three years at college baseball powerhouse, Vanderbilt University. How Reynolds became the Giants’ top pick last year is a story in itself. 

“In high school I didn’t get recruited really,” Reynolds said to NBC Sports Bay Area. “I didn’t talk to any draft people. I think I filled out one questionnaire.”

The talent was clearly there. As a prep at Brentwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn., Reynolds was ranked as the state’s 35th best prospect in the high school class of 2013 by recruiting website Perfect Game. But, an injury held him back. 

Reynolds underwent labrum surgery on his right throwing shoulder his senior year and was still rehabbing as the season began. The first time scouts saw him that year, the injury came as a surprise. 

“I had three scouts come to the first scrimmage we had and they watched me hit in the cage and then watched me throw, and that kind of threw them off,” Reynolds remembers. “I was still rehabbing so I was throwing from seventy feet just lobbing it. No one came back after that for the rest of the year.”

That turned out to be a mistake for those scouts. Reynolds went on to win District Player of the Year and was named First Team All-State. Still, he had only two scholarship offers in high school — Lipscomb and Vanderbilt. Growing up 20 minutes from Vanderbilt, Reynolds watched future stars like David Price and Sonny Gray take the field, hoping to one day star for the school too.

“Vandy was my dream baseball school for sure,” Reynolds said.

There under acclaimed head coach Tim Corbin, Reynolds grew on and off the field. From their first interactions, it was clear Corbin cared about more than just his players’ stats despite churning out one of the best teams in the nation every year. 

“First time you meet him he’s not talking all about baseball, he’s really getting to know you as a person. We have our classroom sessions before each practice and we really harp on character and not just being the best baseball player. Instead, be the best person you can and everything will follow,” Reynolds said. 

Prior to every practice, players file into a classroom right above the Vanderbilt locker room. Each player has their own seat and own binder for notes. Coach Corbin goes to the front of the room and begins jotting down the focus of that day’s session on a white board. Every year, Corbin even brings in mental coaches and sports psychologists. 

In that classroom, Reynolds’ growth off the field pushed him to a whole new level on it. 

“I went in there my freshman fall and had a real bad fall and then we brought in (famous sports psychologist) Ken Ravizza and he talked to us for three nights, a couple hours each night. He just talked about breathing and mindset and how you can look at things differently and that really helped me a lot. 

“From there I’ve been a pretty big believer. You got to be positive, you got to be relaxed.”

After adding mental skills to his game, Reynolds led Vanderbilt in batting average (.338) and slugging percentage (.480) as a freshman and the team went on to win the national championship. One series into his Vanderbilt career, Reynolds had his first taste of the MLB Draft process. 

“We were playing Long Beach and I had an adviser come up to me and introduced himself and I didn’t even know what that was. I didn’t know that was a thing,” Reynolds said. He earned SEC Freshman of the Week that opening series, going 6-for-10 with two doubles and four RBI. 

Reynolds was named First Team Freshman All-American in 2014 and Vanderbilt finished second in the nation after falling in the College World Series his sophomore year. Going into his junior year, Reynolds went from undrafted in high school to a name to know for the 2016 draft. He didn’t disappoint, earning Third Team All-American honors. 

The MLB Draft is different than any other. Instead of training for months and preparing yourself for a scouting combine event like in the NBA and NFL, college teams are in the midst of their postseason run. Naturally, thoughts of the draft creep in, but the field is the best way to keep your head on straight. 

“Pretty much once you step on the field that thought goes away. Game’s over and you’re like, ‘Oh crap, draft’s in a week!’ When you’re playing it’s easy to let it slip to the back of your mind,” Reynolds said. 

Now in his first full minor league season, Reynolds has been named to the 2017 California League All-Star Game. He owns a .298 batting average, .343 on-base percentage and .421 slugging percentage in 55 games this season for the San Jose Giants in Advanced Single-A. Reynolds also leads the league with five triples and just saw a 17-game hitting streak come to an end on June 10. 

At the plate, his mindset is about as straight to the point as you can get and one that every hitter wishes he could adopt — hit it where they’re not. 

“I had a stretch where I was hitting a lot of balls right to people and then I tried to change my approach a little bit to try to drop it where nobody is standing and that really helped out, so I’m just gonna try continue to do that,” Reynolds said. 

Though Reynolds’ mental approach to hitting is all about simplicity, his swing is much different. No, he doesn’t do anything wild at the plate, but it surely isn’t conventional. If you watch him for a series, you might see multiple different looking swings at the plate as opposed to a batter repeating the same swing with the same mechanics every single time. 

There is a method to his highly successful baseball madness. 

“I kind of like to keep my body guessing because it makes me feel more athletic,” the switch-hitting Reynolds explains. “I feel like if I keep doing it one way, you’re almost just going through the motions. For instance, one time I hit a ball last year and I didn’t remember if I toe tapped or leg kicked, I had to ask somebody.”

His swing can be a mystery every at-bat, but the 22-year-old preaches consistency to keep rising in the Giants’ ranks. “Just consistency in everything. Consistent approach, consistent contact, consistent attitude, just stay consistent all throughout the game.” Consistency — a word the Giants would love to associate with their current revolving door in the outfield, and so far, Reynolds looks like a future key to making that happen. 

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”