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. 

A few longtime Giants could hit milestones this season


A few longtime Giants could hit milestones this season



SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been 10 years since we first saw Buster Posey take the field at Oracle Park. That emotional moment in Bruce Bochy's office when Brandon Belt found out he made the team? That was eight years ago. Brandon Crawford is about to begin his eighth season as the everyday shortstop. 

The core has been around a long time, which means some of these guys are moving up the franchise charts and coming up on statistical milestones. Here are some to keep an eye on in 2019: 

Posey: As a full-time big leaguer, Posey has only had two seasons where he wasn't worth at least four Wins Above Replacement -- and he had season-ending surgery both times. With another four-WAR season, Posey will move well into the top 10 on the franchise list, all the way up to seventh. He's currently 12th with 41.3 career WAR, per Baseball-Reference. He has a long, long way to catch franchise leader Willie Mays (154.8)

Crawford: It's been four years since the shortstop hit 21 homers and the Giants haven't had anyone reach 20 since. But Crawford needs just 13 this season to become the 31st player in franchise history to hit 100 homers with the Giants. He has 14 each of the past two seasons. 

Posey vs. Crawford: These longtime friends like to take good-natured shots at each other when it comes to stats (usually when stolen bases are involved) so we should point out that Crawford (58) is just three intentional walks behind Posey (61). Crawford needs two free passes this year to pass Matt Williams and move into 10th place on the franchise list. 

The Brandons: They like to tease each other, too, so we should also point out that Belt enters the season with 199 career doubles and Crawford is at 198. Game on. 

Madison Bumgarner: With 110 career wins, Bumgarner has surpassed former teammates Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. He needs 11 this season to move from 16th to 12th on the franchise's win list. Bumgarner will need an extension to get any higher than that. 

There's a nice round number at play, too. A couple of injury-marred years have bumped Bumgarner up to a 3.03 ERA. If he gets past 200 innings as he hopes and has an ERA in the 2.70 range, he would hit free agency with a career ERA that starts with the number two. That would surely please his agent. 

Bumgarner is eighth on the franchise list with 1,591 strikeouts and he could move all the way to fourth, just ahead of Lincecum, if he spends the whole season in San Francisco. The left-hander needs 104 strikeouts to pass Cain (currently fifth) and 114 to pass Lincecum. 

Gerardo Parra: The next time Parra throws a runner out, he'll reach 100 assists for his career. He has 47 career assists in left, 38 in right and 14 in center. If this feels to you like a rare arm on the Giants, you'd be correct. Over the last five seasons, the Giants rank 29th in the Majors with 103 outfield assists. Parra has 45 by himself during that time. 

Evan Longoria: If he matches last season's 54 RBI, Longoria will reach 1,000 for his career. He's 23 homers from 300. Hitting that mark would be huge for the Giants offense. 

Bruce Bochy: Finally, there's the man who already has said this will be his final season. Bochy needs 74 wins to become the 10th to reach 2,000 as a manager. If the Giants can shake off the last two seasons and finish with a winning record (82-80), Bochy would tie Leo Durocher for 10th all-time in wins. It would obviously be pretty cool for him if he could get sole possession of that 10th spot, and given the state of today's game, it's unlikely that any future manager would ever knock Bochy out of the top 10. 

Finally, there's a goal that seems highly improbable. If the Giants win 90 games, Bochy would walk away with an even .500 record (2,016-2,016), although if Bochy wins 90 games with this roster, Farhan Zaidi should probably talk him out of retirement. 


Bruce Bochy explains how Giants will utilize new catcher Erik Kratz

Bruce Bochy explains how Giants will utilize new catcher Erik Kratz

SAN FRANCISCO -- This is the second time Erik Kratz has been traded to a new organization in the week before the opener. He once got traded, got to the ballpark at six, and entered the game for a new team two hours later. 

So no, he is not sweating the fact that he has to learn a new pitching staff in time to potentially start a game for the Giants later this week. 

Kratz, acquired Sunday morning from the Brewers, will be the backup catcher, manager Bruce Bochy said. That means Kratz likely will start a game this weekend, as the Giants are hoping to ease Buster Posey into the regular season and they have four games in San Diego, followed by three in Los Angeles. 

"What are you going to do? It's part of the gig," Kratz said of the cram course. "It's not my first time."

The 38-year-old is happy for the opportunity regardless of the timing, because at the beginning of camp the Brewers told him he would not break with them. He spent six weeks auditioning for other teams, and he woke up Saturday thinking he was flying back home to Virginia to wait out the waiver process. Instead, he boarded a Sunday morning flight to the Bay Area, getting to the Coliseum in time to warm up two new teammates in the bullpen in the late innings. 

Kratz's arrival was not a surprise, really, given how many moves Farhan Zaidi has made this week. But it did certainly shake things up.

Bochy said the Giants are considering going with three catchers to start the year, allowing them to rest Posey more often and have Aramis Garcia's thump on the bench. 

"It's a pretty big bat," Bochy said of Garcia, "And he does a nice job wherever we put him (catcher or first base)."

That might be a luxury the Giants can't afford, though. They are leaning towards keeping 13 pitchers, which would mean just four bench spots. Kratz has one and Yangervis Solarte has one. Keeping Garcia would leave just one spot for Alen Hanson, Pablo Sandoval and the candidates vying for the fourth outfield job. 

[RELATED: Erik Kratz leaves his mark everywhere he goes]

"There are a lot of variables involved with this decision," Bochy said. 

More will be known Monday, when Bochy expects to announce his rotation (even though it seems set already). Perhaps the Giants will make yet another move, but for now, this much is certain: The Giants have their backup catcher, and a few days to figure out the rest.