In Bryan Reynolds’ case, injuries likely opened door leading to Pirates
Here are two questions that do not make sense on the surface but are worthy of consideration:
Where would the Pittsburgh Pirates be if outfielders Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte were not injured at various points this season?
What if Marte and shortstop Erik Gonzalez had not collided chasing a blooper in short center field April 19?
Answer: The Pirates still might be in last place in the National League Central but unaware of what Bryan Reynolds means to their future.
A day after the collision that sent Marte to the 10-day injured list, Reynolds was called up from Indianapolis after only one season in Double-A (2018) and 57 career Triple-A plate appearances (this year).
Today, people are talking about Reynolds as a write-in candidate for the All-Star Game and a contender for the National League batting crown as soon as he gets enough at-bats to qualify.
The 24-year-old Reynolds would be leading the NL with a .362 batting average if not for that rule demanding 3.1 plate appearances per game, based on the team’s total.
In Reynolds’ case, he needs 226. The nonroster spring training player has 194 heading into Friday’s game against the San Diego Padres.
Yet, it’s interesting to note Reynolds’ batting average is three points higher than the current leader: the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger (.359), who has 116 more plate appearances.
Clint Hurdle said it’s tough to keep Reynolds out of the lineup, but he will need to average more than five PAs per game until the All-Star break to qualify at that time.
Still, Reynolds is a solid Rookie of the Year candidate. He has a .988 OPS , which is second to Josh Bell on the Pirates. Plus, he has six home runs and 26 RBIs, exceeded only by Bell, Marte and Colin Moran.
“I don’t think anyone was expecting him playing out of his mind like this,” pitcher Trevor Williams said, “but I think you could see the potential in spring training in the few at-bats I saw.”
Dickerson, who doesn’t have a contract for next year and could be traded because of Reynolds’ productivity, has been open to helping him adjust to the major leagues.
“I told him to write things down so you remember what you’re doing and what you’re thinking when you’re doing good,” Dickerson said. “Just constantly reminding him to remember what makes him click and do well, and how he’s got ready and he’s prepared.
“He’s so simple with a simple approach. And when you’re simple like that, you’re going to make good contact.”
Here are other NL Rookie of the Year candidates:
Pete Alonso, 24, New York Mets, first baseman.
Alonso is tied with Bellinger for second in the majors with 24 home runs, and he’s slashing .271/.357/.617. Plus, he’s been with the Mets all season.
Austin Riley, 22, Atlanta Braves, left fielder
Riley is hitting .292 with 11 home runs, 32 RBIs and two outfield assists — one fewer than Reynolds.
Fernando Tatis Jr., 20, San Diego Padres, shortstop
Thanks to a hamstring injury, he has only 166 plate appearances, but he’s hitting .333 with a .992 OPS. Twenty of his 50 hits are for extra bases, compared to 23 of 64 for Reynolds.
Mike Soroka, 21, Braves, right-handed pitcher
There have only been five pitchers win NL Rookie of the Year this century, but Soroka can’t be ignored. He’s 8-1 with a 2.12 ERA and .983 WHIP. His eight-game winning streak is the longest in the majors in 16 years for a pitcher under 22.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .