It’s been a while since I’ve gone with a prospect review piece. Part of the reason I don’t write as many as possibly should is that, what many people want to read on prospects isn’t what I tend to write. While Estimated Time Of Arrival and Descriptive Video are all the rage, that isn’t my jurisdiction. I’m more at home with a different way of looking at prospects.
Today’s look is at Cubs 2018 10th-rounder Luke Reynolds. The 10th round is often a landing point for college seniors with precious little left to provide. With the slotting system, teams have a certain amount they can spend on their entire first ten rounds. Anything left over can be used as impetus to get third day selections (rounds 11-40) to get signed away from a college scenario.
As such, early on in the post-2011 June Drafts, teams began taking so-called “senior signs” in the tenth round. For instance, a player of limited upside that has burned through his college eligibility has precious little leverage. Teams like to negotiate “team-friendly” deals with senior signs for $10,000 or less. After all, as a senior, many players won’t be able to command much more than that, anyway.
If the team spends a trifling amount on their tenth round pick, they’ll have more to spend on other selections. It’s a useful strategy, on occasion. Sometimes, as with Zack Godley (he of a $35,000 bonus), he shines, regardless.
Reynolds was a senior sign, but he signed for $125,000. My guess is that a number of teams wanted him to sign for a pittance, but the Southern Mississippi third baseman balked. Eventually, the Cubs ponied up for the $125,000 amount that becomes the “quality standard” on the third day, and a deal was struck. (Draft choices often aren’t made until the price is agreed on, in advance. Contrary to some popular opinions.)
My look at Reynolds today focuses a bit on his college numbers, and his professional numbers. The first partial season is a bit of a throwaway. By that, I mean that if a player is sensational or struggles, it matters more to writers looking for a story than anything long-term. If success or failure is doubled-up the next year, then lights can flash.
However, when a team selects a player, they have a commitment to him. When the Cubs select a player like Reynolds, they’re good with him, or they wouldn’t have bothered drafting him. As short-season progresses, adjustments really aren’t a huge priority. The player needs at-bats, and defensive chances. Preferably, in a game.
With that in mind, once he pees in a cup and the drug screen comes back clean, he gets sent to play in games as quickly as possible. In Reynolds’ case, he played a dozen games in Mesa getting used to pro pitching, then was flown north to Eugene, Oregon. A decent chunk of the rest of this article examines his numbers in the Northwest League and at Southern Mississippi in the collegiate Conference USA.
Reynolds lost two years of playing time in college. As a junior at Mississippi State, he sat the bench. The entire season. Once a coach gets in his mind who he’s going to play, the back-ups tend to get ignored. In his junior campaign, Reynolds received no at-bats. As a sophomore, his OPS had been .809 in the SEC.
He decided to transfer to Southern Miss. However, he had to sit out another season. Not optimal. However, he took his frustrations out on pitchers in 2018. His 1.250 OPS was attention-grabbing. Nonetheless, some executives were doubters, as he slid to the 10th round.
Reynolds had 216 at-bats in college in 2018, and 121 as a pro in the Northwest League. Despite neither being a massive sample size, let’s see what we notice. Reynolds had 20 doubles at school, and 11 as a professional. He hit 15 homers at school, and one for the Emeralds. If Reynolds as a pro and Reynolds as a college hitter were exactly the same (this may or may not be true), the pro pitchers were better than the college arms he faced.
He fanned 52 times in college, and 33 times with the champs. His walks, however, were greatly skewed. Reynolds drew 65 free passes with the Golden Eagles, and only 18 in Oregon. Keep in mind that “winning games” is more important in college than in a pipeline. Summarizing, his OPS slipped to .804, and his ISO (which measures extra bases ability) dropped from .310 to .132. When looking at Conference USA numbers, sometimes they will be more gaudy than those for the same player in short-season ball.
Nobody, in the long-term, gives a heavy weight on how Reynolds performed as a professional this season. Here is the one home run he hit with Eugene [VIDEO].
You can put as much or as little weight as you want on that. Come January’s Instructional Ball, Reynolds will get his first professional schooling from coaches working to tweak what needs it. Remember that his game was left, largely, as it was in 2018. The daily grind is on daily improvement in spring training in Mesa, not playing a game five or six days a week.
Reynolds should be the primary third baseman for South Bend in 2019. Mix in a bit of designated hitting, a tad of first base, and maybe some corner outfield or second base. Development rules, once in spring training. Assessing Reynolds can clearly involve split-level thinking. He hit very well at Southern Miss. He, also, was a 10th-rounder. Those are the two valid data points. From there, it’s splitting the heat from the light.
In reality, getting anyone after the third round to MLB or involved in a trade is a “good on you” to the scouts, the coaches, and (of course) the player. As much as I’d like to give a valid ETA, Reynolds, his health, and his opposition will determine that. Having a tenth-rounder reach even Double-A is a bit of an upset.
For all the discussion of which free agent reliever will do what, I think I learn more from how well players like Reynolds advance. If the power develops, and he’s a break-even defensive third baseman to Double-A, some team will want that.
Getting more players in your pipeline to be coveted by other organizations is the entire plan in a pipeline. To do that, you want to locate as many college players as possible that can turn the trick. For a great many well-valued professionals in the game we love, that is what February through early June is about. By whichever means necessary.