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Cubs 2018 draft profile: Luke Reynolds

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The 10th-rounder had a great 2018 season. How far could he go up the ladder, and how quickly?

Luke Reynolds, the Cubs 10th round pick this year
Courtesy Southern Mississippi Athletics

I had an article typed and ready to assess the Cubs recent and relative success in the tenth round of the draft, specifically. It never made it to posting. Nonetheless, with the Cubs current addition of third baseman Luke Reynolds from Southern Mississippi, the premise was re-stoked. This article looks at assessing a draft prospect in the current environment from his selection spot, and Reynolds in particular.

Among the things that grates on my nerves from a prospect/lingo sense is the overuse of the term “too old.” In some instances, a prospect’s age should be a concern. For instance, if an early choice from college struggles early at a level they should atom-smash, that’s a problem. However, the problem isn’t the player’s age. It’s the lack of success. Then, imagine, he misses a season with injury, and he still isn’t any better. The concern becomes “Was he overrated?”, not “Is he too old?”

Age versus competition is a tool. As velocity is a tool, or the ISO stat that assesses extra-base power. All things equal, if one player is a brilliant base-runner, and another ordinary or worse, prioritize the guy who’s better with the skill. However, mind perspective, which is often mislaid. All thing are rarely equal.

***

Imagine, for instance, the Cubs select a college senior in the thirty-somethingth round. He’s brought in, principally, to take up some innings in the Arizona League. Maybe he was tossing in the high-80s in a low-tier league, but had done so quite well. He starts four games in Mesa, and has stellar numbers.

“He’s old. He’s already 23.”

Which may well be true. However, for a player that was selected in a late or “insignificant” round, his long-term expectations should be about nil. Tossing the “he’s 23” bombshell on a player outperforming players a few years his junior is unnecessary. Unless someone is seriously extrapolating Arizona League success as a precursor to MLB success.

Players that are succeeding simply because they are better than their current opposition will be sorted out. That happens as they advance in the talent pools. Not because of age. If 23 keeps getting players out as he traverses the system, he becomes an asset. If he doesn’t, which is likely, it’s talent-based, not age-based.

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The 10th round in the draft is an entity all unto its own. With tightly legislated spending limits, teams took quickly to realizing a benefit of drafting college senior talent late on the second day. These “senior signs” have no realistic leverage. The pittance they receive in bonuses allow added spending space for other highly prioritized players.

As such, many 10th-round choices become borderline asterisks. Sometimes, they’re signed as much for their willingness to take a mild signing bonus, as their sport upside. And the technique is understood. If a team goes years without getting “apparent value” from tenth round selections, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

That said and understood, the Cubs have done quite well in Round 10 since 2012. Better than could be expected.

Cubs 10th round picks since 2012

Year Player Position School Level advanced to Still active?
Year Player Position School Level advanced to Still active?
2012 Chad Martin RHP Indiana Arizona Summer League No
2013 Zack Godley RHP Tennessee MLB Yes
2014 Ryan WIlliams RHP East Carolina Triple-A Yes
2015 Vimael Machin IF Virginia Commonwealth Triple-A Yes
2016 Dakota Mekkes RHP Michigan State Triple-A Yes
2017 Brian Glowicki RHP Minnesota Full-Season A Yes

That’s really good production from a “surrender” sort of round. Which, after awhile, might get you to wonder if the college baseball world is somewhat loaded with seniors entirely able to play pro ball. The answer seems to be “Yes.”

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Luke Reynolds career started in junior college at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi, about 20 miles west of Jackson. As it happens, Reynolds did well at Hinds, and transferred to Mississippi State (Starkville). As a sophomore in the Southeastern Conference, he hit over .300 (.809 OPS), but managed only 92 at-bats.

Then, because college transfer rules are silly and not particularly easy to follow, Reynolds missed the next two baseball seasons without receiving a single plate appearance. He entered 2018 as a redshirt junior, playing for Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Reynolds didn’t waste much time getting back to hitting.

Reynolds hit .389 for Southern Miss, who went 50-16 on the season, reaching the Field of 64. The 15 homers and 1.250 OPS were attention-getting. However, Reynolds slipped in the draft. Possibly, because he was old. Likely, because teams wanted to “push around” the guy who was perceived as old. The Cubs, apparently, were the first team to meet Reynolds $125,000 signing bonus expectation, which is still below the slotted amount for the selection.

“Nonetheless, at 23, he is old.”

Yes, he is, for an entry-level professional. However, as with the hypothetical pitcher from before, age is a bit overplayed. My hunch is, he goes to Eugene for their opening series which starts on Friday night against Vancouver (Blue Jays). Reynolds should be better than that level. He also might be better than the Midwest League, which could be his next stop.

Which might mean he’s a 24-year-old in Myrtle Beach in April 2019. Which would still be older than league average, but not by nearly as much.

The reality seems to be, age only matters when a player reaches a protracted slump. Then, a team has to decide if he’s in a funk, or isn’t good enough to keep around. If a player isn’t good enough to keep around, he gets released. Which is only earth-shattering news (outside of his family and friends) if the player came with high expectations.

Which shouldn’t be the case with a 10th-round choice.

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When assessing a prospect, perspective should be considered. If the player was a key/early choice, and his struggles call question to his future success, it’s perfectly reasonable to point out that he might be behind some people’s development curves. However, unless the player was selected in the first three or four rounds, expected payout on the lottery ticket should likely be small enough to discourage lofty claims.

Reynolds had a sensational season at Southern Miss. He was a bargain in the tenth round. That said, if a 10th-round selection reaches Advanced-A Ball (Myrtle Beach, for now, for the Cubs), he probably reached his expectations. Further advancements are icing on said cake.

As the college draft pool is far deeper than most expect, the Cubs have been getting great value from the tenth round. I was stunned that Reynolds was still “on the board” at that point. It’s perfectly acceptable to touch both borders. You can say 23 is a bit old for Short-Season A ball, yet think Reynolds might be a decent player for Eugene.

In the long term, though, if Reynolds is good enough, his age won’t be a problem. After all, if a 10th-rounder reaches MLB, it qualifies as a great pick, regardless of his debut age. And, if he isn’t MLB good, it would figure to be for a reason other than his birth date. His ability would be the concern. The assessment should eye expectations, based on historical factors, not age.