Matt Reynolds on Moving Back to Short and Shortening his Swing

Mets’ second rounder Matt Reynolds is off to a slow start with the Savannah Sand Gnats hitting .197/.278/.282 in his first 19 games with five walks and 12 strikeouts.

His first professional surprise came on draft night. After starting at third base in 63 of his 66 games for the College World Series-bound Arkansas Razorbacks in 2012, the Mets announced that they would play him at a shortstop. In fact, the Mets see him playing multiple positions in the future.

These are his responses from an interview he and I did early this month. I added some comments in italics for background.

 

On his Move Back to Short as a Professional
On I actually worked out at short this past fall, there was a chance for me to play. The coaches decided it was best for me to stay at third – it was best for the team. Short is just moving back home for me. I played there my whole life. I never really played third until I got to Arkansas. I’m very comfortable at short. It feels good to play there.

 

How he ended up at thirdbase for Arkansas
My freshman year ['09-10], I came in as a shortstop. I started opening day for ‘em. I ended up just struggling a little bit. Came back and started to play pretty well and came down with an injury, in my shins. The doctor told me to shut it down for the rest of the year. Came back in the fall, and the coaches told me that we needed a thirdbaseman. I was willing to do that for the team and ended up finding a home there at third and loved playing there everyday.

Arkansas needed a new third baseman after  Zack Cox was selected 25th overall in the 2010 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. Cox hit .429/.505/.609 in his junior season in 2010 and is now hitting .254/.294/.421 in 84 games for AAA Memphis in the Pacific Coast League. 

 

Freshman year struggles 
It was more me not being ready for what I got myself into. The SEC is very competitive … and you’re facing good pitching every weekend. I may not have been completely ready for it. The next two years, I was prepared and ready to go.

Reynolds hit .203/.282/.297 with three doubles and a homerun in 64 AB over 24 games as a freshman.

 

On what changed Sophomore Year and then Junior Year
Just maturity. I grew up in a year. Saw a lot more better pitching in summer ball. The coaches helped prepare me a lot better. There were a few mechanical things in my swing that weren’t allowing me to be the best that I could. In the fall, I worked with our hitting coach, Butch Butler, and we fine-tuned those things. It’s worked out ever since.

I added in a leg lift that helped with my timing and it really helped shorten up my swing. My first two years, I had a little of a long swing, and that summer, I started working on it, tried to shorten it up.  … Last year, summer 2011, when I was playing with the Whiting Red Sox on the Cape and Team USA, the coaches really helped me out shortening up my swing. Then, I came back in the fall and added in the leg lift and everything’s been rolling since  then.

 

Why a leg lift keeps his hand path short
The leg lift keeps my hands and hips in unison. When I just had a normal stride, my hips would leave early, and that would leave my hands behind and it would be long through the zone and it wouldn’t be as quick as I could be. Putting in that leg lift just makes ‘em work better together and enhances the power numbers a little bit. And it’s a good thing.

When I was just normally striding, I would kinda push forward, and my hips would leak early and I would have no power. I would just be a singles hitter. Now that I’ve done that, you can really see that the power numbers have increased. It was a great addition to my swing. I have to give a lot of credit to my hitting coach at Arkansas, Coach Butler for seeing that that was probably the best thing for me.

Indeed, after hitting .243/.359/.351 as a sophomore, with 15 extra-base hits and a .116 isolated slugging percentage in 59 games for the Hogs, Reynolds improved to .323/.427/.498 with 27 extra-base hits anda .175 iso in 67 games in his junior year.   

 

On the Mets Plan for Him
They told me they wanted me to play short in the minors for a little bit just to utilize my athleticism and to get my feet working and all of that good stuff. They told me that I’ll probably be a third baseman, second baseman, maybe a little short in the big leagues. But I’m just willing to do whatever it takes to get to the big leagues and help a team go to a World Series.

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