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Checking in on the Sean Reynolds two-way player experiment

Pitching in organized games for the first time in five years, Sean Reynolds is showing some promise.

Marlins prospect Sean Reynolds pitches as a reliever for the Low-A Jupiter Hammerheads @GoHammerheads/Twitter

Through the first month of the 2021 Minor League Baseball season, one of the most effective pitchers for the Jupiter Hammerheads has been Sean Reynolds. The Marlins fourth-round pick from the 2016 MLB Draft, Reynolds is using a four-pitch mix to maintain a 2.89 earned run average while striking out nearly 30% of all batters faced through five appearances (9.1 IP). And he isn’t even listed as a pitcher on their roster.

Reynolds is the first Marlins prospect since the franchise’s 2017 ownership transition (and player development department overhaul) to be utilized as a true two-way player at a full-season MiLB level.

Low-A Jupiter is the only Marlins affiliate that didn’t have any live televised game broadcasts in May. Fortunately, their home ballpark—Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium—is hooked up to a Statcast apparatus, and Reynolds isn’t shy about sharing individual clips of himself on the mound.

The 6-foot-8 Reynolds pitched regularly during his senior year at Union High School in Redondo Beach, California (1.08 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 94 K in 84.0 IP). However, the Marlins preferred his upside as a power-hitting position player. Reynolds began his career as an outfielder in rookie ball, then settled in at first base. He accumulated 1,062 plate appearances from 2016-2019 while never throwing a pitch in an official game.

Despite such a long hiatus, the right-hander has regained the velocity from his prep days and developed several secondary weapons that he trusts. The Hammerheads have deployed Reynolds as a reliever, including in several high-leverage situations.

Fish Stripes examined the Statcast data from four of Reynolds’ first five games pitched (the only exclusion is May 23 at Daytona). Here are the main takeaways:

  • Pitch usage—45.5% four-seam fastballs, 30.1% curveballs, 18.7% sinkers, 5.7% changeups
  • Each pitch type has generated at least three whiffs
  • Average four-seamer velocity of 92.2 miles per hour (max of 95.7 mph)
  • Average exit velocity allowed of 80.0 mph
Sean Reynolds pitch chart - May 5
Sean Reynolds pitch chart - May 8
Sean Reynolds pitch chart - May 15
Sean Reynolds pitch chart - May 29

Reynolds’ four-seamer has an average spin rate in the high 2400s, which is great even by major league standards. On the other hand, the spin on his changeup has been very inconsistent, an indication that he has yet to find a real “feel” for it (which would explain his infrequent usage of it).

Overall this season, Reynolds is getting called strikes and whiffs (CSW) on 27.2% of his total pitches. In a vacuum, that’s promising!

But would Reynolds be able to perform at this level if he pitched more frequently—he’s been on at least two days’ rest between each appearance—or if he was trusted with facing the same batters multiple times in the same game? The other obvious question: how does his stuff translate against older, stronger, more disciplined competition?

It could be a while until Reynolds gets tested at High-A because his hitting is lagging far behind his arm. The combination of his massive strike zone and swing-and-miss tendencies makes him a frequent strikeout victim. He’s been punched out in 14 of 34 plate appearances (41.2 K%), which is only a modest improvement from his pre-2021 career rate (43.9 K%) despite the advantage of being more experienced than most Low-A Southeast pitchers. Reynolds has been wasting his exceptional raw power by putting 10 of his first 12 balls in play on the ground.

The left-handed batter has had the platoon advantage in more than three-quarters of these matchups, but the lack of consistent reps may be doing more harm than good. Reynolds participated in 14 of the first 24 Hammerheads games. He always gets the full day off following a pitching appearance and has not played both roles in the same game yet. The one “bright spot” is he’s making pitchers work hard (4.5 pitches per plate appearance).

The Jupiter Hammerheads roster is loaded with conventional top prospects like Dax Fulton, Osiris Johnson, Victor Mesa Jr., Nasim Nuñez and Eury Pérez. They may be the “main attractions” for those of you considering buying tickets to an upcoming game or tuning in to the team’s radio broadcast. But I find myself equally fascinated by this Sean Reynolds experiment and how it may impact the Marlins’ plans with two-way players moving forward.