During his three years at Vanderbilt, Bryan Reynolds faced some of college baseball's best competition and fared well, hitting .329 with a .921 OPS during his NCAA career. Despite it being his first season on campus, he was a key contributor to the Commodores' run to a national title in 2014. Two years later, he showed enough power to hit .330/.461/.603 with 13 homers, earning second-team All-SEC honors and getting picked by the Giants in the second round of the 2016 Draft.
That's what happened in the spring. He may have learned how to be a top hitting talent, however, in the fall during intrasquad practices and scrimmages, facing multiple first-rounders -- all of whom he can still rattle off: Tyler Beede, Carson Fulmer, Walker Buehler, Jordan Sheffield.
"Pretty much everyone we had I had to face at some point," he said. "They're all really good. But I learned I could hit them. That's what matters. I could hit them. ... I think it helped me prepare, just to see some good arms. Conference play, we got to see some of the top arms in the country, and then in the fall, we're facing our own guys. It's a good stepping stone to pro ball."
Nearly 13 months after jumping from Vandy, Reynolds continues to make a rather strong transition to the pro game. He's ranked as the Giants' No. 3 prospect -- two spots behind Beede -- and was San Francisco's lone representative at the All-Star Futures Game last Sunday in Miami. As of Wednesday, the switch-hitting outfielder is hitting .298/.343/.447 with five homers, seven triples and 16 doubles in 73 games at Class A Advanced San Jose. Add the fact that he's an above-average runner who can cover ground in all three outfield spots, and it's not hard to see a potential everyday Major Leaguer.
"He's impressive to watch play every day," said San Jose manager Nestor Rojas. "He's a good athlete with a good baseball IQ, good knowledge of the game from the first day he started here. All of his tools are solid, but he's got the work ethic to improve. It's impressive to see him through this."
Video: The Giants' Bryan Reynolds hits a three-run homer
If Reynolds' overall slash line doesn't look incredibly impressive for the hitting haven that is the California League, there are a couple of notes to consider. First, his home is Municipal Stadium.
While some parks in the Cal League are known as places where averages, home run totals and ERAs all go to swell, San Jose has the opposite effect, comparatively. Last season, San Jose ranked last in the league in park factors when it came to runs, homers and hits. High Desert and Bakersfield -- both hitter-friendly parks -- are now out of the picture, making San Jose not so extreme in comparison to league average. But it's a pitcher's park by Cal League standards with run (0.86), homer (0.87) and hit (0.86) factors all well below the league average.
It's all reflected in Reynolds' splits as the 22-year-old owns a .245/.274/.377 line with one home run in 37 games at home, compared to a .351/.407/.517 line with four long balls in 36 games away from San Jose. If he'd had put up that road line over a full season, Reynolds would be talked about as one of the most productive hitters in the Minors. Instead, he's considered solid.
"Our park plays truer than other parks in size," Reynolds said. "The ball does fly but not drastically like other places. ... It's not like Lancaster. The ball just goes there."
But Reynolds isn't simply the victim of park factors. His numbers were dragged down by a rough April, when he hit .253/.316/.356 over 23 games. In May and June combined, he put up a much-improved .332/.360/.500 line over 45 contests. The switch-hitter believes it was more the result of luck with barreled balls falling into gloves rather than open spots on the field, and there might be some merit there with his batting average on balls in play jumping from .333 in April to .414 over the two months that followed while his strikeout rate stayed relatively stable (24.2 percent in April, 21.4 percent in May and June).
His skipper, however, thinks there's more to it.
"His approach is more consistent," Rojas said. "His pitch recognition is improving and is much better than last year, when I first had him [as a manager with Class A Augusta]. Both sides, too. It's an improving approach. He knows better now when he can try to hit one hard to the gap and when he needs to shorten up and just put the ball in play. It's made a difference."
If there's a direct knock on Reynolds' offensive game right now, it's that he doesn't take as many free passes as he did in college. He walked in 17.3 percent of his plate appearances as a Vandy junior, a figure that has fallen to 5.2 percent this season with San Jose.
"They're just throwing me strikes, I think," he said.
Perhaps, but Rojas contends that he's seen changes in his No. 3 hitter that have helped him know when to take and when to swing against pro arms. Of course, Reynolds walked in his only plate appearance at the Futures Game as part of a six-pitch at-bat against Mariners right-hander Thyago Vieira, who touched 99.9 mph on the radar gun against the Giants prospect. Reynolds has taken a free pass in each of his first two games since returning to the San Jose lineup, going 3-for-6 with a homer and no strikeouts over that stretch.
Rojas hopes Reynolds learned something about himself from the trip to Miami, just as he did during those fall scrimmages back in Vanderbilt.
"I believe the confidence level coming back from something like that can be a lot better," Rojas said. "It can help him finish out in a good way. He saw what those other guys were. He saw he belonged. Now, hopefully he can use that experience with us."