PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates rookie outfielder Bryan Reynolds is hitting .326 this season and is in fourth place among all qualified hitters in the National League for the batting title.
No rookie has won the NL batting title since 1900, but Reynolds is flirting with it as he’s just nine points behind Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich heading into Monday.
So it’s hard to quibble with any part of Reynolds’ performance at the plate this season
But the 24-year-old in his first Major League season has shown some signs of slowing down. Since the All-Star break, his batting average has fallen 13 points and, perhaps more importantly, his OPS has dropped from .950 to .919.
One of the areas that the Pirates have identified as an issue as of late for Reynolds has been his performance from the right side of the plate. A switch-hitter, Reynolds has hit .150 with a .175 slugging percentage in 44 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers since the break.
“The quality of the left-handers that he’s facing at this level, that could be a big part of it,” Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said Monday. “You see left-handers in the Minor Leagues. I don’t think it’s the quality that you see up here.”
That is a problem that might at least temporarily solve itself. Pittsburgh enters a four-game series with Washington on Monday and the Nationals have just two lefties on their roster: Tuesday’s starter Patrick Corbin and reliever Matt Grace.
Hurdle also said that some of Reynolds’ early-season fortune might be catching up to him. According to Statcast, Reynolds has an expected batting average of .293.
“He’s not as lucky right now,” Hurdle said. “He’s hitting balls hard and he’s hitting them at people. It’s a combination.”
The Pirates returned shortstop Cole Tucker to Triple-A Indianapolis. He was the team’s 26th man for the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday. Tucker, who was the Bucs’ first-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, has hit .195 in 67 games with Pittsburgh this season. He did not make a start and had three plate appearances as a pinch-hitter during his most recent recall, going 0-for-1 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch.