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Reyes thriving with refined two-strike approach

September 22, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- "Two-strike hitter" isn't exactly the first descriptor that comes to mind with Franmil Reyes.Reyes is a strong, hulking right fielder with as much raw power as anyone on the planet. He certainly doesn't fit the mold of a typical two-strike pest.And yet, since he was recalled in

SAN DIEGO -- "Two-strike hitter" isn't exactly the first descriptor that comes to mind with Franmil Reyes.
Reyes is a strong, hulking right fielder with as much raw power as anyone on the planet. He certainly doesn't fit the mold of a typical two-strike pest.
And yet, since he was recalled in August, Reyes has been exactly that. In Friday's 5-3 victory over the Dodgers, Reyes smashed a fourth-inning single to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by a Padre this season. In that stretch, Reyes has eight two-strike hits, including a home run on Tuesday night.
"He thinks because he's got me with two strikes that he's going to strike me out," Reyes said. "I tell myself: 'No way. If you strike me out, OK, I'll tip my cap. But I'm going to fight you.' I'm going to battle for every pitch."
Reyes had 66 two-strike at-bats before he was demoted in late July. Entering play Saturday night, he also had 66 two-strike at-bats since he was recalled. The difference is stark:
Before:
Average: .106 (370th of 397)
Slugging: .212 (315th)
wOBA: .158 (377th)
After:
Average: .303 (fifth of 253)
Slugging: .500 (sixth)
wOBA: .384 (sixth)
"Franmil's doing an unbelievable job with two strikes," said Padres skipper Andy Green. "You just don't see guys that size able to get down into their base and fight like that with two strikes and shoot line drives all over the field."
So what's changed? Well, Reyes has completely overhauled his approach with two strikes -- to the point where his stance changes. Take a look at his pre-two-strike approach: specifically the closed, upright stance and the exaggerated leg kick.
Gif: Franmil Reyes homers off Zack Godley
Now, take a look at the two-strike approach: a more open, crouched stance and hardly any leg kick at all.
Gif: Franmil Reyes HR vs. Derek Holland
"When he gets down in his legs, gets his hands deeper, it's a declaration: 'I'm ready to grind right now, I'm ready to fight,'" Green said. "That's played very well for him."
"I forget about hitting the ball hard," Reyes said. "I just try to put the barrel on the ball."
Thing is: Reyes is so strong, his two-strike stance hardly costs him any power. Since he was recalled his average exit velocity with two strikes is 92.9 mph (the best mark on the Padres). With fewer than two strikes, it's 90.9 mph.
"Hitting with two strikes is important to me," Reyes said. "My teammates see that and they know I'm fighting. ... I practice my two-strike approach everywhere -- in batting practice, even on the tee."
Reyes is hitting .285/.343/.526 this season and has been a revelation for the Padres. At 23, he's lauded in the organization for his smarts at the plate and the adjustments he's already making in the big leagues. None has been more important to his success than his two-strike shift.
"I'm going to go up here three times and take my 'A' swing and hope it works out -- he's found in the big leagues that it's tough to be successful that way," Green said. "The physical adjustment's been real. The mental adjustment's been solid as well. ... He can do as much damage in that two-strike stance as he does early in the count."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.