Reds' Hinds shows off his big-time pop in AFL

October 9th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Keeping a hitter with Rece Hinds’ pop in the yard is a difficult task within the confines of three strikes; give him an extra strike and the ball is susceptible to be launched into orbit like it was during the second inning of Glendale’s 13-11 win over Scottsdale at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday night.

Forget a shortened up two-strike approach – Hinds took a hearty cut on a 1-2 pitch after a dropped foul popup and swatted an opposite-field two-run homer that soared beyond the Scorpions’ bullpen. 

“I thought it was a for-sure out,” Hinds said of the earlier popup. “They gave me the opportunity to get another swing with the bat.”

While Hinds’ first roundtripper of the Fall League staked the Desert Dogs to a 7-0 advantage at the time, it was ultimately a difference maker. The homer was his sixth since returning to action in late August after a fractured left hamate bone threw up a roadblock on his 2022 campaign. Rediscovering trust in his hands – along with generating torque from his legs – has been integral to his power revival.

“I’ve always been a bigger guy, and the last couple of weeks, I’ve just been trying to work on my lower half and get my lower half more into my swing,” Hinds said. “Trusting my hands and just trusting my swing in general.”

Hinds, the Reds’ No. 18 prospect, drew a walk in the fifth and promptly swiped second base. He came darting around to score just two batters later.

After returning from the hamate ailment, Hinds demolished an estimated 474-foot homer for High-A Dayton on Sept. 9. Just four days later, he homered in his Double-A Chattanooga debut. Over a six-game stint with the Lookouts, the 22-year-old posted a .655 slugging percentage. Across three levels, Hinds slashed .233/.304/.428 with 12 homers and 15 stolen bases in 79 games this year.

For all of the prodigious power that Hinds has put on display throughout the Minors over the past two years, strikeouts have cropped up as a bugaboo. He whiffed at a 38.8% clip this season across stints with the Reds’ Arizona Complex League club, Dayton and Chattanooga.

“When I was younger – just hearing it all the time – I think it got to me a little bit,” Hinds said of the swing-and-miss element. “But I’m older now, more mature and it kind of doesn’t really bother me. I just go up there and try to do my best to put a good swing on the ball.”

On the heels of dealing with torn cartilage in his left meniscus during 2021, Hinds has faced back-to-back tough luck seasons that have threatened to sidetrack his upward trajectory. Retaining his plus athleticism, the Reds are still believers in Hinds’ all-around game, although they will be looking for more consistency at the dish and defensive improvements during his time in the AFL.

Drafted as a third baseman in the second round of the 2019 Draft, Hinds has been undergoing a crash course in outfield play over the past year. Across 54 starts in right field during ‘22, he committed just one error and recorded nine assists, including two double plays. He was back in right field for Glendale again Saturday.

“The beginning was a little shaky,” Hinds said. ‘“I started out there with a pitcher’s glove because I didn’t have an outfielder’s glove. I got my outfielder’s glove now and played all year out there and I love it, honestly.”

Glendale starter Sam Benschoter – who teamed with Hinds at Dayton for three weeks – threw three scoreless frames and struck out two. Through his first two AFL outings, the undrafted free agent out of Michigan State has gone five innings without allowing a run. His fastball has worked as high as 95 mph, backing up the 13.6 K/9 he averaged during the 2022 regular season.