Bryan Reynolds might win NL batting title, but not Rookie of the Year

Bryan Reynolds is toiling in the obscurity that comes with being a Pittsburgh Pirate, but he may pull off something really unprecedented this year.

Entering play on Friday, Bryan Reynolds is leading the National League with a .335 batting average. Who, you say? He’s a rookie outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who started this season in Triple-A but was called up after hitting .367 with five home runs in 13 games.

Reynolds was a second-round pick of the San Francisco Giants out of Vanderbilt in 2016, and he was the top piece that came to the Pirates in the Andrew McCutchen trade in January of 2018. So he arrived in the big leagues with some prospect pedigree, and he promptly started his Pirates’ career with an 11-game hitting streak.

Reynolds hit .322 with a .918 OPS in May, he continued to rake in June (.369, .961 OPS). He fell off in July (.256 with a .752 OPS), but he has heated right back up over 12 games so far in August (.404 with a 1.236 OPS).

Reynolds leads the Pirates in bWAR and on-base percentage (.410). He’s tied for first on the team in OPS+ (146), second in OPS (.947), tied for second in doubles (25), third in home runs (13), third in total bases (181) and fourth in RBI (47).

The only rookies in major league history to win a batting title are Tony Oliva (1964) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001), both in the American League. No rookie has ever led the National League in batting average, so if Reynolds pulls it off, he’d be the first.

If votes were being tabulated for National League Rookie of the Year today, New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso and San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. would lead the way, and Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Soroka would get some attention too. All three have a higher bWAR than Reynolds (3.6), and as Ryan Fagan of Sporting News noted, Rookie of the Year ballots only have three spots. So Reynolds could, quite literally, come in fourth on a three-person ballot.

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Playing for the Pirates automatically leads to falling below the national radar, and their major league-worst 6-25 record since the All-Star break (entering Friday) doesn’t help either. Winning the NL batting title would be its own first, but not registering significantly in the Rookie of the Year voting would be a not easily repeated historical double-whammy for Reynolds.

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