Mark Reynolds has been baseball’s biggest bargain so far this season

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The Colorado Rockies signed Mark Reynolds to a contract this past offseason as an insurance policy for the Ian Desmond experiment at first base. An afterthought at one point in the Rockies’ 2017 plan, Reynolds has soared beyond the expectations of his $1.5-million minor-league contract this season to become one of the biggest bargains in the sport.

Through the first quarter of the season, Reynolds has been red-hot at the dish, ranking among one of baseball’s best in most major offensive categories.

Reynolds, an 11-year journeyman, is in his second season with the Rockies, the seventh team he’s played for in his career. But how did the 33-year-old first baseman evolve from an insurance policy to an everyday staple for the surging Rockies club almost overnight? Well, it’s a testament to a few things, but the combination of knowledge he’s learned over his career from an offensive standpoint has helped completely revolutionize Reynolds’ plate approach.

Previously known for his all-or-nothing swing, Reynolds has cut down on the power stroke while developing a tighter, crisper swing throughout all points of the strike zone. The change in approach mixed with experience has Reynolds off to a start that has catapulted the Rockies into first place in the National League West with one of the best records in baseball.

“He’s squaring up the fastball. He’s not missing the fastball, the fastball middle, middle-in in he’s getting to, and he’s got big-time power,” Rockies manager Bud Black said of Reynolds this season. “He’s locked in on the fastball; he’s not missing it. Any ball that’s a mistake from the pitcher, he’s got a good swing. That’s the key, and he’s in a good spot at the plate. He’s comfortable, he’s seeing the ball, his swings are good, and from there the talent. That’s a good thing for the Rockies.”

Reynold’s is slashing .317/.389./.612 on the season and currently leads the Rockies’ offense in home runs, RBIs, and OBP. His home run (12) and RBI totals (33) rank fifth and third respectively in the National League, ahead of household names like Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt and Daniel Murphy.

“My swing’s on time. It’s finding barrels and getting up in the air. It’s a good combo.” Reynolds said earlier this month.

Reynolds has been so essential to the club this season that he has forced the hand of Bud Black. The Rockies’ original plan was for Desmond to man first base when he returned from a Spring Training injury, but Reynolds’ offensive barrage has resulted in Desmond playing just four of his 17 games at first base since his return.

The logjam of talent is a good problem for the Rockies to have, and one Reynolds wants to make sure the club has to deal with over the course of the season.

“I want to keep playing,” Reynolds said earlier in the season. “If you want to play, you have to produce, especially in my situation. So I’m just trying to produce every night and hopefully be in there the next day.”

Reynold’s has been the Rockies’ most well-rounded hitter so far this season. Whether he’s leading off the inning or coming up with two outs, Reynolds has continuously produced for Colorado. Entering Thursday’s double-header with Minnesota, he was hitting .469 in 32 at-bats when leading off an inning. With two outs, he’s hitting .326.

Reynolds isn’t the only one turning heads. The 2017 Rockies are doing that around the league. Off to their best start in franchise history, the Rockies are playing their best baseball in nearly a decade thanks largely in part to Reynolds. And while his offense has been center stage, his defense should not be overlooked.

Reynolds currently ranks second among all first basemen in put outs this season. His range factor of 10.05 leads the NL.

“It makes me feel a lot better, that’s for sure,” Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado said of Reynolds’ defensive play at first base. “I’ll tell you what; I know when Mark’s not there … He’s an unbelievable first baseman, so I love having him there.”

Reynolds has been an undeniable anchor and a driving force in the Rockies’ early 2017 success. The veteran presence Reynolds brings both on and off the field is an unseen factor that has also greatly helped the Rockies this season. In all ways, Mark Reynolds has been one of the key difference-makers for the 2017 Rockies.

Bringing Reynolds back for another go-around has proven to be a success thus far. Having evolved from a presumed insurance policy to the catalyst of the team, all while becoming one of the most effective hitters in the league, Reynolds has developed into the biggest steal of the offseason.

“He’s playing well, and it’s been that way since opening day,” Black said. “From the two-run homer in Milwaukee [on Opening Day] to now, he’s been a major contributor to our early-season success. Good for him. I’m glad he’s here, glad he re-signed with us. He’s doing his part for sure.”

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