Mets prospect Matt Reynolds owes his success to hard work

Mets prospect Matt Reynolds talks with manager Terry Mets prospect Matt Reynolds talks with manager Terry Collins before a spring exhibition game against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Viera, Fla. Photo Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

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With the struggles he was having, Matt Reynolds never thought he'd finish this season at the Triple-A level.

He might have been right . . . but not in the way he thought.

He'll likely finish it at the major-league level.

Reynolds -- yes, the same Reynolds who hit .226 in Class A last season -- is emerging as a candidate to be called up to the Mets when rosters expand in September.

"Honestly, I didn't think I even had a shot at reaching Triple-A this season," said Reynolds, a middle infielder who was the Mets' second-round pick in 2012. "I knew what I was capable of. I just had to show people that I was capable of doing it. I needed to iron out a few kinks in my swing."

Consider those kinks ironed.

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Last season, he tried to pull the ball too often, which he says resulted in his bat not being in the hitting zone long enough. So in December, his agent introduced him to Mets scout Rick Strickland, who also is a hitting instructor based in St. Louis.

"One big thing we saw, right when he was ready to make contact, he wasn't releasing the bat in the proper order," Strickland said. "So he was pulling the bat across the ball, which was producing a lot of soft ground balls."

Now Reynolds is staying through the ball, keeping his palms in place on the bat through its point of contact. The righthanded hitter has been looking to drive the ball to centerfield or the opposite way, which has helped him recognize off-speed pitches much better.

He was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas in June and was hitting .324 in 148 at-bats through Friday after going 13-for-25 in his previous six games. He was looking for his seventh consecutive multihit game Saturday night, but he had a bad night -- only 1-for-3.

"It's very rewarding, especially after having a down year last year," Reynolds said. "Just to have results and know that I'm capable of playing at a high level, it shows that hard work does pay off."

Reynolds, a third baseman in his last two seasons at the College of Arkansas, has played mostly shortstop, his preferred position, in the Mets' system. He also gets time at second base and is open to moving there.

His footwork needs improvement at the middle-infield positions, but he has become more comfortable in the field -- just as he has at the plate.

"I'm not going to wow you with my power, I'm not going to wow you with my speed," he said. "But I guarantee that I'll give it 100 percent and play the game right and play the game hard."

Reynolds, born and raised in Oklahoma, grew up a Yankees fan and idolized Derek Jeter. Now he's hoping to be his crosstown counterpart at shortstop. Come September, Jeter's final month in the major leagues could be Reynolds' first.

"To have that dream come true," he said, " would be unbelievable."

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Wouldn't be a bad way to finish the season, either.

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