Collegiate baseball's Southern Conference is generally known for its high-scoring affairs and hitter-friendly ballparks, but the Texas Rangers snagged one of the league's more promising hurlers in the seventh round of this week's MLB Draft.
Left-hander Jimmy Reyes
of Elon University recently finished off a strong junior season, in which he posted a 10-4 record with a 4.56 ERA. The workhorse Reyes had two complete games and 98.2 innings, yielding 100 hits, walking 24 and striking out 96. He pitched at least seven innings in seven consecutive starts during one stretch.
Reyes flashed impressive stuff during each of his three seasons with the Phoenix, and he also turned the heads of scouts in the Cape Cod League last summer. Pitching with the Orleans Cardinals, Reyes went 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA in eight starts.
With a 5-foot-10, 194-pound frame, the southpaw doesn't offer much projection, but he has an advanced arsenal. Reyes shows strong command of an upper-80s, low-90s fastball, a good slider, and an improving changeup.
Reyes' MLB.com scouting video can be found at this link
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 21-year-old Miami native after the draft.
Jason Cole: To start it off, tell me your thoughts on getting picked by the Rangers in the seventh round.
Jimmy Reyes: I'm elated. I got the call from the area scout, Chris Kemp, a few picks before, and he asked me if I was still available and if I would be okay with being picked. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, definitely.'
Cole: Going in the seventh, did you get picked about where you expected to go?
Reyes: Yeah, I would say so. I was given a broad range––anywhere from the fourth to the eighth, so I guess I was within that range.
Cole: You had a real nice season in the Cape Cod League last year. Did you feel you were starting to get noticed by scouts out there?
Reyes: Yeah, I felt like that's where I started to get noticed. Coming from Elon, which is kind of a mid-major school, most guys don't get a lot of media hype until their junior year. Once I got to the Cape, that was more or less when I started getting a little more attention.
Cole: Did you talk to any Rangers guys during your time out there last year?
Reyes: I did not, no.
Cole: Did you have much contact with the Rangers and your area scout this year?
Reyes: I met with Chris Kemp in the fall. We had a sit-down meeting. And then we talked a couple times leading up to the draft during the last week or two.
Cole: Did you feel like they were one of the teams that was probably most likely to pick you?
Reyes: Coming into the draft, I'd say yeah, they were probably among the top five or 10 teams. I was contacted by a lot of teams, but the area scout––Chris Kemp––I actually played with someone he played with. It's a small world––J.P. Arencibia, who was a first rounder out of Tennessee. I got a good feeling from him. He felt like I could do well and get drafted in the top 10 rounds or around there.
Cole: You were kind of the leader of the pitching staff on that Elon club this year. What were your thoughts on the season?
Reyes: We made a regional, which is acceptable for a mid-major. But we kind of wanted to be the group that sent us over the top and got us to the final game of a regional or a Super Regional. We didn't do that, and that was a disappointment in my mind. When you end the season the way we did––two losses like that.
Overall, I'm happy with it. We made a regional, and we can look back on it and say we were a mid-major that made a regional as an at-large bid, which is great. But ultimately, we wanted to get to that extra step and take the program to a new level.
Cole: It seems like you guys always hit a lot of home runs at Elon. Do you play your home games in a hitter-friendly park?
Reyes: Yeah, it's definitely a hitter's park. It's a little upsetting that next year they're deciding to move the fences back. But maybe we were getting more wins out of it because we were putting balls out of the park left and right.
Cole: Being in a hitter's park plus the metal bats, does that really teach you to keep the ball down in the zone?
Reyes: Oh yeah, definitely. Hitter's park, metal bats, and the SoCon is generally regarded as a hitter's league. It was definitely practice for getting the ball down and making sure you keep the ball on the ground and attacking hitters. You can't leave balls up and over the plate.
Cole: Compared to what you dealt with there, how nice was it to play in the Cape League against wood bats and generally pitcher-friendly parks?
Reyes: It was a pretty nice tradeoff. And also getting to face the best hitters in the country, you got to see where you stood. In the SoCon, you may face two or three really good hitters in each lineup, but in the Cape, one through nine is going to be a good hitter. Although it was the wood bats and there are mostly pitcher's ballparks, it was nice to be able to see where you stand.
Cole: Tell me a little bit about you as a pitcher. What kind of pitcher are you, and what do you have in your arsenal?
Reyes: I throw a fastball––a two-seam kind of sinker. I guess you could call it a one-seamer, but it's a two-seam sinker. I also have a changeup and a slider.
Cole: Which of the secondary pitches do you feel is your more advanced right now?
Reyes: Probably my slider. I have very good command of it. One thing––the changeup I feel could be an even better pitch than my slider if I can get more control of it.
Cole: You just completed your junior season. Can you talk about the chances of you signing with the Rangers versus going back for your senior year?
Reyes: I think it's highly likely that I end up signing. Elon has been a great place for me, but I feel like I've kind of proven what I can and I'm ready to take that next step and prove myself at the next level. Hopefully I'll work my way up to the big leagues.
Cole: Is there something that you're really looking forward to improving once you get into professional baseball?
Reyes: Definitely my offspeed command. Especially my changeup, as I mentioned earlier. That and just the mental side of the game. Really knowing when to bear down and being able to get that big out when you need it with runners on second and third and less than two outs. Being able to go ahead and get that big out. But definitely the changeup and gaining more control of that changeup.
Cole: You were kind of the workhorse of that Elon staff this year, getting a couple complete games and consistently pitching deep into ballgames. How does your arm feel right now, and do you feel it's still ready to add on some more innings in pro ball?
Reyes: I think my arm is still fresh. I'm definitely one that doesn't like to ease up and wants to go after everything full-throttle. But I think these couple weeks in between when the short season starts will do me some good. I definitely think I'm still fresh, though, and I'm ready to go whenever.
The Texas Rangers snagged Elon University ace Jimmy Reyes, regarded as one of the top college southpaws in the 2010 MLB Draft class, in the seventh round. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the 21-year-old for an interview.