By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The Everett AquaSox have a shortstop playing for his first professional team. He was drafted out of college by the Seattle Mariners in the fifth round, joining the Sox just days after being selected. He arrived with the reputation of being a wizard with the glove, but a little light with the bat.
Last year Chris Taylor fit that profile. But he proved far better offensively than advertised, and since then he’s moved quickly up the ladder in the Mariners’ farm system to be considered a legitimate candidate as Seattle’s shortstop of the future.
Now Jack Reinheimer is trying to follow suit.
Reinheimer has inherited Everett’s shortstop position, and he’s hoping to repeat the success Taylor enjoyed with the Sox a year ago.
“I think there are a lot of similarities,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said, comparing Reinheimer to Taylor. “They’re the same type of hitter, kind of an inside-out swing to spray the ball the other way. I think (Reinheimer) will have a great career.”
Reinheimer, a 20-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., just completed his junior season at East Carolina University, and the Mariners drafted him primarily because of his defense. The scouts weren’t quite as sold on Reinheimer’s bat. He batted .311 as a freshman, but saw that dip to .294 as a sophomore and .271 as a junior. During his entire college career he managed just four home runs.
Therefore, Reinheimer understands the scouting reports.
“They’re pretty spot-on, in my mind,” he said. “I struggled a little bit this year at the plate at school, became kind of a free swinger and started to press a little bit. But I think if I get back to my approach, just work on seeing the ball and staying inside it, then I’ll be fine.”
The book was the same on Taylor following last year’s draft, and Taylor defied the scouts. His defense was as good as advertised, but his offense was beyond all expectations. Taylor batted .328 with a .474 slugging percentage and .430 on-base percentage in 37 games with the Sox before being promoted to Clinton of the single-A Midwest League. Taylor has since advanced two more steps to Jackson of the double-A Southern League.
And Reinheimer is well aware of who he should try to emulate.
“Chris is a good guy to look up to,” Reinheimer said. “I played against him in college — he probably doesn’t even remember, but I was playing against him my freshman year when he was at Virginia. I’ve always thought he’s a great player and I love watching him play.”
On defense Reinheimer is following the script. He’s been a strong defensive shortstop since the time he began playing baseball, and he’s continued that at the professional level. He played error-free ball through his first 15 games with the Sox, including a game against Spokane in which he handled 10 chances cleanly. He’s showed a good set of hands, as well as an uncanny ability to get rid of the ball quickly while on the run.
“He’s just steady Eddie out there at shortstop,” Mummau said. “He just makes all the routine plays and the occasional sparkler. He’s everything as advertised.”
Offensively, Reinheimer is starting to make his mark. Through Tuesday he had raised his batting average to .291, with walks giving him an on-base percentage of .381. He’s also shown a penchant for coming up with clutch hits late in close games.
“I think he’s a contact-type hitter,” Mummau said. “I think once he gets bigger and stronger he’s going to drive the ball more. But right now he stays within himself, gives us good at-bats every day, and we’re very pleased with him.”
Reinheimer recognizes he needs to continue improving at the plate, and hitting has been the focus of his efforts so far in Everett.
“I’m just working on getting stronger, for one,” Reinheimer said. “The power and all that stuff will come with age. But mainly I’m working on staying inside the ball and having a good approach every single time I step to the plate.
“My swing feels good right now,” Reinheimer added. “I’m working inside the ball pretty well and picking up pitches, seeing what pitchers are throwing. I’m working on my plan at the plate every time and I’m feeling good.”
If Reinheimer can continue that trend, he’ll be the latest shortstop to use the Sox as a springboard to bigger and better things.