Why Reyes, Washington’s past could help Cubs future originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
When Franmil Reyes met the media Tuesday afternoon, he shared a story from his past that could be resourceful when looking ahead to his Cubs future.
Because Reyes says everything in his career changed nearly seven years ago, when he was a minor leaguer and first met Johnny Washington — the Cubs assistant hitting coach he’s now reunited with.
“I became a home run hitter in my career since the minors because of Johnny Washington,” Reyes said before Tuesday’s loss to the Nationals. “I was just a regular guy that liked to hit a lot of line drives.
“He was like, ‘Bro, you're not going to get to the big leagues if you don’t put the ball in the air.’”
Reyes has put the ball in the air and over the wall plenty since reaching the big leagues, but he’s seen a dramatic drop in his power numbers this season.
After a 30-home run 2021, Reyes only hit nine with the Guardians this season before being designated for assignment last week. His .348 slugging percentage is well below his career mark of .478.
It’s an area the Cubs will look to get Reyes back on track. Their familiarity with Reyes — Andy Green also was his manager in San Diego from 2018-19 — figures to be a huge part of that process.
“The power is real,” Washington said. “I think that's a gift he has.
“From his standpoint, our standpoint, it’s how do we pull that out daily and become more consistent with that power.”
Washington joined the Padres as a minor league coach in 2016 and began working with Reyes, who hit 16 home runs in High-A, doubling his 2015 total.
"From then on, everything changed," Reyes said.
He reached the majors in 2018, Washington’s second on San Diego’s big-league staff, and hit 16 homers. He hit 27 in 2019 before the Padres traded him to Cleveland, where he hit 10 more.
“There's a lot of guys that have had their hand in Franmil becoming a Major League Baseball player,” Washington said. “It wasn't just myself. All the credit goes to Franmil.
“He's done a tremendous job up to this point to have the career he's had.”
That said, Washington agreed having a relationship with Reyes gives the Cubs a head start as they try and get him back to who he was in recent seasons: a bonafide middle-of-the-order slugger.
“It should make the conversations seamless, to find out what he's been doing, where he's at,” Washington said, “and just kind of get him acclimated to how we do things here.
“Hopefully it's a seamless transition for him and we hit the ground running.”
It’s not like Reyes has suddenly lost his slugging ability. He demonstrated easy power in batting practice Tuesday.
He finished his Cubs debut 1-for-4 with an RBI single, and while two of the outs were on the ground, they were hot smashes registering 105.7 and 103.8 mph exit velocities.
“It’s an easy exit velo. Him staying inside the ball, he’s an all-fields hitter in a slugger body,” manager David Ross said.
“I think that’s what he showed. He’s got that in his bag. His BP was impressive. He’s moving the ball around all fields.”
It can be cliché to say, but a change of scenery can be beneficial.
And there might be something to Reyes getting a fresh start with the Cubs.
“I remember '19 in San Diego,” Reyes said, “I was cooling down a little bit, and I remember [Washington] told me, 'Bro, go to your locker, grab your chain. Bring your swag back, play how you like to play. I like to see you smiling.'
“When things are not going well for all of us, we're human. We kind of feel sad and stuff like that, and that's what it was.
"There's always going to be a smile on my face every time we talk about Johnny.”