This above all: to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst hit many dingers.
Most hitting changes are subtle and small. Even to the trained eye it can take time to notice a change a hitter may have made months ago. The emergence of Carlos Gomez, All-Star, goes hand-in-hand with a swing change he made at some point between July 6 and 23, 2012.
Before looking at those dates, let’s get familiar with Gomez as a player. He came into the league in 2007 with the Mets before being traded to the Twins in the Johan Santana deal. As a prospect, Gomez was a fascinating case study. I found reports going back to 2006 praising his raw natural power, but it simply never showed up in games. (E.g. “Power is not there now, but potential is there once he adds bulk to his long, lanky frame.”—Kevin Goldstein.) Where his power would take time his speed was immediate and his ticket into a big-league lineup. He never broke double digits in home runs in the minors but he stole over 100 bases combined his first two years on the farm. This was a guy seemingly built to lead off.
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Doug looks for signs of mechanical progress by Yordano Ventura, Trevor Bauer, Chris Archer, and Erasmo Ramirez.
This is my third year writing Raising Aces for Baseball Prospectus, and one of the perks is the dynamic nature of the series (aided by the leniency of our editors). I’m always searching for better ways to communicate ideas about pitching or to broaden the discussion, and transparency has been an integral part of the process.
All of the great holidays are marked by high levels of anticipation. But Opening Day stands out among the more traditional observances because it is merely the beginning of the celebration to follow: seven months of 6-4-3 double plays, exploding sliders, and that sweet sound when lumber meets horsehide. It’s easy to fall pretty to the trap of overweighting observations made at the start of the regular season, and the rational observer will maintain perspective while enjoying the day's festivities. But that doesn't mean that there’s nothing to be learned from the first round of games. Early in the season, many pitchers are making real adjustments to elements of their mechanics, approach, and repertoire, and these alterations can be put under the microscope in order to get an idea of the player's developmental patterns.
Why the young Nationals star Bryce Harper is about to have a monster year.
Bryce Harper is about to have his best season. His swing is beginning to take shape. The violence is still there, the head-turning bat speed hasn’t left him, but he now has a much more efficient movement pattern. To understand this process, let’s compare his swings from 2012, 2013, and this year’s spring action.
What does Doug see ahead for selected pitchers in 2014?
Along with the rest of the BP staff, I’ve submitted my pre-season predictions for division standings and end-of-season award winners. I tend to stay in the neighborhood of likely outcomes for these picks, resulting in easy answers such as “Mike Trout for AL MVP” or “Tigers win the AL Central,” but I’m more intrigued by the long-shot stories that emerge once the season starts.
A close look at the mechanics of a trio of top pitching prospects.
With one week to go until Opening Day, let's tackle one final Bush League installment of the offseason, taking a look at a trio of pitchers who rank among BP's Top 50 prospects: the Rockies’ Eddie Butler, the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, and the Twins’ Alex Meyer. These pitchers embody some of the more common traits of high-end prospects on the mound, from stuff to mechanics, and though each player saw his stock rise during the 2013 season, there’s still a heavy dose of development needed before they’ll be ready for the show.
The future Cub has an unusual swing. He should generate unusually lofty power totals.
Javier Baez has left jaws on the floor and baseballs in critical condition thanks to an electric swing that is as powerful as it is unique. The identifying feature of his swing is a whip of the bat forward during his stride. That inspires many comparisons to fellow bat-waggler Gary Sheffield. On the surface the comparison makes sense as both have a pronounced trigger leading up to elite bat speed. Reality paints a different picture.
The Rockies' top prospect gets better before our eyes.
This week's trip through the bushes takes us to the Colorado system to evaluate the top prospect in the Rockies’ pipeline: Jonathan Gray. The 6'4”, 255-pound right-hander has an elite arsenal, with an intimidating fastball complemented by a plus slider and a changeup that is considered a major asset. That repertoire should play very well in the majors and would seem to be a strong fit for the thin air of Coors Field. Gray's profile is even more intriguing once we get past pitch selection, so let's dig into the specifics that make him such a unique specimen.
A mechanical look at the pitchers who've gained the most fastball velocity over the last couple seasons.
This week, we’re focusing on pitch velocity and identifying the arms who have seen a big change in their fastball speeds over the last couple of years. On Monday, we looked at the players who are on the velocity downslope, with offerings that fall under the radar-gun readings of their past. Today we study the other side of the coin, drawing attention to those pitchers who have added fuel to their heat over the past couple of seasons.
A mechanical look at the pitchers who lost the most fastball velocity last season.
When it comes to pitching, velocity is the straw that stirs the drink. Fastball speed provides the baseline for batter timing and sets up every other arrow in a pitcher's quiver, explaining why velocity is the most sought-after commodity in pitchers at every level of play. Consequently, it can be devastating when a big-league pitcher transitions from pumping premium octane to regular gas, as it slows the performance of the whole machine.
A mechanical look at the minor leagues' top left-handed pitching prospect.
Lefty starter Andrew Heaney was chosen by the Miami Marlins with the ninth overall selection of the 2012 draft, taken out of Oklahoma State University. He was the fifth pitcher taken in the top nine picks, and the second southpaw (behind Max Fried). Ranked no. 30 on the BP Top 101 prospect list, Heaney has enjoyed a seamless transition to pro ball, and though his strikeout rate doesn't jump off the page, his strong command has fueled excellent run prevention.