Below, the mechanics of each position player on the USA roster for the Futures Game are broken down. For more video on each player, please click here.
Kyle Farmer, Dodgers
It was foolish to think that I knew all the prospects with good swings in the minors. It turns out, I didn’t, and I really like this swing. Farmer’s hands stay loose and the bat gets into a good position to launch. The way his upper half moves follows a pattern similar to Ryan Braun and the lower body works very well, creating coil as he goes forward. There is some force getting created as he launches the bat. Farmer is an example of how to have a good pattern in a swing without needing huge movements. Coming out of college his swing wasn’t this good, so it may still take him some time to really fine tune everything with the swing.
Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
Schwarber can flat out rake. He is more athletic than he gets credit for given his size and position. His timing is made through his hands and he keeps them moving and fluid throughout the launch of his swing. To go along with his hands, his lower body is exceptionally strong and has some unexpected flexibility. There is a lot to love in this swing. He isn’t just a good hitter for a catcher. He is a good hitter period. He’s my candidate to hit a homer during game action.
Josh Bell, Pirates
I love the rhythm in the top half of his swing. While his top half is fluid and ready to attack, his lower body doesn’t hold that same aggression. Instead of staying balanced or gaining ground forward, he can get stuck over back leg. His hips don’t attack forward as well they could. His swing is smoother from the left side, from the right side it’s very pushy and hand dominant; it’s almost like he’s taking his hands straight to the ball rather than letting good sequencing allow his hands to fire. On a personal level, I played against Bell in high school and he managed to run over my best friend on a weird play at first base.
J.P. Crawford, Phillies
Already a good hitter, Crawford has stepped up to a new level. His batting practice swings and game swings used to be two different animals. In BP, he was loose and flowing, while his swings in game seemed stiff and segmented. But now his game swing is showing more athleticism and he still has an excellent approach. Crawford’s lower body does a great job of moving forward while keeping his hip coil. As he strides he creates great angles to deliver the barrel. Look at the interaction of his shoulders and hips as he strides. His knees, hips, and shoulders form a triangle rather than an L shape. (Connect the dots from his knee to his hip joint to his shoulder) That’s creating a good angle. This is the hitter I’m most excited to watch face the big arms in the minors.
Tony Kemp, Astros
Kemp has a simple and repeatable swing, keeping rhythm and balance throughout. It’s not flashy by any means, but I like it. Even though he’s fast, he doesn’t have a “slap” swing; he doesn’t just hit 150 singles every time. Mechanically, Kemp features a sound swing and a knack for finding the barrel. On top of this he has a great approach as well. He’s a safe bet to be a productive big-leaguer.
Matt Olson, Athletics
Olson is a strong hitter with a bit of length in his top half. He’s able to overcome this length because he’s so loose and quick with wrists. His lower half doesn’t have the same fluidity as his upper half. I would love to see him find a way to create some rhythm in his swing so his hands don’t have to do all the work in terms of delivering the barrel. Olson is the classic three-true-outcome hitter.
Richie Shaffer, Rays
Shaffer has great timing within his swing as things fire when they are supposed to. I just wish his first moves were a bit cleaner. Schaffer’s hands stay a bit too high and his arms don’t line up ideally for the bat to fire. In his lower body, his hips are a bit inactive early in his sequence. A small forward move with some coil would greatly benefit his swing. He’s so clean when he launches the bat the results would be ever louder with just slightly better rhythm and actions in his lower body. He’s got the hard part down, now just needs to create some force going into launch.
Trevor Story, Rockies
These swing aesthetics are very reminiscent of Troy Tulowitzki. Story starts with an upright stance, uses a double tap, and loads his bat very similarly to how Tulowitzki moves through his swing. Bonus: he’s also a Texan. Story’s swing always seems to get better year to year. My only nitpicks would be getting his bat a bit more vertical as he strides and having him stay in his hips a bit longer during stride. Right now, his stride starts off great but it’s finished by his front foot reaching just a bit. There is no musculature at work with that move. but it can be easily fixed. Some hitters struggle setting a proper angle with their body as they stride, but Story has that down pat.
Trea Turner, Nationals
I love how he has actively worked on his swing during his short time as a pro. Turner’s pace and internal timing are very positive aspects of his swing. Fast players tend to love to move fast, but Turner resists that urge and keeps a good, controlled rhythm through his swing. One thing he could improve upon is not staying so straight up with his posture as he swings; learn to tilt. Barry Bond’s used to say to go get the ball with your back shoulder. That concept would really help Turner out. Getting just a little bit of angle at his hips while allow him to use his lower half better and not have to reach for stuff on the outer third. The bigger issue with Turner is not letting his bat drag behind him. He does a good job of turning the bat behind him, but this move happens through his hands as opposed to his bigger muscles. Watch how the distance between his back elbow and bat shrinks as he starts his swing. If he can keep that distance like the elite hitters do, he’s going to discover some more thunder in his bat.
Michael Conforto, Mets
Conforto just hits, and as a hitting coach, I love it. His swing is so relaxed with a bit of JD Martinez hand-hitch action. He tracks pitches very well. Even when he takes close pitches, there is no doubt that Conforto has a plan in the box. With the way his swing works it’s easy for him to launch the bat. There isn’t any wasted effort getting the bat moving. His lower body works very well. His swing is geared more towards hard contact and doubles than lofting homers. I really like Conforto as a hitter; he never looks rushed in the box and is the definition of a professional hitter.
Aaron Judge, Yankees
Judge is a huge human being with an embarrassing amount of strength. The bat looks like a popsicle stick in his hands. Judge took that raw strength and began to apply it to his swing. Last season he began to make some mechanical improvements and he has held onto that better movement pattern this year. His lower body has smoothed out considerably. He doesn’t have huge movements, but doesn’t need them; all Judge needs is just enough to tap into his strength. The upper body still has some work to do, as he strides his bat can get stuck behind his head. He will crush anything on outer third, but has to exert some effort to get to inner third. Even at 6-foot-9, Judge has a surprisingly short swing for such a gargantuan man.
Brandon Nimmo, Mets
Nimmo’s upper body has improved and smoothed out since I wrote him up in the offseason. However, his lower half still shows the same problems. He’s trying to find some timing mechanism with a noticeable sway as the pitcher throws. He still stays too upright as he launches. The upper body shows promise, and if he can start thinking about finding timing with his foot in the air I think it will do wonders for him.
Kyle Waldrop, Reds
Waldrop has good rhythm with the upper body. This helps him to get his bat in a good position at launch. His hips coil well enough and fire hard, but Waldrop faces issues similar to Nimmo in that he stays upright throughout his swing and his stride isn’t helping him at all. While the actions in his swing are smooth, his tendency to gain timing with his front foot already on ground and posture straight leaves room for improvement.
Nick Williams, Rangers
Williams is a gifted athlete with bat speed for days and a much-improved approach. Walks aren’t a magical rarity anymore. Williams doesn’t get his bat lined up like most, but is the rare hitter who can get away with it. He keeps the bat nearly laid down rather than a more vertical launching point. His hips coil just a bit, but when they launch is the money moment. His hands don’t creep forward but are pulled forward by big muscles in his hips and core. This is where his bat speed comes from. Williams gets himself in a good enough positon to allow his bat speed to play. It’s fun to watch.
Bradley Zimmer, Indians
Zimmer has a long frame that could still fill out even given his relatively advanced age. Zimmer’s swing is smooth and he repeats very well. His swing plane is more built for line drives, but he’ll still put balls over the fence from time to time. I dig the lower body actions. His upper half is mostly solid but his hands can get a bit too deep (too far back) at times as he moves forward. Zimmer isn’t getting the utility out of his back arm that he could, but as right-handed thrower this should come with time. He has to learn to turn the bat with his non-dominant arm. Between the frame, the skills, and the swing this is a promising bat for the Indians organization.
Favorite swings: Kyle Farmer (below) and J.P. Crawford
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