This is the final write up in a two-part Going Yard focusing on 23 hitters, a primer on who they are, and why they are worth studying. I’ll be heading to Arizona next week and all these guys are players I will seek out for one reason or another.
On Tuesday I looked at the Power Rangers and Hit List. Today, I’ll finish up the preview of hitters to watch in spring training with the Concern and Intrigue group.
This group is four hitters who have issues in their offensive profile. It’s not just a bad swing or a bad approach; all these hitters have flaws that limit their future profile. There is still upside in their bats, but it would take significant work to fully tap into those skills. Some should just take up football.
I’ve written about Baez twice now and I’m still fascinated by his swing. According to Chicago media, Baez is trying to simplify his swing and cut down on his strikeouts. The phrase “simplify” is always worrisome. Most of the time that phrase means taking something out of a hitter’s swing rather than working with the foundation of the swing. Baez himself has said he was lost trying to integrate these new changes into his swing. These changes include a new stance and stride. Baez had several areas where he could have integrated easy changes into his swing, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The flashes of dominance Baez showed in 2014 may be overshadowed by perpetual frustration unless he adapts his swing to succeed at the highest level.
Bubba Starling, Kansas City Royals
Signing bonus, physical tools, great body, etc., but I’m done. All I’m looking for is some glimpse that Bubba has any trace of being an actual hitter. Not homers or line drives, but just something like a good take would blow me away. I’ll even take some QB drills in the outfield for added entertainment.
Austin Hedges, San Diego Padres
The love for Hedges’ glove is on the brink of starting a new religion. He’s a beast behind the plate, there’s no doubt. At the plate, however, he has yet to impress. While the bat was always expected to be behind the glove, the current gap between the two is larger than expected. He’s got some juice in his bat; well, he had some juice in his bat. Especially as a catcher—and the beating being a catcher takes—his body may have lost some of the flexibility and explosion he had in years past. The foundation of his swing isn’t terrible, but he just hasn’t hit. His hands can get stuck deep behind him and then work at a steep angle to the ball. That’s not a great combo. Hedges was never asked to be a middle of the order bat, rather, just hit enough. And he hasn’t.
Austin Wilson, Seattle Mariners
I got to see Wilson as an amateur at Stanford and again in rookie ball. He’s got the frame and physical tools that would make any prospect jealous, but his swing is a work in progress. If he were a raw 18-year-old this wouldn’t be that big of an issue, but Wilson is 23, and I’m yet to see him take a smooth or comfortable swing. I want to see if he’s found a movement pattern that best taps into his natural skill set. Wilson puts on a solid BP and hits decently against weak pitching, but it’s not based on his skills as a hitter, it’s been based on his physical gifts. I need to see Wilson challenged by velocity from Double-A or above arms. Wilson has the least to do to move him off the concern bracket.
This is a collection of hitters who have captured my attention, but I still don’t have a feel for their future projection. These hitters are the most raw, and honestly, the group I’m most excited to see in action, both in BP and on the field.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
Last year, I only saw one game with Anderson. But that lone viewing was pretty special, including a roped single and a home run to left field off a 60-grade fastball. I love how Anderson’s top half—especially his hands—work in his swing. What I want to see this year is how Anderson functions deeper in counts and against quality breaking stuff. Anderson is interesting to me because I’m confident his bat will work at the big-league level, but I’m not certain at what capacity. Is he going to slap the ball around the yard? Is he going to pound gaps? Will he develop 10-15 homer power? Lots of questions, and maybe this is the year some answers become clearer.
Winker gets rave reviews as a natural hitter, but I need to see it live. This doesn’t mean I’m down on Winker—I was the same way about Tapia after last year’s spring training and we all know how that ended up. Some guys are natural hitters, but how they are able to succeed isn’t so readily apparent. Winker looks a bit long with his upper half and I don’t see the torque in his lower body. Maybe by seeing it live, the mystery ingredient that makes me say, “oh, that’s how that works,” will be revealed. Winker moves very smoothly through his swing—he has great timing within his own swing—which is almost a harder skill to master than having perfect mechanics. Sometimes it’s as simple as this: Hitters hit. I can’t wait to see if that’s the case with Winker.
Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
I really dig this kid’s swing. Lindor gets tons of love for his defense, but his swing has always intrigued me. The glove will get him to the show, but his bat could make him a franchise player. His swing is loose and flexible with quick hands and balance. It’s a very flat swing, so the home-run total may never be impressive. But as he adds man strength, I expect him to start piling up doubles. Also, I have missed Lindor for one reason or another the last two years, so I am determined to get my money’s worth this year.
Clint Frazier, Cleveland Indians
I am a sucker for bat speed and Frazier has Autobahn levels of it. He went through a couple of swing changes last year with various degrees of success and I’m curious to see if Frazier has gone back to leg kick he tried out at the beginning of last year. I liked this swing more than the foot-down-early swing he had as an amateur, but Frazier was never comfortable with this pattern and his results spoke to this. If he has gone back to his amateur pattern of getting on his front toe super early, I want to see if he has found a way to be less abrupt with his swing. Anthony Rendon or David Wright would be good models for Frazier.
Jake Gatewood, Milwaukee Brewers
A tall shortstop with 6+ raw and enough physical tools to entice Tim Allen is an intriguing prospect. The question remains, can this kid hit? As an amateur, Gatewood played around with several different striding and loading patterns. I’m curious to see which one he uses as his primary pattern. Gatewood is a physical monster with tools out the wazoo who isn’t hitting yet. But don’t get confused, this kid isn’t Starling 2.0—he has a solid mechanical foundation in his swing. In a way, his swing is kind of like Trevor Bauer’s pitch repertoire: There are so many goodies to choose from, but success remains elusive until actual refinement occurs.
Michael Gettys, San Deigo Padres
Gettys was drafted in the second round because of his crazy physical gifts, which include two possible 70-grade tools (his arm and speed). He was considered extremely raw, with many questioning whether he would be able to hit. You know what he did immediately after being drafted? He hit .300. Given, it was the AZL, but still, .300 is .300. From the limited footage I’ve seen, his swing looked considerably better from his time on the showcase circuit. I’ll be staying in Peoria, so I hope to see Gettys in a multitude of situations.
Size, bat speed, and one of the biggest gaps between his current skill set and potential ceiling make Brinson a player who can’t be missed. I know the BP will be loud while the game action is going to be very hit or miss. Brinson is the type of player who screams “low and slow” for developmental progression, but the Rangers have always been aggressive in promoting hitters if they have made the necessary improvements. If I could catch him working in a cage or talking with teammates, that would be ideal. Hitting is as much of a craft as it is a physical skill, and Brinson really needs to begin to find himself as a hitter.
Thank you for reading
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