Building the Perfect MLB Hitting Prospect Piece by Piece
Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
Aside from writing about prospects on a daily basis, there's nothing I enjoy more than talking hitting with anyone within earshot. Given my experience as a player, coach and scout, I've always prided myself on my hitting philosophy and how it's conveyed to others.
Now, I'm not saying there's a single, universal philosophy behind a successful hitter—not at all. Every hitter is different and therefore functions in a uniquely different manner; some things simply work better for different guys, and the last thing one wants to do is remove a hitter from his comfort zone at the plate. However, there are basic foundations of a swing that always should be present.
After reviewing my scouting reports from this season and watching far too many hours of video this afternoon, I decided to take a crack at building my ideal hitting prospect. Therefore, I plucked various aspects from the swing of some of the top hitting prospects in the game, at least in my opinion, and reassembled them to construct the greatest hitter the minor leagues has ever seen.
Setup: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
One of my favorite young hitters in the minors, Story—in my opinion—has an ideal setup. Employing an upright stance, the right-handed hitter's feet are spread out just beyond the length of his shoulders, with about 60 percent of his balance initially on his backside.
While his front shoulder may point a little higher than I would prefer, it does level off as he prepares for the pitch. His hands are in excellent position for a strong load and subsequent weight transfer into and through the baseball.
Load: Christian Yelich, Miami Marlins
In the same style as the Yankees' Curtis Granderson, Christian Yelich uses an athletic setup where most of his weight is initially stationed over his front hip. But rather than employing a load that involves shifting all of his weight back and then forward, the left-handed hitter's upper body and head positioning remain still throughout as he minimizes wasted movement.
As the pitcher's arm nears the window—when the ball is first visible to the hitter—Yelich quietly sets and coils his hands, putting himself in excellent position to attack the ball throughout the strike zone.
Swing: Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals
No young hitter keeps the bat barrel in the strike zone longer than Oscar Taveras. Although there's a lot of moving parts to his setup and load, once the left-handed hitter fires his hands, he's capable of driving any pitch in any location. His bat path is simple and direct thanks to a strong top hand and quick-twitch wrist muscles. Furthermore, he drives the ball with authority to all fields well beyond his years, as he's able to easily adjust his point of contact and still employ his traditional high finish.
Weight Transfer: Yelich
Building off what I said about Yelich before—yes, I clearly love this kid's swing—while his upper body remains still and remains on an identical horizontal plane during his load, his weight transfer into the baseball is quiet and efficient.
While he ultimately gets a majority of his weight onto his back leg, it's always centered in the middle of his stance. Therefore, when he gets his front foot down, there's no wasted movement since all of his energy is transferred directly into the ball, regardless of the location.
Extension: Wil Myers, Kansas City Royals
Another hitter who explodes from an upright stance, Wil Myers does an incredible job of attacking the top half of the baseball. And because he's so erect in the box—which is exaggerated by the high positioning of his hands—he consistently strikes the ball at a slightly downward angle.
However, after the point of contact, the right-handed hitter's hands and weight continue through the baseball in the same manner to all fields. Myers' high finish allows him to strike the ball with tremendous backspin as he seemingly gets all of his weight off his backside. So, it should come as no surprise that he blasted 37 home runs this season.
Any conversation about a young hitter's hand-eye coordination isn't complete without mentioning Oscar Taveras. Of all the high-upside, promising young hitters housed in the minor leagues, Taveras is the purest hitter.
Only 20 years old, the left-handed hitter already has drawn comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero for his ability to barrel the baseball, strike or not. However, I don't believe that's necessarily justified. Vlad swung at everything; Taveras, a left-handed hitter, already has above-average plate discipline. While there are admittedly similarities in their minor league statistics, just take my word that Taveras' approach is more refined than Vlad's was at the same age.
I've never seen a young hitter more adept to driving a low-and-in pitch to left field for extra bases, yet retain the ability to turn on and absolutely demolish the same pitch in the next at-bat. Although he can still cast his hands around the ball at times, he stays inside the baseball as well as any minor league hitter.
Bat Speed: Myers
Having already discussed the power Wil Myers derives from his finish and extension after contact, it's important to note that it wouldn't be made possible without his lightning-quick bat speed. As you may have noticed, Myers' power is easy, at times even effortless. Everything about his swing is simple; while most young hitters tend to use a drawn-out, over-emphasized load into their swing, Myers seemingly flicks his wrists at the baseball in a reactionary manner—one of the many qualities that make him such an impressive hitter. The hard contact and subsequent result attests to his plus bat speed and direct path to the baseball.
Approach: Adam Eaton, Arizona Diamondbacks
This one may surprise people, as many would assume Jackie Bradley, Jr., Brad Miller or Robbie Grossman to be an obvious choice. However, in my opinion, what better player to exemplify advanced plate discipline than a leadoff hitter?
Enter Adam Eaton.
In 319 minor league games, the undersized outfielder has amassed 166 walks compared to 196 strikeouts while maintaining a .355 career batting average. While there are plenty of prospects who either come close to or eclipse 100 walks in a season, they also are commonly players who strike out at a similar rate.
Eaton, on the other hand, understands his role as a top-of-the-order hitter and therefore walks with a purpose. With a .456 career on-base percentage, the left-handed hitter arguably possessed the best strike-zone judgment in the minors prior to his Sept. 4 call-up to the major leagues.
Although he's batting only .224 through his first 19 big league games, Eaton has coaxed 14 walks compared to 14 strikeouts.
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