Jose Canseco Breaks Down Major League Baseball's Greatest Showmen
Wherever I can play or wherever I can coach, the one thing I can help is bat speed. And bat speed is power.
That's what I want to teach: the importance of the correct swing angle and how it affects bat speed.
When I played, my swing was ferocious. I never necessarily tried to hit home runs, but I did try to demolish the baseball as hard as I possibly could with the fastest swing I possibly could. When I think of current guys who play like that, I think of Prince Fielder—he has the purest aggressive swing but he does so with great bat speed and power.
I think, in baseball, one of the biggest challenges is how to channel the power and use it correctly. In my day, I think that Mark McGwire had the most powerful swing in baseball. I mean, when we hit baseballs, we could just demolish them.
Now, guys like Fielder who are so aggressive and so big—I mean, he's a big kid and swings with an uppercut—are entertainers. They put up huge numbers and are quite the showmen.
Here's my take on a few of current big-swinging big-leaguers.
Jose Canseco is currently a designated-hitter/outfielder/manager for the Yuma Scorpions in the North American League. Canseco played in Major League Baseball from 1985-2001 and was a six-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion. Follow Canseco on Twitter at @JoseCanseco.
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Pujols simply has one of the best technical swings. Period.
Everything he does is so sound: his swing, his approach to the ball, his weight is always back and he can get full extension on his bat for a very, very long time. He's a fly-ball hitter, but he's able to generate so much backspin on the ball. When you can hit the ball with backspin, your ball is going to carry a lot.
He can cover so much of the plate and he can hit from right to left field. Pujols has such an impressive swing angle that he's going to do well for a long time.
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Howard strikes me as more of a pure power guy.
He's 6'4" and obviously just a big kid. He hits with so much power.
I think that, long-term, he could benefit from taking more strikes and being a bit more selective with his pitches. The kid is just strong, though. He has the power and strength to hit the ball anywhere.
He has a bit of a fly-popper tendency but he's strong enough that he'll be fine. He's such a strong hitter physically that he'll be able to overcome a lot of those tendencies that other players wouldn't be able to.
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What can you say about Dunn? He's 6'8" and gotta be almost 300 pounds. I mean, he's just a huge, huge man.
He's got a very good swing, but very similar to Howard. His issue is that he sometimes struggles to hit when he doesn't keep the bat and the ball locked up.
Sometimes you just have to focus on hitting the ball on a line and the power will come naturally—especially with a guy like Dunn who's one of the biggest, if not the biggest man in baseball I've ever seen.
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Rodriguez has one of the better swings—much like Pujols in the sense that he keeps the bat flat through the zone.
I don't really see A-Rod necessarily as a traditional power hitter but he's so technically sound that he's able to hit a lot of long, long fly balls. I've seen him in the past going into the plate too much. He's 6'3" and has long arms, but he's been able to adjust and does a good job of transferring his weight back to his right foot.
Again, what can you say about Bryce Harper? I mean, we've all seen him all over the place on YouTube. I mean, he can hit the ball over 600 feet!
I think next year, he should be up in Triple-A. He's got a pretty good bat, obviously, he's got a whole lotta bat speed and a whole lotta power.
It will be interesting to see how he fares against the pitching he's going to face at Triple-A, because what he faces there and in the big leagues is going to be a whole hell of a lot harder than what he's ever faced before.
It's tough when these young kids are touted as 17-year-olds as being the greatest player in baseball. I mean, those are some big shoes to fill. Hopefully, it doesn't force these younger guys to try and do too much because of all the hype. Really, they need to just have adequate coaching.
The experience and coaching these younger guys are going to get is invaluable for their development.
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I think one of the things I'd be able to educate younger players with is proper hitting.
A lot of these young kids don't really know how to hit certain pitches—they can't recognize the difference between fastballs and curveballs and sliders. From a basic standpoint, I think there's some sloppy mechanics and a tendency to overstride too much into the plate, then come up and completely block out their own swing.
They need to learn the proper fundamentals and the importance of mesh footwork.
Obviously, when I was growing up, for 17 years I had the benefit of just learning the basics. A lot of people don't have the benefit of mastering so many of the basics that contribute to power hitting. It's not just the swing or being big and strong, there's a lot of psychological aspects, too—like knowing when certain pitches are coming in on certain counts and how to work them to your advantage.
A lot of times, there's a reason why a kid doesn't make the leap to the big leagues. Often, they know how to hit, but they just aren't ready—even for Triple-A baseball. I think there's too much time spent on different approaches as a major-league hitter or too much focus on expensive equipment instead of simply teaching baseball.
Baseball has turned into a big managers' game. They have to manage the game, they have to manage the players and, of course, a lot of these young players require a lot of refining.
There's not a specific way to teach hitting for power. Everyone can hit for power: You don't have to be 250 pounds, you can be 180 pounds so long as your swing is technically sound and you have the right bat speed.