The Cubs hired a new director of hitting, along with several new coaches last month, signalling big changes across the system when it comes to how they’re looking to develop hitters. While several names come to mind when you think about who could see the biggest improvements, we’ve got six particular players in mind who could really play up under this new tutelage
Jonathan Sierra is right at the top of that list. He had a disappointing 2019 in terms of power production, popping just three homers after just two the year before. Sierra tops a lot of balls and does not get good lift, not exactly an ideal profile for someone of his physical prowess (6-foot-3, 190 pounds).
When you slow his swing down, you can see that he’s actually elevating a little bit more than he should rather than staying through the ball. He’s trying to create lift but his swing is just a little crooked and needs to be smoothed out a bit. If he learns to get through the zone better, look out.
— South Bend Cubs (@SBCubs) May 8, 2019
Jared Young is another name we would like to see the new coaches get their hands on. He was fantastic in 2018, hitting 16 homers with an .842 OPS across both A-ball levels, but manged just five homers and a .615 OPS at Double-A in 2019. And of those homers, three came in the first two weeks of the season. His walk rate seems to be fine, so we know the approach is still there. Now it’s a matter of getting him back to the success of that first full season.
— The Southern League (@SLeagueBaseball) April 5, 2019
Trent Giambrone has run the gamut when it comes to hitting style over the course of his career. The 5-foot-8 utilityman started out as a contact-hitting, base-stealing threat and has now developed into a power bat. The most impressive part of his newfound power through the 2018 campaign was that he didn’t have to sell out for it. His swinging strike rate actually dropped from 12.3% in his first year of pro ball all the way down to 9.9% during his breakout campaign in Tennessee.
Unfortunately, that pattern took a turn last season as he swung and missed 14.3% of the time at Triple-A Iowa. Working with Stone and his staff could help Giambrone channel both his recent power surge and the contact skills of his younger years to make him a more complete player at the plate.
Aramis Ademan appeared to have turned the corner last spring before bottoming out and hitting .192 in the second half. No one‘s expecting the new coaches to generate 20 home runs out of his body, but Ademan could hit for a higher average and draw more walks, resulting in a significantly higher on base percentage. Change could come from strength and conditioning, a different approach, or improved swing mechanics. Maybe all of the above.
Kevonte Mitchell has a great work ethic and is a talented athlete with a lot of power potential. His 14 round-trippers were the most of anyone in the system not hitting in the homer-happy Pacific Coast League, though he did not hit for high average. At 6-foot-4 and a svelte 185 pounds, Mitchell could still muscle up and add even more power without losing athleticism.
Nelson Velazquez has a body built to produce plenty of homers and the potential is clearly there, but he could benefit from a change in mentality at the plate. While his strikeout rate has fallen over the first three years of his pro career, he continues to swing and miss as much as anyone in the system (15.4% whiff rate last season). Not only that, but is putting the ball in play on the ground more than half the time.
Using technology could help the 20-year-old create a little more lift in his swing and keep his bat in the zone longer to develop better launch angle. That could just turn him into a star.
Say good-bye to that one! Nelson Velazquez send it to deep left-center to put the Ems on the board! pic.twitter.com/HE6j2WgCsK
— Eugene Emeralds (@EugeneEmeralds) July 1, 2018
There are several more names that will be impacted by this new development team, many of whom aren’t even on the radar yet. Check back soon for an article about who we think Craig Breslow and his new pitching development crew could help take to the next level on the mound.
Greg Huss contributed to this post.