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Discussion in 'The Mainboard' started by GoodForAnother, Apr 11, 2015.
I bet that bear suit is back at the K next season
I love that we moved him to get something in return.
sounds like KC is also sending cash so they better get a decent haul from that
I’m sure PTBNL is an athletic OF who doesn’t hit for average but plays the game the right way in AAA
I know he is hurt but paying money to the fucking Dodgers, the second or third biggest team on the planet, to take Duffy is just so quintessential Dayton.
especially right before they dump a bunch of their good prospects for scherzer and turner
What prospect did you guys expect to get for a guy who is in the last season of his contract, is currently on the IL, and is 32 years old? I get it, Dayton is the devil...but hell we bitch because we don't trade anybody, then we bitch when we do trade somebody because we didn't get a top 30 prospect back right away in return for our broken down burger king.
at least they made one trade I guess?
thank goodness we have a declining 32 year old whit merrifeld to push us closer to being not quite in contention for the playoffs tho
Soler gone. Which was an absolute no-brainer of a move.
I kinda get the argument that this isn't the time to trade Whit. But only because last year was the best time to trade him.
Then we should build a time machine and go back and trade him.
Ha. So Atlanta just tossed their boy Moore a cookie to make him feel better I guess.
you bad mouth dayton enough and he’ll make a trade
they’ll probably break my heart and call up mcbroom
Decent move by the Braves. I'm sure they didn't have to give up much to get a guy who's been raking recently.
he’s the third OF they’ve traded for TODAY and the 4th in the last two weeks
I use OF when describing Soler VERY loosely
They needed some help in the OF and went out and got it.
who do we think moves to DH tonight? The lineup was already released and has whit at 2B, ohearn at RF
Is Mondesi still alive?
Man, tough spot for Lynch to be in tonight. That lineup and it’s first home game since 2019.
I know the DUI situation made things murky but Duffy was genuinely one of the best dudes to ever wear a Royals jersey. We all have issues and make mistakes. Rooting hard for him and the dodgers this year.
Technically you can't get injured if you're dead. So as long has he is injured, which is every day that ends in y, he's alive
Not only did I not realize baseball was back in the Olympics, but Bubba made the team? That's pretty damn cool.
Sure seems like we have 3 solid bats on the way.
dayton spending his monday morning just shitting all over mondesi lol
Every damn night BWJ/Pratto/MJ bust out a Dong or two. MJ and Bobby both so far again tonight.
Shit my bad. MJ didn’t hit a HR today…he’s hit THREE (so far)
olivares, salvy, MAT all hung dong tonight too
Haven’t read this yet but initial reaction is ‘can we do this with our pitching?’
The rapid progress of Pratto, Witt and MJ has me really excited for next season. With Mondesi's inability to ever stay healthy I think we should really just start moving forward with Witt at SS and Mondesi can play 3B.
Mondesi - Witt - Whit - Pratto in the IF with Salvy at C and Santana at DH works for me. The outfield will be a work in progress. Obviously Dozier will find himself in the lineup but after that there are some spots up in the air.
If we can get these pitching prospects back on track then we will be cooking with something.
Allegedly we did a similar revamp with our pitching development staff. But this was well after the current crop of guys was all but graduated to the bigs.
What kind of a hack outfit would have BWJ all the way down at 3!?
“Hitting a baseball — I’ve said it a thousand times—is the single most difficult thing to do in sport.” — Ted Williams, “The Science of Hitting”
One afternoon in late June, a couple of weeks before the Royals promoted him to Triple-A Omaha, Nick Pratto stretched his legs over a bleacher behind home plate at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark., and politely listened as I lobbed random thoughts.
“It seems like it takes 100 things working together to develop a hitter in this era of the game,” I said.
“Yes,” Pratto said, smiling the way one does when they know something most do not.
“It just seems so damn complex,” I said.
“Hitting a 95 mph fastball, in general, is not easy,” Pratto said. “And the accuracy teams have now with developing arms is incredible. So, for us it’s been about: Where can we find our edge on the hitting side? Where can we find that margin of success?”
A quick backstory: The single most difficult thing to do in sport had always come pretty easy for Pratto, the Royals’ first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. Then the 2019 season happened.
Pratto struggled that year at High-A Wilmington. Like, mightily. To the point that, as the season was ending and his OPS was plummeting toward .588, he was already thinking about concocting an entirely new … well, everything.
As it turns out, he received an abundance of help. The Royals’ hitting development department, restructured in the fall of 2019, had already done so much of the prep work for him. They’d pored through film. They’d scanned the swing-and-miss data. They’d assessed what his body could and couldn’t do both cognitively and physically. The combined results allowed them to bring him a holistic view of what they believed he needed. Pratto bought in quickly. He started to work deliberately, to think differently and to want more of whatever the staff had to offer.
The result was this recent scene: Pratto, now 22, sprawled out comfortably in the bleachers as if he were about to enjoy a concert. Country music blared in the background as he talked not only about his progression as a hitter, but also the organization-wide evolution.
“You can point at my strides or MJ Melendez’s, or to what Bobby Witt Jr. has done,” Pratto said. “But go down the organization. We’re hitting. It’s clear cut.”
The numbers tell the story. As of Aug. 2, no Major League Baseball organization had upped its minor-league system-wide OPS more than the Royals from 2019 to 2021 (.693 to .770). This season, only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system-wide OPS (.783) hovers above the Royals.
Maybe more than any other Royals player, Pratto knows these numbers aren’t a coincidence. Instead, he said, the stats are a byproduct of what happens when brainpower forms a nexus linking the Royals’ hitting coaches, their research and development department, their performance scientists and their behavioral science group.
“What they’ve done is incredible,” Pratto said. “I don’t think they sleep.”
Actually, the Royals’ hitting development department’s transformation really did begin with sleepless nights.
In August 2019, Alec Zumwalt would lay down inside his house in Lee’s Summit, Mo., attempting to quiet all the thoughts swirling in his head. But it rarely worked. So he lifted himself out of bed. Stepped outside. Paced around his house. Thought about hitting. Returned inside. Jotted down notes. Tried again to sleep. And got up again.
“I was honestly just trying to figure out the how of Dayton’s vision,” Zumwalt said.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore had set all of this into motion that June while draft meetings were ongoing at Kauffman Stadium. He and assistant general manager J.J. Picollo, among other front office members, had talked about how they could maximize their bevy of information when it came to developing players. The hitting side needed it. In 2019, the Royals’ system ranked near the bottom in on-base percentage (.326), slugging percentage (.367), OPS (.693) and walk rate (9.34 percent).
Those conversations led to a new set of roles. Picollo adopted field coordinator duties as part of his job; longtime Royals staffer and former big-league pitcher Paul Gibson became the director of pitching performance; and Zumwalt, another longtime Royals staffer who played a pivotal role in the 2014-15 World Series runs as an advance scout, was tabbed as the director of hitting performance.
“He could literally do anything and do it well,” Moore once said Zumwalt. “He is really freaking good. Really talented.”
What did the new role ask of Zumwalt (and Gibson)?
“Oversee those departments and be more laser-focused in those areas to make sure we are implementing all the technology, all the information, and conveying it properly,” Moore said.
How Zumwalt planned to do all of that kept him up at night. So, in the pitch dark, he continuously paced around his neighborhood thinking not only about individual drill series they’d implement at the instructional league but also what he was seeking in counterparts — candidates the Royals were interviewing for hitting coordinator and assistant coordinator positions.
Enter Drew Saylor and Keoni De Renne.
In October 2019, Saylor stepped inside the Royals’ spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz., expecting the interview structure to resemble a classic format: introduce yourself, answer some easy questions, then dive into hitting philosophy.
He’d done this so many times before. He interviewed with the Colorado Rockies, where he worked as a hitting coach; the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he managed minor-league teams; and the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he was the minor-league hitting coordinator.
Saylor’s experience fueled a knowledge of swing mechanics and an understanding of how to sequence body movements. He was relentlessly curious, a former player who left the game to manage an Enterprise Rent-A-Car, only to realize his passion lay in teaching, in implementing every ounce of knowledge from every facet of an organization.
Now he was meeting a new team. The Pirates had granted him permission to talk to the Royals for the same job. And this interview, boy, was it different. There were introductions, sure, but afterward, they got straight to it. Saylor was asked to brainstorm how he would outline his philosophy to hitting coaches and players. He was given a few minutes to compile his thoughts. Then he presented as if he were a teacher explaining a class project.
The interview drifted from scenario to scenario, and afterward, the staff asked him how he thought he did, where he thought his gaps were. In the end, he didn’t believe he was prepared well enough.
“It was the most challenging interview process I’ve ever been a part of,” Saylor said.
Around the same time, the Royals asked the Chicago Cubs for permission to talk to minor-league hitting coach Keoni De Renne. They obliged. Soon after, he walked into Kauffman Stadium, stepped into a room with eight other integral members of the Royals’ organization. It was intimidating, he said, but he felt optimistic. “I wanted the organization to see and trust who I am from a character and integrity perspective,” De Renne recalled.
As the son of baseball biomechanics pioneer Coop De Renne, he brought a blend of knowledge. He had played 11 years in the minor leagues. At times during his career as a hitter, he felt invincible. Other times, he felt like the worst hitter on the planet. He could relate to the psyche of a minor-league hitter, and the Royals could tell.
They quickly hired Saylor as their hitting coordinator and De Renne as their assistant hitting coordinator. A few weeks later, Mike Tosar, who had worked with some notable hitters (Eduardo Escobar, Yonder Alonso, Jorge Soler, Salvador Perez), joined the fold. He teamed with Zumwalt, who provided the entire staff with familiarity with the players and whose time as an advanced scout fueled a perspective on how to combat pitchers.
In all, the brainpower within the Royals’ hitting development department was multiplying. And here’s the thing: The Royals went beyond the traditional by hiring coaches with wildly disparate backgrounds. Daniel Mack, for example, once worked as a research assistant at Vanderbilt University and was part of a group that won a NASA award for innovation. As the Royals assistant general manager for research and development, he and his staff provided fine-detailed numbers that the hitting development staff should look for.
Austin Driggers, the Royals’ senior director of performance science, once interned at the Olympic Training Center. He and his staff provided data points, gathered over years, indicating why certain players were capable of making movements that others weren’t. They focused on spine mobility and pelvic strength, among other things.
Ryan Maid, the Royals’ director of behavioral science, was a former command psychologist for the Naval Special Warfare Training Command. He and his staff provided insights into the cognitive makeup of players.
Erika Wincheski, the Royals’ registered sports dietician, once worked under contract with the San Fransisco Giants, Arizona Cardinals, Arizona Coyotes and the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. She helped players maximize performance through enhancing nutrition, which in turn aided what the hitting development staff was trying to accomplish.
“If you only think you can stay within your space, you’re missing the boat, and you’re missing thoughts and ideas that could help narrow the margins for success moving forward,” De Renne said. “From the get-go, it was all of us coming together for the betterment of the organization.”
That began in October 2019 in Surprise, Ariz., when a majority of the Royals’ premier hitting prospects arrived for a four-week skills acquisition camp.
Early mornings were loud. Thwacks of swings would echo off the Royals’ facility. Many of the hitters took swings off high-velocity machines in cages. Rapsodo pitch-tracking technologies tracked ball spin, and Blast motion sensors highlighted how well a hitter’s body generated force from the lower half.
Later each day, players and coaches held meetings to talk through how they might approach specific pitchers. More than anything, the goal of the skills acquisition camp was to get to know the players — to build trust.
“I could be someone who has a ton of info and knowledge, but if the player doesn’t trust me or understand where I’m coming from, it won’t work,” De Renne said. “There’s this wall: ‘What makes you different to want to help me?’ Until we get to know the player at a surface level of who they are, where they are from, what they like, what their family is like, it won’t work. When you peel the layer of the onion back, you get to the core of the person. And when you have that, it’s easier to have the buy-in.”
It helped that he had a ton of data from so many other departments.
“Hitters, especially, feel so connected to their mechanics and swing,” said Driggers, the director of performance science. “When you’re talking about making an adjustment, it’s not just, ‘Let’s change the way you move.’ It’s, like, very personal. They’ve internalized their mechanics. You have this third party that is the data that says, ‘Here’s what we see with your swing, and here’s your biggest potential limitation. Here’s the gap, and here’s how we believe we can close that gap.’ And the data is a conduit.”
During the skills acquisition camp, as more experienced hitters such as Pratto started to seek information more frequently, texting Saylor at all hours of the day, some of the younger hitters (Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino, Michael Massey) started to hear how much fun they were having. The buy-in rubbed off.
Massey remembered sitting down that fall with Saylor in Surprise. Armed with his batted-ball data from Short-Season Burlington, Massey asked, “Why was I hitting so many groundballs?”
“You swing with the upper half a little too much,” he said. “Once we get the lower half and hips working and put it on a plane, you’re not going to have to manipulate the barrel.”
They didn’t work on it immediately, and Massey thinks he knows why: His body wasn’t moving optimally due to a back injury. (Data from the performance science department alerted the Royals’ hitting development staff to this.) Massey was prepared to work on his mechanics in the spring of 2020, but COVID-19 shut down the season.
Rather than punt on potential progression during the shutdown, the Royals’ hitting development staff scheduled Zooms with the club’s minor-league hitting coaches. Conversations about individualized game planning and drill work brought the coaches up to speed. Meanwhile, the players who were competing at the alternate site put their work — and the game-planning resources — into action.
“I was able to do test runs,” Melendez said. “I would go into the box and say, ‘Against this lefty, I’m going to try to pull.’ Usually, against lefties, I’d always tried to go middle-away no matter what. But with our game planning, I was able to try to see what worked and what didn’t, and not have the pressure of the results.”
By the fall, players such as Massey were back in Surprise and around the hitting development staff once again. With Massey’s body healthy and moving properly, Saylor again brought up the sequencing with his lower and upper halves. Saylor suggested a drill in which the player tied a flexible band to a pole, stepped inside the band, and shifted his hips. The resistance from the band helped give the hitter a better understanding of his movement pattern.
“It’s more of a feel,” Massey said. “And when you feel it, you develop that pattern. … I’ve been able to get more power with it. My barrel is in the zone longer on a consistent plane.”
Massey, who hit 17 total homers in 645 at-bats in three years at the University of Illinois, has 15 homers this season at High-A Quad Cities.
It sounds like a perfect drill to implement for every hitter, right? The challenge, however, is that every hitter is different; every hitter’s body moves differently.
“At the root of this,” Zumwalt said, “we want to make sure we’re covering every hitter in the organization. We want to make sure we’re treating them all individually different.”
That afternoon in late June, Pratto continued listening politely, as I attempted to get at the heart of why he was smiling about the Royals’ hitting development.
“I don’t know if you worked with John Wagle — ”
Pratto cut me off.
“A lot,” he said. “John Wagle, Erika Wincheski, Melissa Lambert, Jarret Abell, Drew Saylor, Alec Zumwalt, Abraham Núñez. … Top to bottom, it’s been a team effort as far as assessing how I am physically, mentally, emotionally, how I’m preparing, how I can recognize when I’m off.”
“Is that a day-to-day process?” I asked.
“Constantly,” he said, the smile evident once again.
As our conversation continued in Arkansas, the Royals’ hitting development staff was stationed in Omaha and Quad Cities and Arizona, observing other players, providing them what they needed.
“When our hitters come into the organization and see how it runs,” Zumwalt said from Surprise, Ariz., where the Royals staff has been working with recently drafted hitters, “they should feel like they’re walking into the biggest store with all the custom options for them as opposed to just a place that has one option. We have to come in and understand every guy is going to come in with different things, and they might teach us something. … You can’t teach a cookie-cutter swing. You may be able to teach a nice swing, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to hit. That’s what I care about. Let’s shore up their process to get ready to hit, and then let’s evaluate the hit tool, not the swing tool. There are a million people coaching swings. It’s less available where you can teach someone how to hit.”
That teaching has paid off.
“There’s clearly a difference,” Picollo said. “We’ve flipped our numbers. So you’re talking about the same players, who have gone up a level, and they’re out-performing what they’re doing. They’re hitting the mark. Getting on base. Slugging. Walking. The players have done the work.”
Pratto’s OPS has climbed to .974 in 2021 from .588 in 2019. Melendez’s OPS has shot up to 1.000 in 2021 from .571 in 2019. Massey’s OPS has gone from .737 to .871. Outfield prospect Rudy Martin’s has shifted from .544 to .914.
Outfield prospect John Rave has propelled his OPS from .646 to .833. Shortstop prospect Jeison Guzman has transformed his OPS from .669 in 2019 to .822 in 2021. And the list goes on and on.
Zumwalt credited the club’s hitting coach at each affiliate and Lonnie Goldberg’s staff, which scouted and signed the players because ultimately, he said, that’s who this comes down to.
Pratto, his legs dangling over a seat behind home plate at Arvest Ballpark in late June, understood why Zumwalt said that.
“The curiosity has never been a problem,” he said. “It’s more of, let’s stay on the right path.”
“And that’s where the guidance is important, right?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “It’s like an analogy for life. If you have people nudging you in the right direction, while you’re growing and learning, that’s it. That’s everything.”
Whit living off nothing but beer and eggs, what a dude.
What fucking timeline are we in?
I'd drink that heavily if I played for them too.
Shit I drink that heavily just watching the fuckers.