It is no secret that Zack Collins needed to revise his busy swing. Even though he put together an impressive debut in 2016 after being drafted in the first round by the White Sox, many believed he would have to trim his bat waggle as he moved up the minor-league ladder.
Still, his skills behind the plate were the main focus of coaches at the White Sox instructional league last fall. He caught side after side working on receiving and posture; swings were limited. Collins adopted an offseason pilates-routine when he returned home and the results were evident. Collins nailed 64 percent of runners on the base paths by simply improving his flexibility and throwing mechanics.
But the scale tipped heavily on offense. He batted .224 with 19 home runs and a mere 53 runs batted in – disappointing numbers from a player heralded as a bat-first player. Every prospect takes their lumps and Collins took them early, but the cornerstone of his value is rooted in his approach at the plate – something he didn’t leave behind. The slugger posted a .370 on-base percentage with 87 walks and his OPS was a stout .816.
Every prospect takes their lumps and Collins took them early, but the cornerstone of his value is rooted in his approach at the plate – something he didn’t leave behind. The slugger posted a .370 on-base percentage with 87 walks and his OPS was a stout .816.
Here is a look at his swing at instructs in 2016. His hands are active (usually promoted by hitting coaches) but just before he triggers his swing his hands duck and tuck.
Collins was sent back to instructs this year and for good reason. Despite catching over 100 games between Spring Training and two minor-league assignments, White Sox brass must believe that Collins needs to continue his work.
The scale appears to be rebalancing with Collins expected to spend a lot of time in the cage. He has dumped the bat waggle for a quiet shoulder-rest and an abbreviated load. With such a pronounced pre-swing set-up and a late hitch, pitchers targeted
With such a pronounced pre-swing set-up and a late hitch, pitchers targeted Collins hands. A full workload behind the plate and full season of wear and tear grinds players down, and as the season wore on Collins’ hands slackened and pitches he used to pulverize up in the zone blew his doors off.
Here is a look at his revised swing. His bat rests on his shoulder and he takes his hands directly to the loaded position. This is a simple and common adjustment hitting coaches like to make — an easy simplification that Collins can apply and eventually tweak as he gets comfortable. (Collins at-bat starts at 1:30)
Something else I noticed is that Collins is starting more open. It’s a little unorthodox to set-up with the front foot open but if he can keep his hands back his hips can clear much quicker. And if his hips can clear faster so can his hands.
“I guess you could say I’m getting ready to hit the ball a little bit quicker,” Collins told Josh Norris of Baseball America. “I’m trying to have the bat rested on my shoulder kind of Freddie Freeman-like. He kind of does the same move as we’re loading. It kind of cuts it down a little bit and it gets me on time a little bit more.”
Baseball players more than other athletes rely on comfort and a mechanical adjustment is no small request. Collins’ feelings on his nascent swing are not surprising but his trite confessions are encouraging.
“I’m staying through balls a little bit better, hitting the offspeed better and seeing the ball better, so I feel good. … Right now it feels a little awkward, but we’re getting there.”
It’s a learning curve for every player. The prestigious collegiate summer leagues that players visit every year typically play in three-game spurts. It is not uncommon to have two days off a week in the college and summer seasons and while the net total of games played might be similar from college to the pros, it is an altogether different haul when players have two days off a month.
The adjustments are endless, something Collins will have to adjust to as he continues developing into the player White Sox officials expect him to be.