“The Ability To Destroy A Planet Is Insignificant Next To The Power Of The Force.”
I don’t think that’s the Force that Pirates’ farm director John Baker was talking about.
But, perhaps, the ability to destroy a baseball is insignificant without the power of Force?
When I spoke with Baker for my Baseball America feature on Cal Mitchell, the main focus was on Mitchell’s power. The 2017 second-round pick has some of the best raw power in the system. While Baker was describing what leads to that power, he noted that Mitchell generates some of the most “Force” in the weight room.
So, what is force?
“Force is coming out of the ground,” Baker said. “Generally with our lower body, and if you think about the coordination necessary to hit a baseball, it’s not about how strong or how powerful you are, but it’s how well you can transfer energy from the ground into an implement, like a bat or a ball.”
Mitchell isn’t a big outfielder, listed at an even six-feet tall, though he’s always been known for his raw power. This is an interesting way to describe that power source. However, Mitchell’s strength doesn’t just come from his physical strength.
“A big element of that is coordination, and Cal is very coordinated,” Baker said. “He profiles as a traditionally good athlete, with the bonus points for being able to be coordinated from the mental skills perspective, with a low heartbeat, and being able to slow the game down. Those are all of the components I think that are required of a really good Major League player.”
In the years before the Pirates overhauled the front office, they were experimenting with new technology that would track a player’s body movements. This would allow them to see the flow of energy during a player’s swing.
One challenge with this information is how to implement the data, and how to explain it to the players.
“I think when you’re in a space now where you have more information about everything, it can really confuse baseball players, because you get them focused on things that don’t really matter in the present moment, which is where we are trying to direct our attention and energy,” Baker said. “It’s not really about the players understanding what is going on. It’s the responsibility of the organization to use that to build an appropriate environment, so they can improve their skills. We kind of look at it like that. We’ve given Cal some information about goals for him, about his body, about the direction that we feel like is best for him to move towards, but in an environment like this, where it is player-centered, we’re definitely giving the player a say.”
The Pirates have gone very abstract with their thinking, it appears. I don’t know if any of us know whether this is going to be a good or bad thing. It’s definitely interesting to see how they’re evaluating players.
Of course, this is a day when just the 20,000th player in history joined the majors. Ever. That’s a good reminder that you can have force, coordination, and good decision skills, and even with all of those individual skills, the chances of reaching the big leagues are slim.
Mitchell is two steps away, currently showing some power in games (.159 ISO in Double-A as of this writing), but lacking the average (.227). He’s got a very heavy groundball percentage, and not bad plate patience. If he can get the ball in the air more often, he could really start to benefit from his raw power.