There have been hints that Javier Baez has made some slight adjustments to his swing this winter and has thus far struggled to adapt. He has said the changes were small and essentially won't change his swing.
"It has been good," Baez said. "It feels weird, but I'm not going to change my swing. We're just working on something, and my swing is going to come like it used to."
Today Mark Gonzalez said Baez confirmed that the change was to lower his hands.
Baez confirmed he has lowered his hands in an effort to get to the ball quicker and cut down his strikeouts.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 27, 2015
Baez tends to hold his hands very high, sometimes above eye level, as you can see in the picture above. That has the effect of lengthening his swing because it forces him to bring his hands down and back up again, as you can see from the pictures in the gallery below. There is a lot of movement before he actually meets the baseball. The first three frames are key, but even from there you can see just how far Baez's bat has to travel until he reaches point of contact.
And in case you think I am picking on a bad at-bat, Baez HR'd on this pitch.
Bringing his hand lower should simplify and shorten that swing. We saw him late on some average fastballs last year that a hitter with his bat speed had no business being late on.
Starting him lower should eliminate much of that early movement and perhaps that extra time will also allow him to pick up the baseball earlier, which should help him with pitch recognition.
It is a subtle change and, like Baez said, the Cubs aren't going to change who he is or have him think too much about things like approach. Rather, the plan is for that to develop organically as he recognizes pitches earlier. It may take some time for some of the benefits to manifest themselves and we certainly did not see them yet when he was at Puerto Rico, but at some point the Cubs expect it is going to click with him. And when it does, the result should be more contact with no sacrifice to his bat speed or the power it creates.
You can see the whole swing here with additional analysis.
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