My Opinions on Hitters
Scouting hitting is very intriguing since everyone has a different and unique take on it. Some have a traditional batting stance while some have very weird takes on their stance in their batter's box. Some believe in "see ball, hit ball" mentality, some are very patient.
In terms of a hitter's build, I tend to take a look on their physicality. Is he buffed up or is he rain thin? You probably think that the more mass in a hitter has in his skeleton, the more the raw power that he has. Well, it's true that the heavier the person, the more raw power for the most part but there's more than just the weight that contributes to power. A hitter's frame needs to be athletic as well. Being athletic ensures that the weight in frame isn't going to hold him back in the long run. There are somewhat stereotypical height range for every position but I think that as long as he can contribute on the field somewhere, he's good.
Hitting mechanics are complex. Same as pitching, I run the video all the way then dissecting the mechanics parts by parts. In terms of hitting, I first look at the stance in the box. Is the stance too open, too closed, too wide, too upright or too crouched are the questions that brings up to mind. I believe that there's a natural hitting mechanics for a specific player and it's the coaches job to fix the mechanical flaws. Honestly, I want to see a hitter that's comfortable in the box. His stance is relaxed and loose and not a lot of stiffness. If a hitter is relaxed on the box, I believe that he can anticipate the pitcher better and hit it well. I look at where his hands is at the box. With repetition of his mechanics, I can give my opinion whether the hands are placed too far or too close in his body for comfort.
The leg kick is next. It's easy to determine if the leg kick is high, low, or a simple toe tap. The tricky part is that if the leg kick is really helping him to move back all of his weight as potential energy to use for kinetic energy once he swings. For me, when looking at the video, I look if the hitter's leg kick is making him off balance, shifting his weight off in different places. The hands are also important here. As the leg kick is underway, so does the set up of his hands. I look whether his hands are too low, too close or too high once he lands his front foot. I am fine with some weird movements as long as it is loose and not stiff at all because in my opinion, just a little stiffness can really affect whether he'll hit the ball or not. The optimal position of the hands should be like the MLB logo because the logo's stance is a very good example of a good set up of the hands.
When the front foot lands and starts to swing, I check if the legs rotate first before the upper body, the upper body rotates first before the legs or the legs, and the upper body rotate at the same time. There are some consequences on it. Once the legs rotate first before the upper body, the hitter can be late on fastballs and vice versa if the upper body rotates first. Both can waste some of the energy because of the hitch in their swing. In terms of swing path, I prefer if the swing as some arc in it and it's not horizontal. This is where bat speed and wrists comes to play. Wrists are crucial to creating good bat speed as hitters with strong wrists can neutralize some of the wasted energy, the hitch by the quickness and strong of his wrists. I determine that by looking if the bat moves very quickly especially in the wrists while the body itself moves slowly. Bat speed is crucial to translate the potential energy to kinetic energy as well as helping to cope up with high velocity. The front legs also need to not leak or open at all to ensure a good rotation of the body in the swing. The follow through needs to be as calm as ever to ensure that the energy is dissipated. Hitting is all about being relaxed at the box and having a repeatable mechanics day in and day out to compete with better pitching.
It's really hard to determine the hit tool right away. I get a lot of videos of the hitter and examine if he can swing at bad pitches, at good pitches, and at high velocity pitches to really see if the hitter's eye to hand coordination is really well. Approach is also a key factor here. I love when a hitter takes a walk for the team, taking what's been given to him. I like a hitter to spread his hit to all fields and not just living to pull the ball. I think with approach, sound mechanics and innate eye-hand coordination, hit tool can be determined but extended looks can be necessary to determine the true hit tool and how it can translate his raw power into real games.
For better understanding of the hit tool, Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs should help you with his 6-part series which talks about the hit tool.
Speed is a pretty big tool as well. I take a look at the 60 yard times of prospects, their speed from home to first base, and their stolen base time. Speed is directly related to athleticism because the more athletic that the hitter is, the quicker a hitter should be. Speed should be a crucial factor in the outfield.
Fielding is very different for every position in the field. A fielder should have a sound fundamentals of fielding. If he's an infielder, a fielder should have excellent instincts, sound first step, great reflexes to react with very quick baseballs, having a quick transfer of the ball from glove to hand and the arm should be good the position the fielder is and it varies depending on the position, like third base and shortstop where the arm strength should be at it's finest. For an outfielder, I take a look at the routes and its efficiency on it. I also take a look at his first step, his reactions once a pitch bounce on the wall and how hard he throws. A catcher should have a good framing tool, good receiving and blocking tool, as well as accuracy and zip on the throws and quickness of transfer from glove to hand. I believe that as long as a fielder masters the basics and fundamentals of fielding their position, everything would come together.
Overall, I think that even though a hitter doesn't have the strongest frame, as long as he can hit the ball well with great approach at the box and hot being a liability on the bases as well as in the field, a hitter can reach the the Majors. Hitters should find what's best for them, what will click, try to iron out the unnecessary parts in their mechanics, in their fielding, in their baserunning. He also needs to have some sort of baseball instincts in him and it is one of the most important intangibles that I try to find for a hitter as it eases his developmental curve.
I hope that you enjoyed reading my two-part series on my opinions on scouting. Different pitchers and different hitters have different ways to get the job done and the main objective is to find the simplest, most repeatable and comfortable way to do it and succeed. In hitting, I personally love the mechanics of Evan Longoria. Loose, relaxed, allows a good read on the ball, and sound overall hitting mechanics. In June after the draft, I'll start my scouting report series for 2016 as a lot of new videos are to be examined by me as well as the recent draftees by the Giants but before the draft, I plan to publish some updates on the draft as well as my big board. I will not be here for the next week or so because of schoolworks. Once again, enjoy!