Washington Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long has now pinpointed three Nats he plans to visit over the course of the offseason.
Entering his second season with the Washington Nationals, Kevin Long hopes to have even more of an influence on some of the team’s hitters. The hitting coach appears to have highlighted certain hitters who he feels he can help ahead of Spring Training in a few months.
Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reported that Long expects to visit Michael Taylor, Howie Kendrick, and Spencer Kieboom, among others this offseason. There are certain areas of their game he’ll be hoping that they can improve upon moving forward.
You may remember that Long made an effort to work with outfielder Andrew Stevenson this time last year. He was able to successfully unlock the power potential in his swing by increasing his launch angle, which resulted in six home runs in Triple-A, which doubled his career number in the minor leagues.
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Talking about his time with Long, Stevenson said that “he wanted me to get the ball in the air kind of “the right way” he calls it. Which not just dropping your back-shoulder and trying to lift the ball, but different ways of attacking the ball to get it up in the air.” Now Long is hoping to have the same effect on other players.
Take Michael Taylor for example, out of 18 Nationals with at least 50 batted balls, he had the fourth-lowest launch angle according to Baseball Savant, and one of the players lower was Max Scherzer. If he can raise his angle a bit, then perhaps he can tap into a little more power that we’ve seen him flash throughout his time in the big leagues.
Spencer Kieboom also struggled to consistently tap into his power in the big leagues with a measly .320 slugging percentage. Again, of the same 18 Nats that had put 50 balls into play, Kieboom had the fifth lowest average exit velocity, per Baseball Savant.
Watching a few of Kieboom’s swings, when he makes contact with the ball, his chest is pretty much facing the pitcher. This takes away some of the power that he does have, with a nice strong frame, as we’ve seen from his cannon of an arm behind the plate.
So it’s likely that Kevin Long has seen this and wants to work on getting his lower half planted to get more torque in his swing. If he can successfully help the young catcher channel some additional power, then he has a chance to stick longer term in the big leagues.
Kevin Long has a well-earned reputation in the major leagues for helping players fulfill their full potential. Former Washington Nationals player Daniel Murphy is his most resounding recent success story, so now he hopes to add the same success to others on the team.