2006 Minor League Q & A with Dave Keller

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2006 Minor League Q & A with Dave Keller

Postby Chris » Mon Apr 10, 2006 11:49 am

Dave Keller, Roving Hitting Instructor for the Chicago Cubs' Minor League Department, has graciously agreed to take questions during the 2006 season from posters on NSBB! If you would like to send a comment to Dave, or if you would like to ask Dave a question, feel free to post it here. Once your question/comment has been posted, I will forward it to Dave. His response will be posted once he has an opportunity to respond.

This session will be coordinated as in accordance with The NSBB Q & A Guidelines as well as the NSBB Member Guidelines.

Thank you to Dave for once again taking the time to interact with us on such an up close and personal level. As always, thank you to all of you for making NSBB such a wonderful community!

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Postby Bear Cub » Mon Apr 10, 2006 12:35 pm

Dave, thanks for taking a few questions from some interested fans. I am concerned about our Latin connection. Do we have any interesting hitting prospects still in Mesa working out? Can we exspect to them in Boise or Mesa later on? Thanks again.
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Postby Tim » Mon Apr 10, 2006 1:06 pm

Dave,

The past few years I've seen some Cubs prospects who have beautiful swings not reach their potential due to the seeming inability to recognize pitches or inadequate plate discipline. As a hitting instructor, when someone is flawed mechanically it is easy to see (but not always easy to fix). But how can you tell whether someone is having problems with discipline versus recognition? And what approach does the organization take to address these two issues?

Thanks!
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Postby Chris » Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:46 pm

Bear Cub wrote:Dave, thanks for taking a few questions from some interested fans. I am concerned about our Latin connection. Do we have any interesting hitting prospects still in Mesa working out? Can we exspect to them in Boise or Mesa later on? Thanks again.


Dave Keller wrote:elvin puello still is a highly reguarded prospect, but has been slow to progress and maintain any consistency at the plate...potential is a dangerous word, but we have him, as well as: wellington castillo-catcher, 1st time in the states, inf/of--rosario, serrano, and wilson inoa has made great progress after missing the entire '05 season with an ankle injury...samy baez is a very athletic shortstop who has been rehabbing a wrist injury from late last season and has made great strides offensively

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Postby Chris » Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:48 pm

Tim wrote:Dave,

The past few years I've seen some Cubs prospects who have beautiful swings not reach their potential due to the seeming inability to recognize pitches or inadequate plate discipline. As a hitting instructor, when someone is flawed mechanically it is easy to see (but not always easy to fix). But how can you tell whether someone is having problems with discipline versus recognition? And what approach does the organization take to address these two issues?

Thanks!


Dave Keller wrote:how do you teach "plate discipline"? several answers, and most of them are correct for me!! sometimes we overload players with tooooooooooo much info and they get confused and it prevents them from performing up to their ability...i will mention some factors, we as hitting coaches at each level address these and use in our teaching philosophies: cage work that includes different drills to improve players mechanics, video analysis, machine use for breaking pitches, to name a few...every players' vision is tested in spring training as well, and we as coaches always look for ways to help each player individually...remember, hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in ANY sport!!!!

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Postby texascub » Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:53 pm

Dave,

With all of your interaction with the hitters throughout the system, which players do you think have the "sweetest" swings in the system right now? Also, who are your biggest sleepers in the system for this year?

Thanks for answering our questions!

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Postby UK » Tue Apr 11, 2006 6:32 am

Dave, it appears that Pie has progressed to more of a line-drive hitter as he has progressed thru the system.

For a hitter that you are trying to increase the arc in his swing, how difficult is it to do without losing much of the small window when the bat stays in the hitting zone?

Also, what is your take on overload training programs?

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Postby Chris » Wed Apr 12, 2006 8:47 am

texascub wrote:Dave,

With all of your interaction with the hitters throughout the system, which players do you think have the "sweetest" swings in the system right now? Also, who are your biggest sleepers in the system for this year?

Thanks for answering our questions!


Dave Keller wrote:What is the definition of "sweet swing"? I interpret that as a fluid swing, looks the same consistently and hits for average (Are we on the same page?). To answer even more, every player learns how to put a good swing on the ball and we try to emphasize 75-80% effort when we swing, and understand 'contact--points' of pitches you hit, then you see the ball jump off someones bat and hence the "sweet swing" look.

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Postby Chris » Wed Apr 12, 2006 8:55 am

UK wrote:Dave, it appears that Pie has progressed to more of a line-drive hitter as he has progressed thru the system.

For a hitter that you are trying to increase the arc in his swing, how difficult is it to do without losing much of the small window when the bat stays in the hitting zone?

Also, what is your take on overload training programs?


"arc of the swing"? That could that be what we call 'natural loft' when the game starts. We DEempasize hr's in batting practice and try to get the players to handle the strike zone and use the whole field. You, as a hitter, need to learn HOW to hit 1st, then HOW to drive in runs, and power 'should' come last out of those 3 concepts, but our players want power 1st.

Pie has power and we have really tried to just empasize to him to use the whole field and get on base. His "k" numbers are too high and when he puts the ball in play, he's a special player.

"overload training programs"? Could you be more specific please?

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Postby UK » Wed Apr 12, 2006 12:26 pm

"arc of the swing"? That could that be what we call 'natural loft' when the game starts. We DEempasize hr's in batting practice and try to get the players to handle the strike zone and use the whole field. You, as a hitter, need to learn HOW to hit 1st, then HOW to drive in runs, and power 'should' come last out of those 3 concepts, but our players want power 1st.

Pie has power and we have really tried to just empasize to him to use the whole field and get on base. His "k" numbers are too high and when he puts the ball in play, he's a special player.


As far as Pie, it appears that he has gone from more of a linear hitter to more of a rotational hitter. Am I seeing that correctly?

"overload training programs"? Could you be more specific please?


Just various drills used to strengthen a hitter's wrists, hands and forearms. Some will use one arm drills, some of the equipment used are weighted bats, weighted gloves, bungee cord tied to a bat to create tension and increase strength, etc.

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Postby craig » Wed Apr 12, 2006 4:53 pm

Dave, thanks much for responding to our questions. Earlier you were asked about Latin position players, and you mentioned several. If willing, could you expand a bit on what type of player (and hitter) a couple project as?

1. Wilson Inoa. Fleita mentioned him with enthusiasm two winters ago, in terms of having great speed. But he's not a short little guy, I don't think. Do you project him as a slap-and-run type hitter, perhaps ala Juan Pierre? Or does he project to have some size and strength, ala Pie and Murton?

2. You mentioned 18-year-old catcher Welllington Castillo. What can you tell us about him as an athlete, a body shape, a catcher, and a hitter? If everything were to click for him, would you project him as a defense-first catcher who can also hit? (Jose Reyes, for example, would be on that side..) Or as a hit-first catcher who can also do a good job defensively (Jake Fox and Michael Barrett are probably on that side of the catcher spectrum...)

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Postby craig » Wed Apr 12, 2006 5:19 pm

The Cubs have some prospects who walk a lot (Sing, Patterson, Fuld, and Murton who's graduated...), but many others who walk very little (Harvey, Dopirak, Pie, and Cedeno who's graduated...).

Q: To what degree do you encourage non-walkers like Pie and Harvey to take more pitches, and perhaps to value walks for their own sake as useful on-base events that can produce baserunners who can score runs?

Q2: Or is encouraging taking more pitches or taking walks something you don't like to do, because it might make hitters think too much?

Q3: Coaches don't want to take away the agressiveness of hitters. But are there some individual hitters who are too aggressive, and swing at too many bad balls who you encourage to harness their aggressiveness a little?

Q4: Harvey has great power, but has always struggled with some extremely high K rates and low BB rates. The latter is surprising to me, since I'd expect pitchers would be especially careful about throwing strikes to such a power threat. So I'd guess pitchers throw him a lot of bad balls, and if he didn't swing at them, I'd expect a lot of walks rather than so few. From your view, what contributes to his unusual K/BB profile? Swinging at too many bad balls? Swinging at too many bad balls in part because he's struggling to read which pitches are going to be in his hitting zone and which will end up outside his strike zone? Swinging so forcefully that once he starts his swing he can't check it, even if he realizes the pitch will be at his eyes or sliding into the dirt?

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Postby craig » Wed Apr 12, 2006 5:34 pm

compliments on Dylan Johnton. When Dylan struck out 24 times in 44 AB last year in Rookie League, I'd have never dreamed he'd be ready to be playing in Peoria this spring. But here he is at Peoria, and off to a fast start. Whatever help you gave him, kudos to the both of you! What kind of adjustments did you help him make?

Also, Eric Patterson has been very effective, but he does strike out a lot. What do you think causes that, do you think it's correctible or just something bad that comes with the other good things he does?

Thanks much.

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Postby craig » Thu Apr 13, 2006 8:24 am

One last short Q: Cubs have struck gold with position players (especially catchers) who have switched to pitching. (Carlos Marmol; Randy Wells; recently Oscar Bernard...)

Are there any other hitters besides Bernard that you've given over to the pitching side of things this spring?

Thanks!

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Postby Chris » Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:36 pm

UK wrote:
Dave wrote:"arc of the swing"? That could that be what we call 'natural loft' when the game starts. We DEempasize hr's in batting practice and try to get the players to handle the strike zone and use the whole field. You, as a hitter, need to learn HOW to hit 1st, then HOW to drive in runs, and power 'should' come last out of those 3 concepts, but our players want power 1st.

Pie has power and we have really tried to just empasize to him to use the whole field and get on base. His "k" numbers are too high and when he puts the ball in play, he's a special player.


As far as Pie, it appears that he has gone from more of a linear hitter to more of a rotational hitter. Am I seeing that correctly?

"overload training programs"? Could you be more specific please?


Just various drills used to strengthen a hitter's wrists, hands and forearms. Some will use one arm drills, some of the equipment used are weighted bats, weighted gloves, bungee cord tied to a bat to create tension and increase strength, etc.


Dave Keller wrote:Pie is a combination of both and as players gain more experience and understand how to hit different pitches in different locations, swings do look different and they 'look' more rotational than linear...both need to happen in the "swing movement"


Dave Keller wrote:I'm not a big "gimick" guy when it comes to teaching, but I feel like I'm more 'creative' than most. We use heavy bats to teach kids how to 'load/trigger and maintain barrel control of the bat, as well as short bats to teach HOW each hand needs to work to develop consistentcy and fungos to feel the whip of the bat and feel your hands. We also take dry swings and tee swings and some soft toss using the mound to help players get the feel of hitting INTO their front side and maintaining balance, as well as swing in front of the mirror to SEE AND FEEL movements---and video of themselves and established major league hitters to compare strengths and limitations....I talk with our strength coordinator, Nao Masamoto, continuously about ways we can help our players combine their lifting program to help their individual swing consistency.

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Postby Chris » Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:42 pm

craig wrote:Dave, thanks much for responding to our questions. Earlier you were asked about Latin position players, and you mentioned several. If willing, could you expand a bit on what type of player (and hitter) a couple project as?

1. Wilson Inoa. Fleita mentioned him with enthusiasm two winters ago, in terms of having great speed. But he's not a short little guy, I don't think. Do you project him as a slap-and-run type hitter, perhaps ala Juan Pierre? Or does he project to have some size and strength, ala Pie and Murton?

2. You mentioned 18-year-old catcher Welllington Castillo. What can you tell us about him as an athlete, a body shape, a catcher, and a hitter? If everything were to click for him, would you project him as a defense-first catcher who can also hit? (Jose Reyes, for example, would be on that side..) Or as a hit-first catcher who can also do a good job defensively (Jake Fox and Michael Barrett are probably on that side of the catcher spectrum...)


Dave Keller wrote:With all of our Latin players, we want them to learn their strike zone, understand what a quality ab is, and several of the younger latin players are "speed players", so we try to teach them how to use their ability to get on base, make contact/use the whole field and learn how to situational hit.

Inoa could develop into a power player if he fills out, but he does run well for a tall kid and his work habits are tremendous, so you never know...

Wellington Castillo has had a very productive 1st month in extended spring. He has some power and needs experience.

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Postby Chris » Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:47 pm

craig wrote:The Cubs have some prospects who walk a lot (Sing, Patterson, Fuld, and Murton who's graduated...), but many others who walk very little (Harvey, Dopirak, Pie, and Cedeno who's graduated...).

Q: To what degree do you encourage non-walkers like Pie and Harvey to take more pitches, and perhaps to value walks for their own sake as useful on-base events that can produce baserunners who can score runs?

Q2: Or is encouraging taking more pitches or taking walks something you don't like to do, because it might make hitters think too much?

Q3: Coaches don't want to take away the agressiveness of hitters. But are there some individual hitters who are too aggressive, and swing at too many bad balls who you encourage to harness their aggressiveness a little?

Q4: Harvey has great power, but has always struggled with some extremely high K rates and low BB rates. The latter is surprising to me, since I'd expect pitchers would be especially careful about throwing strikes to such a power threat. So I'd guess pitchers throw him a lot of bad balls, and if he didn't swing at them, I'd expect a lot of walks rather than so few. From your view, what contributes to his unusual K/BB profile? Swinging at too many bad balls? Swinging at too many bad balls in part because he's struggling to read which pitches are going to be in his hitting zone and which will end up outside his strike zone? Swinging so forcefully that once he starts his swing he can't check it, even if he realizes the pitch will be at his eyes or sliding into the dirt?


We want our players to be aggressive in the strike zone and learn how to make solid contact on a consistent basis. Power guys usually strike out more, but we as an organization continue to stress "QUALITY AT BATS" and learn the game. Several circumstances come into play when you talk about all the players in Q-4. Each player is different with different swing mechanics, so we try to teach each player how to be successful. Patience plays a big part in all of this as well as confidence, umpires, men on base, and most of all who's pitching. Some players feel comfortable taking pitches and some don't. Experience is a factor, and we want hitters to be ready for good pitches to hit and if it's early in the count, or later, it's all a process. And then when you have runners on base, another stage of learning comes into play, and with all of this, they need to be relaxed and confident and react. Too much thought can cause anxiousness, which is why hitters either take pitches or swing at balls out of the strike zone.

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Postby Chris » Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:51 pm

craig wrote:compliments on Dylan Johnton. When Dylan struck out 24 times in 44 AB last year in Rookie League, I'd have never dreamed he'd be ready to be playing in Peoria this spring. But here he is at Peoria, and off to a fast start. Whatever help you gave him, kudos to the both of you! What kind of adjustments did you help him make?

Also, Eric Patterson has been very effective, but he does strike out a lot. What do you think causes that, do you think it's correctible or just something bad that comes with the other good things he does?

Thanks much.


Dave Keller wrote:Dylan Johnston had a great instructional league last fall and learned a lot. He came back to spring training and retained the information and we did change his stance some and implement a small load movement to help him create better rhythm/timing/balance, and with his great hands/batspeed, he's moving in the right direction!!!

Eric Patterson has very good work habits and understands how he's pitched and sometimes gets too anxious and chases out of the zone. This will continue to improve with experience.


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