While January might not be the most exciting time in the sports world, it does point toward wondrous, beautiful things being on the horizon. Pitchers and catchers will be firing up soon, college baseball will start its ascent toward the finale in Peyton Manning’s fourth (?) favorite city and LeBron James will be in full-on playoff flop mode before you can say ‘charge’. Of course, spring time coming also means that one of sport’s most glorious multi-day events follows (no not mankini bull fighting season you weirdoes), rather the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. With all that jibber-jabber said, let’s take an early look at one of the top rated high school hitters from the first evaluation portions of the 2014 MLB Rule IV Draft.
Note: These evaluations are of skills and swing as a hitter, not evaluations of overall skill-set and/or tools. For such reports, feel free to check out Sir Jonathan Mayo’s splendid work or see what the oddsmakers at Sports Betting Dime have to say.
Michael Gettys- Gainesville, GA, HS- 6’2’’ 205lbs
Gettys packs quite a punch at the plate despite not having tremendous size, strength or swing length of those who can put on a long ball display. How does he do it? It’s a rather simple physics equation, actually. Quick twitch athletes can quickly develop rapid movements quickly (tl;dr the term ‘quick twitch’ is self describing). When combined with a compact frame of strength, a compact, short stroke and high velocity pitches, you get impressive power results thanks to wonderful exit velocities. Throw in Gettys’ natural bat speed and tremendous barrel release and you’ve got something to keep an eye on.
I will say this; Gettys’ actions and power production methods are quite similar to Mike Trout’s. Similar. In Principle. Neither needs big extension paths or long barrel arcs through the zone to produce, they can get away with short, simple and efficient. Get the head out and let the velo provide some spark, and you get more power than one might expect at first glance. Oh, the joys of being a strong bodied quick twitch athlete.
Speaking of extension path, Gettys will need to adjust this as he continues to age. On a principle standpoint, it doesn’t affect his performance much, but from a health standpoint, Gettys’ abrupt stop shortly after contact puts a ton of stress on his wrists. It’s not uncommon for any hitter (myself included) to have pain in their wrists, or even surgery to remove the hamate bone. With the amount of stress Gettys puts on his wrists, it might only be a matter of time before he experiences issues there.
The thing to keep in mind about extension is that is rather irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Why? Because it has little to do with the actions at work, as those are much further upstream. With that said, a hitter’s extension path (or lack thereof) can show a different perspective of what’s really going on. With Gettys, his abrupt stop and slight hard turn left after contact point to the timing of his trigger being off. Let’s move upstream then, shall we?
Right now, Gettys will open his palms and re-grip the handle to apply pressure and create a negative move behind. This by itself would make me wonderfully happy as this is a sign of a hitter who understands the importance of engaging the wrists in an aggressive manner. Chaste Utley, David Ortiz and Clint Frazier are other hitters with this action, and I think I’ve made my thoughts on Frazier quite clear. As Gettys applies pressure, he strides out with his front foot, creating a small separation window. While not my preferred form of 'separation', at least something is there.
Where it gets murky from there is Gettys’ next move. When he does his first separation move, he gets his foot down rather early in the sequence, has a brief moment of static with his hands, then re-triggers and launches forward. While he does achieve solid depth behind him with the barrel, the double trigger can be troublesome against advanced pitching. Anytime you create a secondary timing window within the sequence, energy create can be lost, but it can also be directed elsewhere. Speaking of barrel depth, Gettys starts out well, but has a slight outward move as he begins his attack through the strike zone with his hands. From there his intense wrist release and slight outward angle cause an abrupt stop after contact. Again, this isn’t affecting him much performance wise right now, but it could be costing him length on well struck hits and definitely lessens his length in the zone, shrinking his room for error when fooled.
Currently, his barrel is in and out of the zone very quickly, and is relying on pure timing and recognition to square balls up. ‘Duh, that’s hitting’, may be true here, but there is little room for error for Gettys. This could harm his chances against a guy who hides the ball well, or has ‘sneaky velocity’ thanks to a ton of extension, et al…
Gettys’ timing will almost always have to be on point to be successful at the ML level with these actions. One spot Gettys can be attacked is down and in, which isn’t surprising for a guy with a hard, hammering wrist action. Michael Jack Schmidt was like that too, and he turned out OK. Should Givens soften his wrist action without losing any aggressiveness, he should do a better job of manipulating angles with his barrel.
How should he go about smoothing out his wrist/trigger action? Blend the two moves into one, and change the ‘when’ within the sequence. Overly simple right? Of course. Simple is good. Ever had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Simple. And good.
Back on track here, I would work on engaging his wrists and striding later within the timing of the pitcher’s release. Think more at/after release and timing the ball vs. as the arm ‘comes through the box’ and timing the arm. When you think about it, you’re hitting the ball, right? It makes sense to time the ball then. Doing this move later would remove the ‘slack’ from the system and create a more efficient trigger. The key to making the ‘open hands/apply pressure’ principle work is that it should lead immediately into creating depth behind you, not move, pause, and move. This should allow Gettys a better angle through the zone as well as the incredibly important length in the hitting zone without causing him too much of a muscle memory shock and throw anything else off. What it shouldn’t do is cause Gettys to lose any aggression with his barrel release, which is perfectly aggressive.
On top of working out his hands a bit better, it should also remove the tiny bit of drift in Gettys’ lower half. Since his foot is down early, he still leans forward to continue to create a small forward energy transfer until the back hip comes through and brings the thunder. This is energy spent too soon and could be better directed into the ball.
Overall, these should be simple adjustments that an organization who knows how to develop hitters can improve upon. Rather simple and easy to work through. That’s a rare, but wonderful thing for a toolsy high school hitter as far too many have relied on sheer athleticism to turn into a high draft pick. Gettys’ need for only small adjustments bode well for his future prospects as well as a quick learning curve as he progresses through pro ball.
Did I mention he can fly? Because he can do that too. And throw. And beat you in pool.*
Long term projections point toward Gettys profiling as a possible .300/20/30 guy at the ML level. Scary potential at work here, so long as some wisenhammer doesn’t draft him as a pitcher, which is actually a semi-realistic possibility thanks to mid-90’s heat off the bump. Is Gettys the top high school bat available in the 2014 MLB Draft? It’s still too early to determine, but since I’m writing about him now, that should probably tell you which way I’m leaning.